Bloodshed in Taiji
The eyes of the world are watching in horror as 250 bottlenose dolphins – who, several days ago, were herded into the now infamous “killing cove” near the small Japanese village of Taiji – 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 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 hunt 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 the plight of orcas and other dolphins in captivity. Many dolphins from Taiji’s “prize catch” are removed before slaughter and sold for use in 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, dolphins have nothing to do but swim in endless circles in tiny, 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 of captive dolphins die within their first two years of captivity.
Two Ways to Help Dolphins
- When you’re on holiday, refuse to visit dolphinaria or marine parks. The dolphin display industry will pay hundreds of thousands of pounds for each captured dolphin, making the annual slaughter highly profitable for a handful of Taiji fishermen.
- Send a polite message to the Japanese Embassy in the UK explaining how horrified you are by the bloody dolphin massacre: here.
Image: ©2004-2007 Sea Shepherd Conservation Society