Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Taiji Take Two: 3 slaughters, 2 days, 37 dead dolphins

Three slaughters in four days – what an awful week it is shaping up to be here in Taiji.  Once again, only ten banger boats left the harbor to go hunting this morning; the other two were still quietly tied up in their slip for reasons unknown to us.  At about 9 o'clock we got word from others at a different lookout point that some boats appeared to be in drive formation far offshore.  From our view, we spotted three boats, all heading back into the harbor.  We knew they could be heading in to prepare nets and things at the Cove, so we held our excitement.  Soon enough I saw the drive formation for myself, and I was able to spot dorsal fins between the boats.  My heart sank; I couldn't believe there was going to be another slaughter.
From Takababe Mountain, I watched the fishermen and pod of 14 striped dolphins slowly progress closer and closer to shore.  These dolphins were not eluding the fishermen like some pods do; instead they were hardly moving at all.  They weren't trying to run away, but they did not want to go into the Cove, either.  They appeared completely exhausted at this point, having been driven in from so far offshore.  The banging on the poles was only sporadic by this point and no longer necessary.  Instead the fishermen slowly pushed the dolphins towards the entrance to the Cove until they were finally able to put up a net.
Striped dolphins are notorious for panicking in the shallow Cove, and they typically throw their bodies up on the sharp rocks and thrash around on them for many minutes before the fishermen get to them to kick their bodies back into the water.  What an agonizing last few minutes on this Earth!  So today, when we confirmed the species, I found it increasingly difficult to breathe for fear of what may happen.  Once the net had been drawn, the fishermen immediately got to work pushing them deeper into the Cove and out of our sight.  They didn't want our cameras to capture the bloody scene of dolphins beaching themselves and tearing their skin on the rocks just to escape from the fishermen and their murder weapons.  After the final push under the tarps, we could no longer see the dolphins, but we could hear them trashing around in the shallow water.  We could hear them dying.
The dead bodies of the striped dolphins were immediately thrown into skiffs and taken to the Fishermen's Union in the harbor for slicing and dicing.  The siren rang loud throughout the town, signaling to buyers that the meat was ready.  Several trucks backed into the slaughterhouse, and, after being loaded up with dead dolphin, they took off to various locations throughout the town and probably beyond, distributing the meat.  It's almost unbelievable that at the start of this morning, these beautiful dolphins were swimming free in the ocean.  Within four hours they'd been killed, chopped up, and absorbed by the town of Taiji, all before the warmth had even left their bodies.
No dolphins were sold into captivity today, so we can at least take comfort in knowing their suffering is now over.  They have been brutally ripped out of this world, but fortunately their pain did not follow them to the other side.  For the three Risso's dolphins captured at the beginning of this week, their heartache continues.  It has only been a few days since they lost their family and their whole world.  The profit of the meat sold today is nothing compared to the profits made by the pending sales of the captive Risso's.  It is not the meat that sustains this slaughter, but the captivity industry.  Without their financial backing this operation could not continue. 
We can end the slaughter by ending the demand for captive dolphins.  Do not support dolphinariums, captive swim-with programs, or resorts that own dolphins.  Tell your friends, family, and the world the link between aquariums all across the world and this little body of water here in Taiji, Japan.

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