Tuesday, December 15, 2009

In Taiji, Japan, Fishermen in the Cove are Still Not Killing Bottlenose Dolphins, but They are Killing Other Species

By Ric OBarry, Campaign Director
Save Japan Dolphins Coalition

Ive been here in Taiji, the small coastal town in Japan with the big secret, for several days now. I wanted to get a good idea of what is happening in the Cove, made infamous by the movie The Cove, recently released on DVD. It is imperative that I and my colleagues from Save Japan Dolphins Coalition are here on the ground regularly to judge what is happening and to document the truth that the Taiji dolphin killers and the Japanese government want to hide from the Japanese people and the world.

Ric O’Barry and his son, Lincoln O’Barry, are at the Cove in Taiji, Japan.
Photo by Kate Tomlinson.

The Taiji dolphin-killers, so far as we can tell, are still not catching any bottlenose dolphins for slaughter. Thats the good news. But obviously, this is largely a PR effort on the part of the fishermen to deny the truth shown in The Cove. They can say they are not killing Flipper, but they are butchering many of his dolphin cousins as many as they can get.

And the dolphin-killers are angry, too. They have physically assaulted several of us, although fortunately there have been no injuries. I was assaulted yesterday, but I got the assault on video. Tomorrow I will bring a copy to the police station and file a complaint against the dolphin killers. They will not intimidate me or our Save Japan Dolphins team that is here on site.

As depicted in the award-wining documentary The Cove, Japan issues 23,000 permits annually to slaughter dolphins. Here in Taiji, boats go out to sea and herd dolphin pods into a local cove, where nets are arrayed across the entrance to keep them captive. The dolphin killers work with aquariums from all over the world to pick out the best show quality dolphins for captivity. The rest are killed in the most horrible way imaginable, caught on hidden cameras in The Cove Movie. Roughly two to three thousand dolphins are killed here during the dolphin-hunting season, which runs from September to March.

Ric O’Barry at the Cove in Taiji, Japan.
Photo by Kate Tomlinson.

Sadly, in the Cove itself, I have found it is business as usual, despite the worldwide publicity against the dolphin slaughter. On Sunday, several False killer whales (a large dolphin) were captured and a few were taken by boat around the corner of the bay to the notorious Taiji Whale Museums floating holding cages on the other side. These whales will be trained and then sold for extremely high prices (as much as $150,000US each or more) to other aquariums for their captive dolphin shows. The rest of the pod, their mothers and fathers, their sisters and brothers, will be slaughtered tomorrow at dawn. There are also Rissos dolphins and Pacific white-sided dolphins in the Cove today as well, and they will die too tomorrow. My son Lincoln and I will be on hand to record it. My son and I are working on a new TV project, so we will have a way to show the world the reality here in Taiji.

We will continue to show our presence here, and we will continue to witness and record the brutal dolphin slaughters. We will also show The Cove Movie throughout Japan. We will spread the truth that the government has tried so long to cover up.

One of my goals here this week is to change some hearts and minds here in Taiji. It seems to me that this is ground zero for the fight to change the hearts and minds of all Japan. We know there are people here in town that object to the dolphin slaughter, and this week, I will have a chance to meet them. We have a Japanese version of The Cove DVD with us, and we plan to screen it discretely for as many local people as we can find who want to know the truth.

I want to thank all our supporters for their efforts to contact President Obama and other opinion leaders throughout the world, to contact the Japanese Embassies, and to give donations to our cause to help us with our expenses here in Japan. Your support means a lot to me and the Save Japan Dolphins Coalition.
Dolphins and small whales are still being killed in the Cove in Taiji, Japan.
Photo by Kate Tomlinson.

For further information about the Campaign to Save Japan Dolphins and to take action, go to our website:


To donate to the Campaign, click here:

Thanks for all your help! We will stop the slaughter of dolphins in Japan -- I believe it is only a matter of time.

Save Japan Dolphins Coalition:
Earth Island Institute, Animal Welfare Institute, Elsa Nature Conservancy of Japan, In Defense of Animals, Campaign Whale of the UK, and OceanCare of Switzerland

Monday, December 7, 2009

Cruelty in the Name of Tradition

By Helene O’Barry

A popular argument used by the dolphin hunters in Taiji when asked why they kill dolphins by the thousands every year is: “We’ve been doing this for hundreds of years; it’s our tradition.” Some people immediately accept this explanation and back off without asking any further questions. “If killing dolphins is their tradition, then it must be OK,” seems to be their line of reasoning, and it is a dangerous one -- it makes it too easy for those who inflict pain on others to continue doing it unchallenged.

The term “traditional dolphin hunt” glorifies the dolphin slaughter, creating images of proud men carrying out courageous deeds to ensure the survival of their tribes. But the dolphin hunters of Japan are part of modern society. They do not live in tribes, what they do requires no bravery, and they certainly are not proud of what they do, which is illustrated by the tremendous amount of time they spend hiding their activities from the world. Any person capable of forcing large groups of marine mammals into a tight space, from which there is no escape, can do this job. We have heard the dolphin hunters’ laughter as they held up their tools before turning to finish their work concealed behind tarp, barbed wire and chain link fences.

The dolphin hunters’ argument that the hunt is justified by being “traditional” illustrates a fundamental hypocrisy: While the dolphin hunters apparently want to waste time standing still and refusing to accept today’s knowledge about dolphins as an intelligent, self-aware and highly evolved species, they are not against progress as long as they can benefit from it. They use modern technology to carry out their so-called “traditional dolphin hunt,” thereby turning it into something entirely different from what it was hundreds of years ago. Taking advantage of high-speed motorized boats, radios and walkie-talkies, they are able quickly to locate and hunt down thousands of dolphins and other small whales during the six-month-long hunting season. But as soon as anyone questions the justification of the hunt, they immediately revert back to their argument of keeping things the way they have been for hundreds of years. So while the dolphin hunters hide behind “tradition,” their modern dolphin killing machine marches on, eradicating entire dolphin schools in its destructive path.

We urge everyone never to accept the term “tradition” as valid reason for any action. Tradition is no excuse for cruelty.