Taiji Dolphin Slaughter Generates Worldwide Condemnation
More than 250 dolphins captured, including albino calf, at least two dozen slaughtered for meat
The dolphin hunters in Taiji have kicked off the new year with a murderous and greed-driven rampage, their dolphin drive hunt in mid-January being one of the biggest in recent memory.
On January 16, five separate pods of bottlenose dolphins, totaling an estimated 250 individuals and including one baby albino, were brutally driven into the killing cove, made famous by the Oscar-winning documentary The Cove.
photo by Ric O'Barry's Dolphin Project
Over the five harrowing days in captivity, families were torn apart as the fishermen collected a reported 52 “show-quality” dolphins to be shipped to the highest bidding aquariums around the world. Another two to three dozen were inhumanely slaughtered for human consumption. The remaining dolphins were then driven back out to sea, where it is expected that their physical and emotional trauma will leave permanent scarring at best, or at worst, lead to an agonizing death.
In other words, it was business as usual in Taiji.
This dolphin hunt attracted international condemnation. US Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy tweeted her opposition to the hunts and was later backed by the US State Department. The United Kingdom and German ambassadors to Japan also tweeted their concern, along with a host of prominent celebrities including William Shatner, Susan Sarandon, Yoko Ono and many others. Ono, who is usually a staunch defender of Japan, wrote an open letter of opposing the hunt and asking the Japanese fishermen to stop the hunts for the good of Japan.
Undoubtedly, the sheer number of dolphins driven into the cove drew the ire of people around the world and was responsible for the significant international media attention. However, it was one special member of that ill-begotten group of dolphins that first captured the hearts of many.
photo by Karla Sanjur
Dubbed “Angel” by Ric O’Barry and Karla Sanjur of Earth Island Institute’s Dolphin Project, the albino dolphin is a baby girl, first spotted swimming closely beside her mother as they were driven into the cove. Angel has become an unwitting icon of the Taiji tragedies — a pure white, possibly soon-to-be martyr, whose photos have gone viral on social media, courtesy of the countless people who saw immediately felt a connection with this unique dolphin baby.
Animal welfare groups have long been arguing that dolphins ought to be considered nonhuman persons. Personhood status for dolphins is the first step in what will likely be a long journey to confer better protections onto dolphins, and perhaps many other nonhuman species as well.. If we can get this important legal designation conferred onto dolphins, they will go from being considered “marine resources,” as Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yoshihide Suga, likes to think of them, to beings who are intelligent, emotional, and who matter to one another. Personhood could open the door for us to give them the right to exist in the oceans in peace. A right they do not currently have.
Sadly, the unique lack of pigmentation makes Angel a highly prized show exhibit for the Taiji Whale Museum that’s run by the town government of Taiji. The museum brokers the sale of many of the dolphins caught in the cove to aquariums around the world.
For the time being, Angel remains locked within the Taiji Whale Museum along with the rest of the dolphins. Lying ahead of her is a lifetime of being an outlandish spectacle for human entertainment. Provided she can survive the trauma she has endured.
Just yesterday, another dolphin pod was driven into the cove and slaughtered. The fishermen have not yet filled their annual quota. They have not enslaved or chopped up enough dolphins yet. But they have ample time for that. since the hunting season officially ends in March. And in September, the hunts will begin all over again.