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Will a Discrimination Lawsuit Against Taiji Help Activists Save Angel the Albino Dolphin?

Will a Discrimination Lawsuit Against Taiji Help Activists Save Angel the Albino Dolphin?

There seems to be a lawsuit filed on behalf of animals every 10 minutes, but to date none of them have taken on the town of Taiji, Japan, which became infamous for its brutal dolphin roundups following the release of the Oscar-winning documentary The Cove.

This week, animal advocates from Australians for Dolphins and the Earth Island Institute’s Dolphin Project and Save Japan Dolphins campaign changed that when they filed the first ever lawsuit on behalf of the dolphins who are rounded up in the cove and killed or sold for captivity every year.

In their lawsuit, they argue that the Taiji Whale Museum, which is owned by the town, has been blocking activists and Westerners from entering in some cases based solely on appearance in violation of the Japanese constitution, which bans discrimination.

Reuters reported that Sarah Lucas, the CEO of Australians for Dolphins and a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said that she was shown a sign saying that people against whaling were unwelcome in the museum and denied entry when she visited in February.

Their lawyer believes they can prove discrimination in court and it shouldn’t be too hard, considering aquarium officials admitted as much to Reuters and the Associated Press.

“Taiji is full of activists expressing their opposition to the hunt and to keeping dolphins in captivity,” Taiji Whale Museum’s vice director, Tetsuo Kirihata, told Reuters. “If we let them in, they would disturb our other visitors and interfere with our business.”

Disruptive or not, one of the main reasons dolphin advocates want access now is to check on Angel, a rare albino calf who made headlines after being torn from her mother’s side and taken by fishermen during a violent roundup in January that drew international criticism. She is currently being kept at the museum in conditions that have been described by her advocates as deplorable.

According to a rather gut-wrenching statement, “Angel is now a highly-valuable ‘freak’ show on display in a tiny, filthy tank. Eyewitness’s report she floats lifelessly, or swims in small distressed circles, much of the time with her eyes closed.”

Footage taken by the Dolphin Project’s Ric O’Barry after he entered the museum in disguise earlier this spring shows her being bullied by other dolphins in their tank, where she has nowhere to go to escape from their harassment. It’s heartbreaking to think that just a few months ago she was living in the wild with her pod under the protection of her mother and that now, thanks to human greed, this is her life:

Her advocates hope that the Action for Angel lawsuit will ensure access for those who want to document her well being and the well being of dolphins in aquariums throughout Japan, according to a statement. They also believe that it will, for the first time, compel Taiji’s government to defend its dolphin hunts. Still another hope is that legal action will lead to improvements in Angel’s living conditions, at least with a move to an enclosure where she’ll have much-needed shade and some enrichment.

Although she’s no different from any other dolphin who has been taken, she stands out and has become the poster dolphin for the outrage surrounding the ongoing captures and slaughter, in addition to having become an unfortunate and constant reminder of the role the captivity industry continues to play in the brutal drives that take place in the cove every year.

Some believe that if it weren’t for the profits captures continue to bring in, the hunt would have collapsed already. While the lawsuit alone might not end the dolphin drives, it will certainly continue to raise awareness and keep Taiji in the spotlight.

“Action for Angel ramps up the pressure on the Taiji government to bring an end to these inhumane hunts once and for all,” said O’Barry. “The Taiji Whale Museum is the government institution at the heart of the Taiji dolphin trade.”

For more information on how to help Angel and dolphins in Taiji, visit Action4Angel and the Dolphin Project.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

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108 comments

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8:59PM PDT on Jun 4, 2014

She is being bullied by the others. She doesn't have a moments peace and that tank is way to small to hold all those dolphins. What a nightmare for her. I do believe they have a case but the Japanese will do and decide whatever they want to do when it is in the best "financial" interest for them.

3:08AM PDT on May 24, 2014

Unfortunaly in animal world white is strange colour. Aswell my old cat tried to hit the white cat which I was shown to him. Usually white cats are deaf...but what is the reason when the peace loving cat try to attack on white cat?

10:52PM PDT on May 23, 2014

Sad, very sad.....

1:36AM PDT on May 22, 2014

How awful, Angel is beautiful although I'm not surprised she's being bullied by the other dolphins (she is after all different to them and likely seen as an intruder). I really do hope she get's free one day and that the plaintiff's win their case.

1:59PM PDT on May 21, 2014

My blood boils at the deplorable greed of humans. Absolutely disgusting to murder such intelligent creatures, that have been declared sentient non humans in India (should be world wide). May these people suffer karma 10 fold

9:24AM PDT on May 21, 2014

Thanks for posting.

9:24AM PDT on May 21, 2014

Save the dolphin.

8:21AM PDT on May 21, 2014

Poor little Angel :(

7:58AM PDT on May 21, 2014

Unfortunately Angel probably needs to be in captivity - as an albino she's going to be vulnerable to sunburn and skin cancer in the open ocean, as well as being an obvious target for predators. But clearly she needs to be in as large a tank as possible, with plenty of stimulation and amusements and some less aggressive company. Animals like Angel, or that dolphin with the prosthetic tail, may have to be kept away from the wild for their own safety - but there's no excuse for not giving them as good a life as possible.

Under normal circumstances, i.e. where the animal has no medical problems, I think dolphin exhibits should use only volunteers who are able to come and go - that is, you set your exhibition up at the edge of the ocean, allow the dolphins to come and go freely, and then offer them edible bribes. They're easily bright enough to understand "If you jump through this hoop I will give you three herrings".

7:42AM PDT on May 21, 2014

I have some thoughts.
(1) Even they win the lawsuit, the Japanese government can still ban them from entering into Japan in future. Those plaintiffs will be blacklisted.

(2) on the alleged pest control issue, why not ask them to conduct fish farming which is very common in other parts of Japan. Dolphins only pass by beyond the horizon, I wonder the argument of pest control is valid. BTW, I think Australia for Dolphins and other bodies (such as sister towns of Taiji and Wakayama, like San Francisco) should approach Wakayama government for the supply of infrastructure, money, technique tor e-engineer their economic structure, can they manufacture and sell beer/cigarette for quick money? Please turn the hostile relationship to a friendly relation.
Wakayama officials are looking for the opportunity to re-engineer the economic-structure

(1) we need to study whether the pest control is effective in preserving their fish stocks. without cetaceans, I only know the Ocean will be occupied by Jellyfish, bacteria which will deplete the oxygen in the ocean. That explains why Ocean dies, we die. Do they really care? They are so stubborn and stupid

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