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Taiji Whale Museum Convicted of Discrimination Against Westerners

Japanese court finds museum at fault for blocking entry of Australian anti-dolphin hunt activists

In a major blow to the Taiji dolphin slaughter, a Japanese court in Wakayama Prefecture has ruled that the Taiji Whale Museum, owned and operated by the town government of Taiji, discriminated against Westerners by denying them entry to the museum. Western supporters of ending the annual Taiji dolphin slaughter, made famous by the Academy Award-winning documentary The Cove, have sought entry to the museum to assess the status of captive dolphins held there that are caught in conjunction with the bloody drive hunts.

Photo of Angel at Taiji Whale MuseumPhoto by Angel Melody Angel is one of the dolphins on display at the Taiji Whale Museum.

Sarah Lucas, CEO of Australia for Dolphins, joined with her father, the late Alastair Lucas, in bringing the lawsuit against the Taiji Whale Museum when they were forbidden entry to the museum. Instead, they were shown a cardboard sign explaining that “anti-whalers” were not allowed into the museum. This violates the Japanese constitution, according to the court, because the museum is open to Japanese people without constraint. AFD was awarded 110,000 yen (about $972 US). Japanese lawyers for the Taiji Whale Museum did not bother to attend court for the verdict.

“This win proves the Taiji Whale Museum, the institution at the heart of the dolphin hunting trade, behaved illegally,” said Lucas. “It also shows the Taiji dolphin hunts are not above the law, which means the Japanese legal system can be used to end the cruel dolphin hunts for good.” 

“The Taiji Whale Museum is the world’s largest broker of captive dolphins, caught in the bloody dolphin drive hunts,” said David Phillips, director of Earth Island’s International Marine Mammal Project (IMMP), which supported the lawsuit. “We are extremely pleased that the court found the Taiji Whale Museum in violation of Japanese law. It is time that this so-called museum stop lying to the Japanese public about their insidious role in the slaughter of dolphins that occurs just around the corner from the museum.”

The lawsuit was initiated in part in support of Angel, an albino bottlenose dolphin, who was swimming in the Pacific Ocean off Taiji in January 2014 with her mother when dolphin hunters ripped her from her mother’s side and from her pod. Her mother was killed in a mass slaughter so violent it made global headlines and prompted US Ambassador Caroline Kennedy to declare the US government’s opposition to the Taiji hunts. 

Due to her unique lack of pigmentation, Angel is now a highly valuable “freak” show on display in a tiny, filthy tank in the Taiji Whale Museum. Eyewitness’s report she often floats lifelessly, or swims in small distressed circles, much of the time with her eyes closed. She has also been attacked by several other dolphins kept in the same tank. (Read more about Angel’s capture here.)

“With this legal victory, we hope to press more legal action against the town of Taiji and their inhumane, immoral dolphin killing,” added Phillips.

Learn more about IMMP’s campaign to stop the Taiji slaughter here

Mark J. Palmer
Mark J. Palmer is Associate Director of the International Marine Mammal Project.

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