Monday, November 7, 2011

Day 13: Screams to haunt your dreams

Another glorious dolphin-free day at the Cove! It was quite warm again today. It was windy, but a warm wind. Perfect climate in my opinion. If it were based on weather and scenery alone I would want to move here! Not sure if the wind had anything to do with it, but the boats were unable to drive any dolphins back with them today.

Pebble art - the direct result of nervously waiting for the banger boats to return
 Leah's back in town, and her and I stopped off at the Whale Museum to check on the captive dolphins. It just so happened that they were about to start a show for a few (and I literally mean a few) nicely dressed audience members, so of course we stayed to watch. Happy peppy techno music pumped loudly in the air and an announcer (I'm guessing a recording) narrated the whole way through.

The show was disturbing, to say the very, very least. I don't know that I've ever seen a dolphin show before, so I don't have any aquarium to compare it to, but it thoroughly disgusted me. It was clearly meant to give the impression of dominance, and the dolphins had to beg at white boots of the trainer for a small balled up scrap of unknown meat. The participants in this show were one Pacific white sided dolphin and two bottlenose dolphins. The dolphins in the side tanks (the show took place in the middle tank) were not involved, but could be heard echolocating very loudly throughout the show. The Pacific white sided was told to do many back flips, somersaults, and high flying leaps, and while it was in the air it had to whip its tail up and down something like 5 times before it hit the water again. While that was going on the bottlenose dolphins were commanded to beach themselves on the platform, and remain there while the trainer pointed out the dorsal fin and wobbled it back and forth. I was really interested to know what the announcer was saying during that odd moment. Right after that the white sided dolphin swam over and they pointed out its dorsal fin as well. Who knows. I'm sure it was very educational, though...

While beached, the dolphins were asked to vocalize one at a time. I will never forget that sound. I've found while being here that I'm pretty good at separating myself with my camera - I can get behind the lens and somehow things seem a little less present, more like I'm watching it on tv. But those screams, they slammed me back into reality, hard. I instantly had tears running down my face. To me, that moment felt worse than watching the drive hunts unfold. In a bizarre way, I believe the murdered dolphins are the luckier ones. At least their pain and suffering has ended. These captive dolphins all carry the memory of the drive hunts with them. They helplessly watched their families being brutally slaughtered and heard their screams of pain and fear. Then they were loaded up and hauled off to the Whale Museum, where they are being forced to spend the rest of their miserable lives as slaves to entertainment. Perhaps the screams they made today were echoing the last cries they heard from their families before they were silenced.

After the show ended it was time for the guests to have their photo taken with a dolphin. The trainers moved to another small tank and again a dolphin had to beach itself on the platform. This 'trick' is quite uncomfortable, if not downright painful for the dolphins, by the way. Their bone structure and overall size and weight were designed perfectly for aquatic conditions, not land. Out of water their bodies cannot support their sheer weight, and their internal organs begin to collapse under the immense pressure. So while this was going on, the visitors walked over, placed their hand on the dolphin's back, and smiled for the camera. They all wanted their up close and personal encounter with this beautiful creature, and it made me wonder how much they knew or cared about the slaughter occurring all over their country. I wondered how many of them ate dolphin meat.

Throughout the photo process the dolphin was asked to get back in the water and the trainer would toss it a fish, and then call it back out onto the platform. At the end of this session the trainer grabbed two fish out of his bucket and showed them to the dolphin who'd been on the platform, and another who instantly swam over to receive the food. The trainer then dropped the fish back into the bucket and walked away. He did not return.

It's hard to imagine how people could be so blind to this kind of cruelty, but I know it does happen. Not every dolphin trainer or aquarium visitor knows how torturous this life is for the animals they claim to love. Some have chosen not to think about it, while others believe the lies that have been fed down to them. There are a few though, a few who know and don't care. A few who actually get enjoyment from dominating over another life. Ignorance is not an excuse, however it is the latter group of people who are the real problem in this whole thing.

The fact is, there is a direct connection between the captivity industry and the drive hunts. Any dolphinarium anywhere in the world is either directly or indirectly contributing to the slaughter, and they are ALL guilty of the torture that goes hand in hand with dolphin captivity. The solution is so simple: Don't buy a ticket. Just don't do it! If no one buys a ticket to a dolphin show, no aquarium wants to buy more dolphins. If no aquarium wants to buy dolphins, the drive hunts of Taiji would no longer be financially viable. Dolphin meat doesn't keep the fishermen in business, the sale of live dolphins do. Shut down the captivity industry and we will shut down the hunts. Continue to support the industry, and the murder will never cease.

I would like to say goodbye for now to Peter, who left today. I will miss the pancakes, muffins, and beer, but most of all I'll miss your company. Until we meet again!

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