Another beautiful morning in the waters off of the coast of Japan. The sun is gleaming and it’s calm and wonderful. That peace comes to an abrupt end. The sound is deafening, we come together and try to escape it. What is happening? We feel scared, we huddle with our pods and hope to get to safe open waters.
All of a sudden we see the nets surrounding us, it’s too late. Our families are terrified, we have no idea what is going to happen. The water becomes shallow. I watch as my babies are driven away and captured into slings. I panic and feel helpless. The waters become filled red with blood from my family who are being slaughtered and stabbed and are left to die and suffocate in their own blood.
The boats draw closer to me, my babies are out of sight, my fate is at the hands of these killers. Where are my babies? Why is my family lying dead or slowly dying around me? I will never know because I’ve just been struck by the fisherman who brutally stabbed me until I was left to die a painful, agonizing, barbaric and inhumane death in the waters where my whole family was destroyed today.
This harsh reality happens on a daily basis from September through to March annually. It’s called drive hunting where banger boats gather together off of the coast of Japan in a small town called Taiji and go out to find a pod to drive in and slaughter in the most inhumane way possible or capture for a life of slavery and depression. The people of Taiji hunt dolphins for the horrendous captivity industry and force them into marine parks where they will be fed dead fish and taught how to interact in an unnatural way with humans and perform senseless and inappropriate tricks for people who buy tickets to the show.
Little do they know that they are buying into and supporting the dolphin hunt and the misery, pain and suffering that comes with it. On the other side are the lives that are lost in the infamously known “cove” where the dolphins are forced into and the ones that are not “worthy” enough to be showcased in captivity will be brutally slaughtered and will experience pain like no other while they die a slow, long and agonizing death drowning in their own blood. This is the reality of what this town participates in for 7 months of the year.
The boats head out into the waters very early in the morning and begin their search. A search that will only end with a horrifying result for the poor and innocent dolphin lives. The babies are typically the ones sold off to marine parks around the world for a life in a swimming pool and the older ones are killed and sold for dolphin meat. In addition to the barbaric acts that the dolphins endure during the slaughter and capture, the meat is also known to have very high levels of mercury that is being sold to the people of this country.
There is nothing appropriate, traditional or respectable about this hunt. It causes harm in all aspects, but for this town and its fisherman they only see dollar signs. A dolphin can be sold for upwards of $500,000. The Japanese claim this is a traditional way of hunting, but I have not heard of anything more brutal, selfish and unnecessary. Hundreds to thousands of these Risso dolphins and pilot whales are captured every year in Taiji and it is done for reasons I will never understand.
It has been quite a controversial topic for many ever since the award winning and acclaimed documentary, The Cove was debuted back in 2009 when it exposed the atrocities that occur in Taiji every year in a small cove hidden to most of the population. When the Japanese population were exposed to the footage that The Cove monitors had captured they were appalled and couldn’t watch. This incredible documentary brought this issue to the forefront and began a worthy cause full of people working tirelessly to put an end to this hunt. Organizations like Sea Shepherd and Save Japan Dolphins have people on the ground in Taiji daily documenting what continues to take place and exposing the truth about what these people are doing.
The campaign has caught the attention of several celebrity and other high-profile supporters, such as Ricky Gervais and U.S. ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy. A celebrity who went to volunteer on the ground in Taiji recently witnessed the nightmare herself, “It’s eerie, you wonder how they (the hunters) are able to go to bed at night… I think being here rocks even the most hardened human being, because it is just atrocious.” said Shannon Doherty.
The United States stopped the practice due to the outrage of its people; dolphinariums globally have been shut down because of the hellish conditions these animals lived in. Clearly with more and more pressure from around the world and more action from global leaders, we can make a change for the better. We need to keep our momentum up and think about the dolphins and whales who fall victim to this notorious hunt and work for them in any way possible.
If you want to watch any of the footage, it is heartbreaking and very graphic but it is important to be informed and take action where possible, whether it may be signing a petition, protesting at a local Japanese embassy, sending emails to or calling governmental officials and expressing your thoughts on the hunt. “They’re self-aware like humans and the great apes.
They look in the mirror and they know what they’re looking at. They’re not domesticated animals,” former dolphin trainer and current leader of the Save The Dolphins campaign Richard O’Barry told CNN. Once on the other side capturing dolphins for captivity, Richard O’Barry works tirelessly for dolphins and whales around the world who are in captivity or who are vulnerable to the type of vicious attack like those in Japan are.
Japan as a country has received a lot of flack for this annual hunt, but they have yet to make any decisions to put an end to it. There is definitely that international pressure present, but they continue to justify their actions as a “traditional practice”. Richard O’Barry has been told by local fishermen that “If the world finds out about this we’ll have to stop.” It is a very secret act that they perform in the cove. The fishermen use big blue tarps to cover the dolphins when they are being brutally stabbed with large metal rods into their spinal cord and slaughtered in the water and then transported into the boats to avoid pictures being taken.
It is a shame that a country can make a conscious choice to continue on with a slaughter to an animal that is so outdated, barbaric, inhumane, destructive and one that tarnishes the image of the people and the country. As someone who has watched footage several times, it hurts every single time as if it were the first. It is painful to witness what happens in that cove on a daily basis.
I can’t even imagine the actual pain and suffering the dolphins experience and endure for such an elongated length of time. We are heading into the year 2015, traditions become old, as a human race we should make smarter decisions that benefit not only us humans but non-human animals as well. If forcing marine animals into a secluded cove, senselessly torturing and abusing them and ripping them away from their home and family is tradition, we need to reinvent the meaning altogether.
Courtesy Image: The Cove