Sea Shepherd Conservation Society: Cove Guardians in #Taiji.
Like many, I have watched The Cove, a documentary that exposes “…the most cruel acts against wild dolphins in Taiji, Japan” [IMDB: The Cove]. My reaction to the documentary was profound, for me. I was almost physically sick. I can remember clearly standing in my living room, ironing of all things! I had two dogs at my feet. It was a quiet evening, late, and Channel 4 was showing the documentary for the first time. As I watched, I cried, sickened to my stomach, heart aching, in shock and disbelief that there were people in this world that regularly and unthinkingly carried out such acts of terror and violence against dolphins and whales. The film has affected me forever.
Since 2012, I have been following Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardian volunteers on the ground in Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture, Japan. These are people who volunteer their own time and money to be on the ground at the infamous cove, in Taiji, where six months of every year they brutally round up and slaughter dolphins and small whales. The issue is at once complex and very simple – they claim it is subsistence fishing, for food. They claim we farm cows/sheep/chickens, so why can’t they fish for dolphins to eat? They claim we are far more cruel with our factory farming methods. (They’re kind of right. Yet their methods are brutal, and cause immense suffering to wild animals.) However, the roundup and slaughter of whole pods has only been happening since the 1960s/1970s, strangely enough, since ‘Flipper’ appeared on our TVs worldwide. Before this, the occasional dolphin would wash up and be eaten. It was never an organised hunt. It never involved taking wild dolphins from their pods and turning them into captives. It never involved money. There’s a big clue, right there.
The meat is laden with heavy metals, including mercury, and is deemed unfit for human consumption. It is sometimes found in local shops for sale. However, it is increasingly unpopular with Japanese, and too often ends up in cat and dog food, or kept frozen and stockpiled. For what? What a waste of precious lives.
The deeper issue is one of money. A lot of money. It is suggested that the Japanese mob – The Yakuza – is involved. Next to the cove, they now have a large complex. It consists of an ever-expanding collection of sea pens, in which captive dolphins are held, starved and ‘trained’ by dolphin ‘trainers’ (perhaps a better word could be found to describe what they do for a living?). As the Taiji ‘fishermen’ round up whole pods of dolphins, the trainers usually appear. They will then pick out the pretty ones. This usually occurs when they’ve found a pod of Bottlenose, sometimes White-Sided, sometimes Rissos dolphins. They take the juveniles, the unmarked ones, the ones deemed suitable for captivity and training; the ones deemed suitable for earning their keep in a tank; the ones who will be shipped out to countries who have not yet outlawed the buying and selling of wild-caught cetaceans. They sell for upwards of £50,000, sometimes reaching half a million pounds for a single dolphin. That is a lot of money, right?
We are thankfully not the only people on this planet who can see the sickness of this behaviour towards another highly intelligent, sociable mammal. This is disgusting and unacceptable enslavement – pure and simple. Those who profit from it are unethical, immoral, and sub-human. Greed clearly rules in Taiji.
Taiji is a complex problem for ocean conservationists. These people earn a lot of money off the backs of traumatised, brutalised mammals, and they are wiping out entire genetic lines. They are potentially helping to wipe out whole species. This must end if we want to keep dolphins and whales in the oceans. The seas are already struggling – plastic litters our seas, and is reaching every aspect of the food chain. Oil spills destroy wildlife. Climate change is driving fish and their predators away from previously inhabited waters, and is heating up the seas. Intensive farming run-off is killing coral reefs. Our oceans are under immense pressure as a result of our irresponsible actions as a species. Should we really be confounding that by slaughtering cetaceans?
Cove Guardians film each and every single dolphin drive in Taiji. They film it as proof. They film it to show the world. They are very limited in what they can do, due to local laws. Past attempts at direct action have resulted in arrests and deportations. Thus the dolphins’ voice was removed. Now, Cove Guardians remain within the confines of Japanese law, and observe, report, tweet, to tell the world what is happening. In two years, I have watched their audience rapidly rise. Where once they had around 1,000 followers (and less) on Twitter, they now have 36.5k followers and rising. The truth is out, and that truth is found to be shocking, devastating to witness, and absolutely unacceptable in a supposed just and humane world. Taiji’s dolphin and whale hunts WILL end. It is only a matter of time. Time that each and every pod they round up and slaughter this season does not have.
Tired of me prattling? More info here.
Please follow Sea Shepherd and the Cove Guardians on Facebook and Twitter. I will now be blogging each drive hunt tweet from Cove Guardians for the 2014/2015 season, where possible, simply to spread the truth further and wider, and to add my voice to all calls to shut Taiji’s killing cove down forever.