Dolphin murders in Taiji

Why dolphins need to be protected.

Written by Adam O'Dwyer


The human love of dolphins dates back to ancient times. There are many markings and early art work that depicts these animals. They were believed to be a spiritual connection between humans and god. Somewhere along the centuries they went from a spiritual being to a form of entertainment and food. How is it possible for man to even consider murdering these magnificent creatures?

Hunters inhumanely slaughter thousands of dolphins yearly in Japan, and then their meat is sold out to the Japanese even though it contains high levels of mercury making it unsafe to eat. These crimes are committed in what was once a secret location called The Cove. This cove is a very well protected area in Taiji that is surrounded by hills and guarded by the local fishermen. If the International Whaling Commission were to pass a law to provide protection for the dolphins, thousands of lives of both dolphins and humans can be saved.

In 2009 a documentary called The Cove was released. The activists who made this movie, led by renowned dolphin trainer Ric O’Barry, used state of the art equipment to infiltrate the cove to expose both a shocking instance of animal abuse and a serious threat to human health. The activists caught the slaughter of these innocent dolphins on hidden cameras within cases disguised as rocks.

Fisherman round up hundreds of dolphins, herd them into hidden bays by hitting on rods in the water to disorient and scare them out of their migration routes. The attractive, primarily bottlenose, dolphins are selected by trainers and later sold off to marine mammal parks where they live out their sentence in captivity. The rest of the dolphins, all family members or friends, are later massacred by driving a metal rod into their spinal cords.

While the dolphins are still alive and very much aware of what is happening, a rope is tied around their tails and they are hauled out of water while they are slowly drowning in their own blood. This is when the fishermen cut them open both alive and dead. The people consuming the meat of the dolphins are putting toxic levels or mercury into their bodies, which can cause severe brain damage.

The Cove also stated that many of the Japanese citizens were unaware of what was happening in Taiji and were opposed to it. Some foods in Japanese stores not labeled as dolphin meat, the film shows, were in fact tested to be dolphin and were very toxic.

The slaughter footage was then brought, on a monitor strapped to Ric O’Barry’s chest, before the ‘International Whaling Commission’ whose main aim is to “provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry”. Unfortunately the IWC does not protect dolphins as they are categorized as small cetaceans. 

In 1982 the IWC began a moratorium on commercial whaling. Currently, Japan and several other nations oppose this moratorium. The Sunday Times said it found officials from St Kitts and Nevis, Grenada, the Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Guinea and Ivory Coast, that were willing to discuss selling their votes at the IWC.

They admitted they voted with the “pro-whaling grouping because of the aid they received from Japan, or because they were given cash or call girls”. The paper said Japan denies the claims and the ministry of foreign affairs said in a statement: “The government of Japan does not cover any cost of any other IWC member countries related to the IWC.” There is one loop hole that has been taken advantage of which is that the IWC will allow countries “to kill, take and treat whales for purposes of scientific research subject to such restrictions as to number and subject to such other conditions as the Contracting Government thinks fit”. Japan has issued scientific permits in the Antarctic and in the western North Pacific every year in recent years.

It’s up to us to help prevent these inhumane acts in Taiji. We need to put an end to the mass killing and confinement of dolphins; we need IWC to protect dolphins. For more information on this matter, watch The Cove and share the film online. Sign petitions and share them online. Write hand written letters and post them to the IWC. Do whatever you can to make a difference and save a species. “Man is their biggest threat and their only hope”.

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