The eyes of the world are watching in horror as 250 bottlenose dolphins, who were herded into the now infamous “killing cove” near the small Japanese village of Taiji several days ago, are now being slaughtered one by one by Japanese fishermen. By the time it’s all over, the sea will be red with the blood of these innocent animals.
This horrific massacre goes on for six months a year during which time more than 20,000 dolphins and small whales – including babies and their mothers – are corralled into shallow waters, disorientated with underwater sounds, run over in boats, netted, starved for days and then killed by having their throats cut with knives or by having metal spears driven into their spinal cords in front of their terrified families. Dolphins are so devoted to one another that even those who escape from the killing area have been known to linger nearby to wait for their family, even if that means being killed themselves.
It is commonly assumed that the Japanese fishermen hunting these highly sentient beings do so to supply a small minority of Japanese people with dolphin meat. But in fact, the Japanese government issues permits to kill dolphins in order to prevent them from consuming the fish in Japan’s surrounding oceans, which it prefers to reserve for human consumption.
The 2009 Oscar-winning documentary The Cove opened people’s eyes to the annual massacre in Taiji in the same way that the recent BAFTA-nominated film Blackfish brought attention to orcas and dolphins in captivity. Many of Taiji’s “prize catch” are removed before slaughter and sold for use in captive-dolphin shows and swim-with-dolphins programmes.
Life in marine theme parks is appalling for these smart and sensitive animals who in the wild would live in large and intricate social groups and swim together up to 100 miles a day. Female dolphins spend their entire lives with their mothers and sisters within the family pod. They communicate with each other through whistles and body language, and when dolphins are injured or dying others will come to their aid, supporting them at the water’s surface so that they can breathe. At some marine parks they have nothing to do but swim in endless circles in tiny and barren pools. Their sonar bounces back at them off the walls of the tanks and often drives them crazy. Dolphins live about 45 to 50 years in the ocean, but more than half die in their first two years of captivity .
Dolphins are made of flesh, blood and bone, just as we are, and of course, they can feel terror and pain, just as we do. Those of us who are sickened by what’s happening in Taiji right now can be part of the solution. You see, each dolphin captured is worth hundreds of thousands of pounds to the dolphin display industry, which makes the annual slaughter a highly profitable venture for a handful of fishermen in this tiny town. By refusing to visit any dolphin displays, we can help stop dolphins from being stabbed to death, abducted from their families and forced to live in barren concrete tanks.
Annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan
Annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan
1/15 The annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan
A bottlenose dolphin was seen floating on back before slaughter
2/15 The annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan
Fishermen hiding their culture and tradition
3/15 The annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan
Remaining pod swims just a few feet from the slaughter of their family
4/15 The annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan
Dolphin drive out to sea
5/15 The annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan
Lathered in blood, fishermen receive more transfers of dolphin carcasses
6/15 The annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan
Fishermen enter the cove just after sunrise
7/15 The annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan
A juvenile Bottlenose barely surfaces during drive out. The chances of survival are slim after 5 tormenting days in the cove
8/15 The annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan
Cove Guardians Jac and Ian document the slaughter
9/15 The annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan
SSCS Cove Guardian Leader Melissa Sehgal interviews for CNN
10/15 The annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan
Fishermen in wetsuits hunt dolphins at a cove in Taiji, western Japan; U.S. ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy has expressed deep concern over the traditional dolphin hunt. Local fisherman corral dolphins in a secluded bay before killing many for meat
11/15 The annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan
The selection process of dolphins, during the annual dolphin hunt in Taiji. With 250 dolphins, this was the largest round-up in years
12/15 The annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan
The agitated dolphins in the cove during the selection process. According to Sea Shepherd, Japanese fisherman rounded up more than 250 dolphins, including babies and juveniles
13/15 The annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan
Japanese fisherman are shown in the cove. Taiji town claims the hunt is an important ritual dating back centuries
14/15 The annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan
A rare albino calf swims close to his/her mother as the pod was herded into the cove. Dolphins captured in the cove are either sold into captivity, or slaughtered and sold for consumption, despite pleas from animal conservationists around the world against the event
15/15 The annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan
The process of selecting dolphins during the annual cull, which the mayor of the town defends 'on scientific grounds'