“The memory of getting to Japan is hazy. One day I was an animal rights activist in Los Angeles, and the next I was on my way to Taiji to help save dolphins. But I believe I was meant to be here.”
Editor’s note: This week we have a guest post from Simone Reyes, who many Americans might know from the Oxygen Network’s “Running Russell Simmons.” She is currently an animal rights activist with Sea Shepherd, documenting the dolphin-hunting industry in Taiji, Japan. Last year, our post On Hunting Whales in Japan, tried to explain the Japanese perspective on its whaling industry. It seemed fair to show another perspective, so when Simone asked me to publish a piece on what she’d seen, I took the opportunity. While I didn’t attempt to independently verify any of her claims, the situation she describes in Taiji is well-documented, albeit controversially. Do your own research, and, as always, please be respectful in the comments. Now, on to Simone…
On Watching a Dolphin Massacre in Japan
The engagement period was rushed, but my marriage to Taiji seems to be forever. I arrived, like any bride to be, with something old: My Canon SureShot camera – my most powerful weapon. Something new: Sea Shepherd gear, which we’re encouraged to wear every day. Something borrowed: A coat from a close friend, the lingering scent of her familiar perfume helping me feel safe so far away from home. And something blue: The ocean, which I loved since my childhood. But it would not remain blue for long.
My pal Melissa Sehgal is a long time Sea Shepherd Cove Guardian and the leader of the Taiji campaign. She met me at Osaka airport, holding a defiant Sea Shepherd flag with her friend Scott. We had dinner at a quaint vegetarian/vegan restaurant and then made our three-hour drive back to the site known as “The Cove.”
The Cove is an eerie pocket of water made famous in the Academy Award winning film of the same name. Police were aware of my arrival, and as we approached the hotel a white van with two uniformed police officers began to trail us. These faces, and the faces of other riot police, have since become a normal part of our daily lives. We literally can’t get a soda from a vending machine without having a police officer trail us, noting whether we preferred Coke or Pepsi. Perched on our lookout locations around Taiji they stand close, sometimes within three feet of us.
The police are a reminder that we are under constant surveillance. Perhaps they hope to intimidate us. We have that in common, I suppose, because our message as the Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians is that those behind the Taiji dolphin slaughter are under constant surveillance as well. And we certainly hope to intimidate the killers. While we cannot physically “guard” the dolphins and whales against their brutal murders at The Cove, we are able to guard the truth. And we can deliver it, in all its bloody, greedy glory, to the rest of the world.
Police followed us everywhere. There were 16 Cove Guardians staying in my hotel. When we first made our way to the Taiji Dolphin Resort, I was immediately exposed to the sight of three bottlenose dolphins, scared and alone, being transferred in slings from holding pens in the harbor into the above-ground tanks at this prison. Female trainers in wet suits scurried around as police kept us at a distance. The dolphin’s small fins poked through their slings as they were submerged into a life of enslavement.
Cove Guardians at the lookout post sent word that the killing boats had lined up in formation and were moving quickly toward the Cove. That meant they had located a pod and were going to steer them from their ocean homes into the Cove for slaughter. The Cove Guardians are strategically positioned all over the town of Taiji, documenting every step of the dolphin’s ordeal, down to the sale of their meat and their long lonely road to enslavement at a marine park.
Ascending onto higher ground for a bird’s eye view of The Cove, we watched as twelve banger boats – named for the banging sound they use to drive dolphins into the Cove – chasing a pod of Risso dolphins. As the boats came closer hoped that the pod would lose them. It has happened before, but the boats bang and disorient the pod relentlessly, pushing them toward the killing Cove. This battle sometimes lasts for hours, and sometimes the pod wins. Today would not be that day.
The family of Risso dolphins resisted, but many were young babies, and mothers and fathers stayed close to protect their young. We saw them clinging together as nets dragged them into the killing cove. One, entangled in a net, desperately tried to escape, but men in wet suits swam towards him, forcing him back into the Cove with brutal force. The mothers and juveniles swam close to one another, almost attached, desperate to stay with each other. At one point the entire family were moving as one to stay together in their last moments of life.
We watched in horror, documenting and live streaming, but first of all, watching, as our eyes settled on two babies, tiny fins beside their protective, panicked mothers. I knew then my heart would never leave this Cove. Babies were ripped from their families and thrown onto a skiff under tarps. Our cameras caught the terrified shaking fin of a baby under a tarp, stepped on by the killers to keep them still. That boat left to dump the babies out to sea, leaving them to suffer prolonged deaths by starvation or predators. These babies are too small to be worth any money, but are counted as part of the fisherman’s quota, so they drop them, helpless, back into the sea to die. Days later a baby was washed to shore, we know even without confirmation it was one of these babies. It broke our hearts.
Those left in the Cove were killed under tarps, and soon the cove turned red. Their bodies were butchered and will be sold for a pretty penny as high mercury food for the Japanese people. The body of one Russo dolphin floated for a moment, her face bloody and her body still. Some shook and twitched under the tarps on the way to the butcher house, slowly dying of multiple stab wounds and suffocation.
The Live Dolphin Industry
According to the Cove Guardians, “The dolphin drive hunts in Taiji do not just end in the killing of the dolphins. Taiji is ‘ground zero’ for international trade in live dolphins. There is money – big money – in the captive dolphin entertainment industry. Without the money the Fisherman’s Union (FU) makes from the live trade business, it is doubtful that they would be able to sustain the killing of dolphins.” The Union is said to make about $32,000 USD for each live dolphin it captures. Trained dolphins sell for much, much more. “There is a direct link between the captive dolphin entertainment industry and the bloody waters of the Cove in Taiji.” Supporting a live dolphin show or participating in a confined swim-with-dolphin program anywhere in the world supports slicing open other dolphins in Taiji. The dolphin entertainment industry really pays for the hunt. Well-intentioned marine mammal trainers and the dolphin-show-viewing public all have the blood of innocent dolphins on their hands. The Cove Guardians explain:
For the dolphins pulled from their families and sold into captivity, life is beyond horrible. Even those dolphins born in captivity exist in prison-like conditions. It is now illegal in the United States to import a dolphin which has been caught in the wild, so there is a big business in captive-bred dolphins. One wonders though how many of the so-called captive bred dolphins imported into the US each year are actually wild-caught. Even the captive-bred dolphins most likely have ancestors who were captured in Taiji. The link to the killing in Taiji is undeniable, and unavoidable.
Blue and Red
The next day was what we called a Blue Cove Day. The banger boats didn’t find a pod. There would be no fresh killing, and the water would stay its natural blue, rather than stained red. But Taiji is always filled with the pain of captive dolphins. And the water never stays blue for long.
Another day, another formation. We knew that the killers would do everything they could to corner and drive this family into the killing cove. A family of pilot whales swam together, chased to the point of exhaustion, terrorized in their ocean home. The matriarch of the pod was surrounded by her family. They look to her as they do in the wild for help, guidance and protection. She could offer nothing. The pod was kept overnight in the Cove, trapped and left to swim in panicked circles, sometimes crying out in confusion before a dawn slaughter.
At nightfall we went, along with our convoy of trailing police officers, to sit silently with them. The family was frantic, confused and disorientated. When morning came we stood by them the only way we could, as allies documenting their pain. After standing witnesses to everything they had endured, it was personal. We couldn’t stop this atrocity, but we could guarantee their deaths weren’t in vain, that they were not alone in their darkest hour.
The following morning we live-streamed every moment of the family being netted into smaller and smaller enclosures. The world watched as they were bullied, intimidated and driven by the deafening sounds and aggressive moves of the killing boats. The world watched boats driving over their splashing bodies as they swam in confused, terrified circles. The world saw the family clinging together surrounding the matriarch, powerless to save her beloved family. The world saw her violently wrapped in a yellow tarp when the divers bound her fin with a large robe, dragging her into the Cove where they saw her struggle, grunt in pain, and heave in panic.
The killers tethered her large body with rope, separating her from her family, dragging her into the killing Cove. For more than two hours, the pod endured a slaughter and yet, never strayed far from their matriarch. Beneath the tarps, the cove ran red again. A sound echoed through the cove- the killers shouting in unison. The sound of a struggle. A sound as loud as thunder seemed to shake and pulsate the Cove. I grabbed Melissa, asking what the sound was. She knew.
“It’s the matriarch,” she said. All the Cove Guardians were struck silent, holding our breath and cringing as the sounds ran through our souls.
She is the large, most dominant member, whom the family looks to for everything. The dedicated mother, many of whom nurse their young for as long as ten years. On this day, she fought to survive. We heard her fight through our tears. Even seasoned Cove Guardians said the sound was like nothing they had heard. It will haunt me forever. One by one we could hear the family thrashing in the water being killed. After hours of torture, the sounds of struggle stopped. Thirteen orphaned and confused juveniles remained in the cove, swimming in the blood of their family. They swam tightly together, and after a few hours we saw them driven out to sea – too small and “worthless” to be counted in the killer’s quota. The small whales’ chance of survival are slim to none without their family as we learned later when the body was washed up on shore.
It was a restless night of sleep. I thought of those babies dumped out to sea, alone, terrified and sure to suffer and die without their mother’s protection and care.
Nothing prepared me for what happens in Taiji, the slaughters or the captives. My heart has been broken as I looked into the eyes of a dolphin or whale, once swimming in her ocean home to be kidnapped, ripped from her family and made to do tricks for humans under stress. The pens at the Dolphin Resort Hotel, the harbor and the Whale Museum are the equivalent of a human living in a phone booth with four or more stingers for eternity. I have seen all the dolphins pained, lonely, hopeless and crazed from this life of modern day slavery. Another day, a hunt for 25 Risso dolphins. Risso’s dolphins are protected in the United States under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1992. The only country known to actively hunt Risso’s dolphin is Japan.
I will be returning often to volunteer with the Sea Shepherd Cove Guardian campaign, Operation Infinite Patience, because the dolphins need our voices. We simply must deliver their message. We must have patience and continue to make our presence known. As Captain Paul Watson said, “What we have adapted here is a long-term strategy of daily harassment, over a 6 month period, which last year resulted in the cutting of the kill quota by over half.” That will keep me coming back- results.
We are hitting Japan with a public relations crisis in Taiji. Sea Shepherd is doing amazing work here. If you are moved by what I’ve described, I urge you to never buy tickets to marine parks or zoos. Don’t swim with dolphins. Write to the Japanese consulate, organize protests and join the Cove Guardian team. Taiji has forever changed me. I will never stop fighting for the dolphins and whales here until every tank is empty. That day is on the horizon. I just pray it comes soon.
You can find out more from Simone Reyes by following her on Twitter or Instagram. If you are interested in Sea Shepherd, find out more at their Website or find them on Facebook. You may also be interested in our posts detailing Japan’s perspective on whaling, or about being vegetarian in Japan.
You can find This Japanese Life on Facebook.
Disappointing to read this here. While I think we can all agree that there needs to be some sort of regulation on fishing with a view to a sustainable environment, labelling these people as killers, and portraying the event as a massacre is disingenuous at best.
Sea Shepherd’s tactics are unlikely to change anything other than convince people that the domain of environmental protection belongs to fringe groups, undermining the important work done by real scientists and campaigners.
real scientists and campaigners can’t create more whales and dolphins that these deranged men feel the need to kill just for a retangular piece of linen cotton mix. the regulations on fishing needs to be sorted out, we can’t kill dolphins and whales because humans wont get anymore fish. these creatures have been on this planet longer than us, this is their planet and the least us scumbag humans can do is respect that and stop killing these amazing animals.
“the regulations on fishing needs to be sorted out, we can’t kill dolphins and whales because humans wont get anymore fish.”
This really doesn’t connect. I agree that regulation needs to be made to preserve stocks and stuff, but Risso Dolphins’ status seems to be least concern. Unless the killing at Taiji is severely hurting the population in the region, I really don’t see why there should be any focus on them, as opposed to species like Bluefin Tuna which actually has a decent chance of going extinct within our lifespans.
@Dexter….just one comment..this is not fishing! These are not fish we are talking about! Do some research before you dare make a comment about this disgraceful slaughter of sentient, family oriented animals in Taiji. These people with each pod that they kill and remove from the ocean also take an entire section of the gene pool with them. When they are all gone we will be the biggest losers!
Why does sentience of family orientation matter?
because they are just like us. the part of their brain which is responsible for them being social, family orientated creatures is like double the size of a humans. these animals love each other, they have souls they are not like a goldfish who’s only aim in life is to eat, poop and swim. their goal is to teach their young how to hunt, how to survive and how to pass on what they have learnt to their future young. i’m guessing, as you asked the question you don’t really have any idea what exactly you’re talking about. this is to ikinone not the OP
why do humans matter? japanese children are small and defensless ,why not eat them?
Adrian, I understand that this is an touchy subject. Which is why it is so important to take a measured and rational approach to it.
Firstly, I understand that dolphins are cetacean mammals. My using the term fishing, was meant as taking animals from the sea for food, which I think is a fairly common usage of the word. I could. if you prefer, refer to it as whaling.
Secondly, the subject of dolphin sentience is a controversial one. There is no consensus on intelligence levels of dolphins, and many researchers have found similar markers of intelligence in other animals, such as chickens, mealworms, sharks, rats etc. So to call a dolphin sentient, is wildly speculative, without any evidence to support that claim.
Thirdly, dolphins are not the only family oriented animals. many other animals, including chickens, by the way, lead complex social lives. This does not imply intelligence, nor does it preclude the animal from being a source of food.
Finally, the anthropomorphising of dolphins is entirely irrational and counter productive. These are not humans. They are not being “murdered”. They are being killed for food. This is the way life on our planet has survived for the past 3.5 billion years. If there are actual environmental concerns, such as over fishing, or gene pool depletion, then we must address these issues in a calm and rational manner, by involving the primary stake holders – the fishermen/whalers. Resorting to emotive rhetoric, threats and intimidation are counter productive, and serve only to create a breakdown in communication between the parties involved.
“Anthropomorphising of dolphins”? No, not anthropomorphising … we simply trust our eyes and our hearts, over cold, self-interested intellectualization that what we are witnessing is an atrocity. We don’t go into denial machinations when every fiber of our being knows we are seeing suffering. We just ask that animals be left in peace and be able to live on their own terms. The golden rule, ya know? Humans do not need to eat animals to survive.
“This is the way life on our planet has survived for the past 3.5 billion years”. I seriously doubt that and even if that were true you are saying that it’s okay for humans to conduct themselves this way going forward?
I also have spoken with many kind-hearted and brave Japanese people, especially young people, who are ashamed of these horrific hunts and are advocating for them to stop despite bullying by their own government. They love and respect nature and don’t understand why this small group of “fisherman” (and isn’t that term a contradiction in itself, as dolphins are far from fish) should be permitted to obliterate local migrating dolphin populations…and be protected by the government in perpetrating these evil deeds? These highly intelligent, supremely aware, socially complex dolphins don’t belong to Japan. They are the closest to humans in intelligence. They have their own language, unique names for one another and live in family groups like we do. And they are enduring never-ending stressors at the hands of man, from pollution, to by-catch, to gill nets and the list goes on. I read awhile back that there was a sub-species of dolphin found in the region. How do we know that these unique species are not being hunted down and decimated before they can even be studied? Bottom line: Not only are these hunts barbaric and cruel, they are not sustainable and MUST end.
I’m not bothered by the hunting of dolphins. The animals aren’t endangered and the hunting methods don’t seem especially cruel to me. That said, I was interested to read a sober account of an animal rights activist opposed to the Taiji hunt. This was not it.
From the overly-dramatic and self-important: “…a defiant Sea Shepherd flag” to the breathlessly dramatic: “we are able to guard the truth” and “the world saw her violently wrapped in a yellow tarp”, it’s all just a bit too much. I learned far more about what the activists think of themselves than about the dolphin hunt.
What’s probably the most worrying part is the constant anthropomorphism; the way that Simone Reyes casually states what the dolphins are thinking or saying. Blimey.
Like I say, I would have been interested to hear things from the activist’s perspective, but this is just a self-justifying and overly-emotional paean to Sea Shepherd. The only thing I learned is that the activists are just there to harass, not protest or observe.
As far as I’m concerned, other countries are other countries – they may do some things that I find distasteful or offensive, but that’s their concern and not mine. I wouldn’t seek to export my philosophy or impose my sense of ethics upon them. There are far worse things than dolphin hunting going on in the world today, but problems such as poverty are so intractable that its difficult to have an observable effect, so activists love causes where it seems as though they can achieve a result, especially when the victims are unable to speak for themselves; so the activists can presume to speak for them without fear of contradiction.
i find many of the activists allow emotional stress to overcome their message.
i disagree with many who cling to the belief that humans have no right to harvest anything from nature to survive, as though humans are in no way part of nature.
however there is overwhelming scientific evidence that dolphins and whales are species who are self aware and have a group consciousness at least on the same level as most humans(i cannot include people who are sociopaths,as in those incapable of feeling empathy nor guilt-only moderating their behaviour in order to benifit from fitting into their society). you would need to ignore your own senses to believe that the dolphins are merely fish or perhaps a seafaring sort of cattle,only capable of basic instincts for survival,feeling no loss if members of their herd perish.
slavery was legal in many nations and continued unabated wherever the enslaved were considered a non human race(possessing no intellect nor soul) of inferior qualities.
we look back on yesterday’s slaveowners as barbaric racist brutes to be ashamed of.
ask yourself truefully; do you feel superior in some ways to dolphins which justifies killing and eating them just because in your nation is has been legal to do so?
need i remind you of the Rape of Nanking, when japanese army soldiers considered chinese civilians to be so inferior to them that it was considered acceptable (with the encouragement of their officers )to gang rape virtually every female, behead every surrendered nationalist soldier and use bayonetes to spear infants like skewers?
that was over 300,000 murders in one chinese city alone
I know this is a tense topic everybody, and nobody has crossed a line yet, but let me encourage everyone to take the high road when leaving comments, and any obviously inflammatory junk mail accounts won’t be let through.
That’s quite understandable and I’m sure you will have a number of comments that will cause difficulty. But realise that the article itself is highly inflammatory and emotive. The previous article “On Hunting Whales in Japan” was well-written and provided a good understanding of the context in which whale hunting takes place. This article isn’t like that.
That honestly wasn’t intended to be a response to your comment at all. Sometimes I can’t figure out my own Website!
It’s okay; I didn’t think it was a response to my comment in particular (no matter what WordPress thinks). After confusion with the comment system on WordPress, I tried using Blogger for my last blog, but the comment system doesn’t handle replies well either and breaks down completely when you get over 200 comments on an article. Maybe one day I’ll find one that works…
When are people going to realize that our oceans are dying? And it is these “fisherman” who are overfishing and killing such beautiful and intelligent ocean life.
These aren’t “fish”. And the main reason for this hunt isn’t for food… only the older populations of Japanese eat dolphin and whale, younger populations do not. It is solely for profit, to entertain humans. Stealing these highly intelligent beings, separating them from the families that they would never leave in the wild, making them swim in the blood of their family members. Do people not realize that these creatures are as intelligent, if not more intelligent, than humans? Just because these cowards have tools and the dolphins are too gentle to ever fight back. I am sick of this happening. Is this going to stop when we completely kill our oceans? By then it will be too late.
I’m also frustrated with this hunt because, although I understand the Cove Guardians are doing so much to bring these cruel acts to our attention, IT IS NOT ENDING. When will this end? If it will never end, why even be there at all? We want to see results. We are sharing these updates and spreading the word, but for what? There’s no sign of an end in sight. It is very disheartening.
I work on a fishing boat in California, where we also provide whale watching during the off-season, to supplement our income. I’ve noticed many comments mentioning this “fishing.”
As a fisherwoman, I must object to that term. This is not fishing. This is torture, plain and simple. I’m not an animal rights activist by any means. Heck, I adore a healthy cowboy style steak and love going to the zoo. However, when we fish, we fish within the legal limits. When a fish is caught, we must record it and each boat is only allowed to have so many of each fish per person, depending on the vessel, so that fish counts are sustainable. It makes sense. Yet, in Japan, there is absolutely nothing sustainable about the amount of dolphins they kill. They are given a number – not a number per species, but an overall number – and they must kill that many dolphins. Who cares if it’s a rare or endangered species, such as the Risso’s or striped dolphin?
I mentioned how our vessel also doubles as a whale watching boat during the off-season. Of course, during the course of these whale watches, we come across many dolphins – bottlenose, common, Risso’s, Pacific White-Sided, and during the fishing trips we sometimes get a chance to see some more pelagic species of dolphins. I wouldn’t dream of killing one of these animals. Not only do you realize there is something going on inside their heads when you see them in the wild, but you can also, with some time, figure out the family pods, become familiar with certain individuals based on unique patterns, and more. You see the mothers teach their babies how to hunt, you see them nurse from their mothers, you see the mothers teach their babies how to play in the wake of our boat and then – when the baby has enough experience – try riding the bow! To say that making dolphins anthropomorphic is disingenuous can only be said by someone who has not experienced years out on the ocean, observing these animals.
I may not be a scientist or a marine biologist, but I work alongside them very closely. Our naturalists are all graduates with degrees in Marine Science/Oceanography or Marine Biology. We brag about this because our naturalists can provide scientific input about the over”fishing” of dolphins in Japan, about how the dolphin meat is extremely tainted and why it is tainted (mainly human pollution). I wish I had a degree and could provide facts and numbers about this. All I know is what I hear and what I’ve experienced.
For the record, I have not seen The Cove nor Blackfish, but I CAN tell you that hurting any of these dolphins is akin to murder, in my eyes. When an animal shows clears signs of intelligence (teaching, learning, mothering, acknowledgement of other species such as humans, self-awareness, communication, tool use, etc), is it really too far off base to compare the round up and murder of these dolphins to the round up and murder of a chimpanzee? Or even young children, as the intelligence and brain mass of a dolphin is comparable to that of a five year old?
One other thing to mention – if dolphins are just some “dumb fish,” why has India given them protection as non-human persons? Why are their brains considered the second most largest and complex to that of humans (and considered larger and smarter than chimpanzees)? I believe this article was written passionately by Simone, but I think she could include many of the scientific data that supports her claim so she could show your readers how intense this debate really is.
Jolly interesting comments and some nice first-hand experience. And from a fisherman too, so both sides of the coin. Very interesting indeed and I very much appreciated reading of your experiences.
The brain size thing is usually called encephalisation quotient (EQ) and is a measure of the size of the brain compared to what would be expected from body size. It doesn’t indicate complexity. Although some dolphins (mainly the bottlenose) have a higher EQ than chimps, most don’t. But it doesn’t matter anyway as EQ doesn’t correspond to IQ.
The whole Indian ‘non-human persons’ thing is a bit confused in general. The Indian government banned the ownership of cetaceans. But it was the Central Zoo Authority that released a statement saying “dolphins should be seen as ‘non-human persons’ and as such should have their own specific rights” India didn’t declare dolphins to be non-human persons or give them any rights, a press officer at the zoo authority, writing in English, used that phrase.
That’s the problem with the intensity of the debate – there’s a fair bit of picking and choosing (by both sides) when it comes to the scientific data and a lot of it doesn’t bear scrutiny. The Japanese say they hunt sustainable numbers of dolphins, but don’t keep any count of species. Sea Shepherd say Risso’s dolphin is endangered, but there are no figures for their numbers and counts in the Pacific show they number in at least the hundreds of thousands. Etc, etc.
I don’t see cases being brought against people who kill Chimpanzees in most of the world either though. In many countries killing humans is not even that strange. In some places it is even done by law.
Expecting humans not to kill dolphins because they are human-like is beyond hopeful. That argument will simply not succeed. If this is to stop, we will have a lot more success on a conservation angle, or a sweeping international law claiming that animals of a certain intelligence level are protected.
People are way too disconnected from this kind of stuff to ever consider that going to an aquarium is bad. It takes a significant level of education and experience to really feel empathy for dolphins, especially when to our eyes they are seemingly content.
This is already turning into a fun experiment in comment moderation. As a general guideline, if you haven’t posted here before, please avoid sarcasm, avoid reactionary posts that don’t contribute to a deeper understanding of your side of the argument, and avoid personal attacks.
Also, bear in mind that I have to sleep (I’m in Europe), so new comments may not make it through for a few hours. Don’t call the censorship police.
I encourage educated, intelligent debate. I know it’s really fun to imagine people on the other side of these comments as your enemy. That’s not a very useful way to think of people.
How is there any different to the butcher of other intelligent mammals such as pigs or cows?
– Should we also force nature’s predators to eat tofu to prevent cruelty to animals in the wild?
No one is saying that the murder of pigs and cows is any different. In many cases, most of us are vegan and do not support the murder of ANY animals for human consumption! And this also isn’t about the wild. In the wild, animals kill for survival. The entire animal is sacrificed for food in order to keep themselves alive. Nothing about what happens in Taiji is natural not essential to the survival of the Japanese. No where else in the world is dolphin and whale stolen from the sea to eat or capture for our own greedy entertainment.
I first watched the Academy Award-winning documentary ‘The Cove’ approximately 3 years ago. It awakened me to the horrible truth of the barbaric dolphin drive hunt that takes place in Taiji, Japan. ‘The Cove’ also opened my eyes to the awful truth behind the entire dolphin captivity industry. I have been following the Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians’ Operation Infinite Patience ever since.
No one with any compassion for other beings can consider what is done to the dolphins in Taiji anything but inhumane and barbaric. From the moment they are found in their ocean home, to the bitter end, be it slaughter or a life in captivity, what is happening in Taiji is animal cruelty in its worst form.
It is a well-documented fact that dolphins are highly intelligent, socially complex, sentient beings that have come to man’s aid on many occasions.
To hunt such beings for hours, encircling them with modern, sophisticated fishing boats is not humane. Inserting long metal poles into their ocean home and banging on these relentlessly to confuse and terrify these creatures is not humane. To then herd them into a cove and net them off, sometimes overnight or longer, with no access to food is not humane. To drag them, one by one, as they fight to stay together is not humane. To barbarically slaughter them in front of one another is not humane. To have those still alive swim in the blood of their already slain pod members is not humane. To allow those taken for captivity to witness this barbaric slaughter is not humane & to toss the babies, unable to survive on their own, out into the ocean to suffer and die horrible deaths is not humane. To choose which ones live and which ones die is not humane. Not one thing about this entire hunt is humane.
The government and those participating in the various aspects of this often defend the heinous act of hunting these beings as tradition. However, this is clearly not about tradition, but rather about the big money made from the sale of those deemed “pretty’ enough to swim with or perform circus tricks in captivity. The greed is so great that absolutely no consideration or compassion is shown towards these beings.
In the 3 years I have been following this atrocity, I have personally witnessed awareness around the world increasing. People are becoming more aware of what is happening in Taiji, they are following the Cove Guardians’ posts on social media and tuning in to watch the live stream. They are disgusted at the lack of humanity and they are speaking out against this. The Cove Guardian campaign is opening the eyes of many to the evil, animal cruelty taking place in Taiji.
I will end by noting that I have been to Japan and it is a very beautiful country with many wonderful people. However, the inhumane, barbaric treatment of dolphins, one of the world’s most beloved creatures, in Taiji is tarnishing the entire image of Japan.
Bottom line after all the cold intellectualization is done: “In their behavior toward creatures, all men are Nazis. Human beings see oppression vividly when they’re the victims. Otherwise they victimize blindly and without a thought.” — Isaac Bashevis Singer, author, Nobel Prize 1978
I just want to start by saying I have the utmost respect for people who stand up for their ideals – as long as they do it rationally.
Sea Shepherd puts a lot of effort into telling the world about Taiji, but I was just wondering if they’ve tried talking to the people who are conducting the hunts and hearing their side of the story. Everywhere I look I see a lot of harassment and not a lot of actual effort into starting a conversation (where both sides get to talk about what’s going on).
I have actually been on whale-watching tours in Japan, and the Japanese people around me were really interested and excited to learn about whales. I’ve met Japanese birders, naturalists, and nature-lovers and it’s hard for me to take Sea Shepherd seriously when they use such emotionally-charged language and call these people butchers, murderers, and barbarians.
I’m all for animal rights, but it is difficult to listen to a group that doesn’t take some effort to achieve a semblance of cultural understanding and attempt a calm discourse with those responsible for the hunts.
What a heartfelt and beautifully written blog Simone. Thank you for sharing!
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If I could just add to the feedback people have been leaving for Simone here – this article was very melodramatic and heavy-handed. I think a good article on this topic would let the facts speak for themselves. Simone, you chose to use heavily emotion-laden words at almost every possible opportunity (e.g. killer, murder, brutal, slaughter). You are essentially telling your readers what to feel. Good (and effective) writing communicates the facts without being manipulative. It lets readers bring their own emotions to the table. I understand that this is an important subject for you, but you do not respect your readers (or convince them!) by dictating their emotions for them. A person who cares about dolphins will read the facts about the Cove and be moved. A person who isn’t moved by the facts won’t be moved by emotion-laden words telling them what to feel.
All the best,
I think if it were human genocide or obliteration (i.e., Nagasaki and Hiroshima) that was being written about especially if your loved ones were murdered, no one would have a problem with “emotionality”. We see humans as “persons” with a right to live in peace and not be used as resources (as in slavery), but not animals. Hay it’s 2014 and we need to give up our control issues over animals. We need to open our hearts and minds and evolve to the high bar that we are capable of. There’s karma, and it’s movin’ fast and what we do to the animals we are doing to ourselves … physically, environmentally and spiritually. Why are your hearts and minds so closed and cold? I would much rather be a kindred spirit of Ms. Reyes than any of you who are emotionally arrested.
I like what you’ve tried to do there, but nah. When reading about genocide I still prefer it to be objective and without emotive prose. The problem with emotional writing is that it tells you what to feel.
I see what you mean about our control of animals and it’s perhaps more interesting to think of it in those terms. The discussion about the relationship between humans and animals so often comes down to killing them for meat, but thinking of it in terms of control is much more encompassing and less binary.
But we’re not emotionally arrested just because we’d rather read an objective account and make up our own minds. By vesting an account in such an overtly emotional manner it often strays into anthropomorphism, transferring human emotions and rationalisations to animals when they’re not analogous.
As I just replied to someone else here — No, not anthropomorphising … we simply trust our eyes and our hearts, over cold, self-interested intellectualization that what we are witnessing is an atrocity. We don’t go into denial machinations when every fiber of our being knows we are seeing suffering. We just ask that animals be left in peace and be able to live on their own terms.
instead of saying or doing something that would defend these creatures, as I presume you would a beloved companion animal ((or maybe you wouldn’t actually), you elect to expend the time to critique the writing style of the author. These are veritable concentration camps that we are talking about. Why don’t you just identify a spelling error?
Ok so Ms. Reyes gets an “F” grade from you in expository writing. But her intent is noble, and I think you would agree we sure need more of that in this world. Or do you think that what those fisherman are doing is noble?
I’m glad you found that framing this, or such other situations as “control issues” interesting. If so, may I recommend reading “The Celestine Prophecy”. It was a big eye-opener for me. One thing is for sure, us humans are going to have to give up our control issues over both our fellow humans, and animals to survive.
“I would much rather be a kindred spirit of Ms. Reyes than any of you who are emotionally arrested.”
Well, that is your preference. You’re mistaken though in thinking that your preference should dictate the preferences of others. We have our own, thank you very much.
Re: “preference:” Slippery slope there. So yes, it was the “preference” of all the perpetrators of crimes against humanity throughout history. It might be my “preference”, laws aside, to inflict something horrific against you, you’re loved ones, friends or animal companion. It’s the “preference” of a pedophile to do what he does, or a rapist, or a wife-beater. It’s the “preference” of some culture to inflict female clitorectomy on their women? What are you talking about. Do you have no moral baseline? No moral high-ground? Are you a proponent of moral relativism? What kind of a man or woman are you who can’t see or feel what needs to be protected in this world? Heaven help us that’s all I can say.
Rationalism isn’t emotionless or self-interested, but overly-emotional prose often is. It’s the same with nobility – sure, it sounds like a good thing to have more noble and idealistic people in the world, but then the worst atrocities often end up being carried out by people exhibiting those traits in spades.
The reason why so many people were disappointed with this article is that we were interested in hearing from someone who was involved in the protests and about their experiences and what motivates them, but just got a very emotional and emotive account that didn’t really tell us anything. It’s not a criticism of prose style, but of approach. Instead of an accessible piece that could be read by anyone, it’s only of interest to those of the same bent as the author; they won’t learn anything from the article either, but will enjoy someone reinforcing the views they already hold. It’s a missed opportunity. This isn’t some minor quibble over syntax or spelling.
The anthropomorphising is constant. There are whales “crying out in confusion”, a dolphin has a “terrified shaking fin”. This is ascribing human emotions and behavioural traits to animals without knowing whether they have such. It for precisely those kind of reasons that we tend to focus on the conservation of only the cutest animals like pandas. Who wants to save some ugly beetle that doesn’t behave in manner that we can equate with our own emotions?
Further up the comments there is an account from Leonna, a fisherman, who talks about her experiences without hectoring. It’s very interesting to read and very well expressed. That’s the kind of thing we were hoping for from Ms Reyes.
But I do still think you raise an interesting point about control. If we think in terms of our control of animals rather than our abuse of them, it’s clear that almost all our interactions with animals are of a controlling nature and that’s probably more disturbing than killing for meat. I don’t think you’ll see any end to us controlling other humans any time soon though.
The Celestine Prophecy. It’s a simply awful book that take a ‘spiritual tourism’ approach to other cultures. Sure, I can see its appeal, but goodness me, it’s crass. I read it when it first came out and I’ve always been uncomfortable around those who praise it highly.
Some of my friends are Tibetan Buddhist monks and priests. I’ve travelled with them in Tibet, Nepal and India and visited countless temples an monasteries. They’re nice people. I’m not a Buddhist. I’m not even a vegetarian. Never once have I had the slightest criticism from my Tibetan chums. Never have they suggested or promoted any notion or philosophy. As far as they’re concerned, everyone comes to enlightenment in their own way and pushing someone or promoting an agenda is wrong. I like their approach.
Visiting Buddhist centres back home is not an experience that I would recommend. I’ve met very few sincere people there and an awful lot of purple velvet-wearing fans of The Celestine Prophecies who stand around talking about how Tibet must be a beautiful and spiritual place and asking where Storm got her amazing new meditation mat. It’s jolly depressing.
I’m sorry, I realise this is sounding like a personal attack, but I really don’t intend that. If reading that book helped you find understanding in some way, that’s genuinely a good thing. But if that just codified a previously-held collection of beliefs for you, I’d recommend you cast you net more widely. I do think you raise a truly interesting point about control, which I will certainly think about further, but attacking with rhetoric everyone on here who disagrees with you doesn’t cast you in the best light. And it’s for the same reasons that we didn’t like Ms Reyes’ writing: coming off as a hectoring animal rights type screaming about murder and comparing people to war criminals just turns us off. It’s very easy to dismiss you as an extremist who is completely close-minded and wants nothing less than for us to agree with everything you say. And that’s a shame as I think you have some interesting things to say and it would be nice to engage with you and discuss these things, but I don’t think it’s possible. You’ll hear no more from me.
PS. 1st of August 2013, Seaworld stock rose 1%. It went up today as well. I don’t know what point you’re trying to make with that.
I would like to engage with you too, especially I am curious to know what it is that you, personally, or anyone else here has strong convictions about. It seems to me that there is whole lof of equivocation on dire matters going on here. You say you acknowledge the merit of what Leonna has said about the sentience and complexity of these animals — she even disagrees that Ms. Reyes observations are anthropomorphising, yet you are still on the fence to take a firm stand. As far as your buddhist colleagues go, I dare say they have no balls also. An unending holocaust, yes HOLOCAUST of 60 billion animals a year worldwide not including marine are killed for food … oh, there’s some terrified farm animal on a kill floor or some chimp, or dog or cat miserable somewhere sensing their ill fate … who need rescuing, but no, they’ll just have to wait till humans come round. And if you say that Ms. Reyes account is rife with anthropomorphism, well then I see a whole lot of anthropocentrism going on here. If you want to subscribe to the antiquated paradigm that humans are exceptional and superior and can deem other species as our property and do whatever we want to them, then go ahead. It’s your future, and there are omens, bad omens all around that karma is catching up.
And I can assure you, I am not the extremist here. Go to Taiji .. or watch the live-streaming. Truly take the time to fully bear witness to what humans do to animals, across the board. That is, if you have the courage. Imagine you witness your neighbor setting fire to their dog. Will you play a mindgame in your head to distance yourself from acting? Intellectualize? Abstractify? I notice an inability to sense the real-time immediacy of the plight of these poor animals, and it’s really really disturbing to me. Te emotional deadening. The lack of empathy. And does intelligence really matter? Isn’t it just that they suffer at our hands that matters?
Look, I believe in letting anyone believe whatever they want to believe, until someone, human or non-human animal is harmed. That’s where my tolerance ends. Where does your tolerance end? We humans give a hell of a lot lip-service to “love and peace” with our fashionably worn peace symbols and our hopes for a better and peaceful world for our children, but that’s all it is … lip-service. It’s time to get off the fence and align our actions with our values. To raise the bar much higher on how we conduct ourselves.
I and my fellow activiists are just trying to shake the ice out your veins. Might it be possible that you can rediscover the innocent child inside that would unequivocally be horrified to learn these truths of what humans do to animals?
I too do not want to belabor this exchange as I am tired and out of patience to engage with those that it seems are just wired differently in the empathy zone.
Lastly, I leave you with this personal, simple, and non-controlling request that comes only from a place of love — please please please see if you can open your hearts on the animal issues.
It’s not just what Leonna says, it’s how she says it. It’s perfectly possible to listen to her because she’s not demanding that we change our minds instantly. She relays her experiences and explains her thoughts.
It’s just impossible to engage with you because of the way you talk (well, type). You’re interested in animals. That’s fine, I get that. But you’ve prioritised that above all other issues and demand that I/we do the same.
Using words like holocaust and comparing people to war criminals and paedophiles doesn’t help. These are big ticket words that you’re using in an attempt to ally your cause with ones that are seen as unequivocal. But it’s a big turn-off.
3 million children died in the past year from starvation and malnutrition. About the same number will die for the same reasons this year. At the same time, there are about 1.5 billion overweight people in the world. That seems an especially ironic tragedy. But it’s just impossible to act on every perceived injustice in the world. We do what we can. There is no ice in our veins, we just have different priorities to you.
If my neighbour tries to set fire to his dog, I’ll try to stop him because that’s something that I can immediately act upon. If some people in a Japanese village want to kill a few unendangered dolphins, then that’s just not in the same class.
But then I see an awful lot of protests about Taiji, but pretty much nothing about China. Far greater animal mistreatment routinely goes on in China, but I never see any animal activists heading over there. Japan’s a nice place with a decent rule of law and comfortable living. You’re not going to get attacked by Japanese citizens and, if you get arrested, you’ll be dealt with fairly in humane conditions and likely suffer no worse fate than being sent home. It’s a different story in China. Perhaps this is the same as my neighbour burning his dog. I stop him because I can and it’s an easily-accessible problem that’s well within my ability to deal with. Perhaps Taiji is the same for animal activists.
Uh huh, my Buddhist mates have no balls. You’re very wrong about that. Here’s Akong Tulku: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akong_Rinpoche
There’s a guy who endured terrible hardships and spent his whole life helping other people. He was one of the happiest people I’ve ever met, always smiling and at peace with himself and the world. His brother’s the same. These guys agree with you about the treatment of animals, but they don’t scream and shout and it’s not all they care about.
I’m not going to take up any more space on someone else’s page with this. I understand your viewpoint. I think we all do; we get to hear it enough. I’m/We’re not unemotional anthropocentric automatons who don’t care about animals (we’re here reading about this, aren’t we?). We’ve just got different priorities. Trying to define everyone as good guys and bad guys and throwing around words like paedophile ain’t going to convert anyone to your cause – you may be doing more harm than good.
1/8/13 – Seaworld stock plummets.
1/8/14 – Seaworld stock plummets.
These are highly intelligent, benevolent creatures whose home is the sea. They are not causing harm in any way, nor does Japan own these dolphins. They belong to the world and they migrate to different regions. They have very powerful family bonds. What right does Japan have to steal these dolphins from the wild and slaughter them. The cruelty of it is beyond the pale. When they ripped the baby albino, deaf and blind from its mother she chased the boat as far as she could. She spy hopped and searched frantically and drowned searching for her baby.
They did not even have enough mercy to keep the mother with him. They kept these gentle creatures for four days without food, scared and confused, then mercilessly jammed metal rods in their spines and tethered and drowned them. The killers laugh when the dolphins huddle in fear. They have no right, they are greedy and cruel. This is pure evil. No more.
Agree with you!! Totally!
Russell Simpson, find an island! People are so quick to judge humanity, that have servived and developed a way to feed. I don’t like how any insects ratd are being killed for comfort, meals, economically or whatever. You can just pick a certian species or method of collecting and consuming such. It’s just one more person, place or thing for a human being to show their mark in society its not about life, that’s the overlay for the underlay!
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As I read this article in 2016 this is still going on.Just yesterday Taiji captured &killed Russo dolphins.This horror has to end.