Activists Sue Taiji Whaling Museum to Save Albino ‘Angel’

Suit addresses conditions of captive dolphins and takes aim at the notorious dolphin hunts in Japan

Ric O’Barry, director of Earth Island’s Dolphin Project, and Sarah Lucas, CEO of Australians for Dolphins, visited the notorious Taiji Whaling Museum in Japan with a special surprise yesterday — a writ for a lawsuit against the museum for keeping animals experts and Western activists out of the museum.

All for the sake of Angel.

Taiji Whaling MuseumPhoto by Mark J PalmerAngel is a baby albino dolphin who was caught in January during a Taiji dolphin hunt. She is kept on display at the Taiji Whale Museum shown above.

Angel is the baby albino dolphin that was caught in January during a Taiji dolphin hunt. Her mother was slaughtered for meat as were the other members of her pod, but she alone, as an all white dolphin, was kept for captivity by the Taiji Whaling Museum.

The lawsuit states that the museum has been discriminating against Westerners by refusing them entry while allowing Japanese tourists to enter, with several examples supplied by Earth Island’s volunteer Cove Monitors as well as Sarah Lucas’s own experience. Ric O’Barry had to don a disguise a few weeks ago in order to sneak into the museum and evaluate Angel in her small, crowded tank, where several dolphins were harassing her.

O’Barry reports that Angel is now a highly-valuable “freak” show on display in a tiny, crowded tank. Eyewitness’s report she floats lifelessly, or swims in small distressed circles, much of the time with her eyes closed.

“Angel is living in hell,” said O’Barry. “This one small dolphin has become a global representative of the thousands of dolphins slaughtered and captured each year in Taiji.”

Takashi Takano, Representative Partner of the Tokyo-based Takano Law Office who is working on the case for Australians for Animals and Earth Island, put it bluntly: “The Taiji Whaling Museum’s conduct is an egregious violation of the Japanese constitution and deeply-held Japanese values. My clients were refused entry to a public place simply because of their appearance. We are confident we can demonstrate this in court.”

In fact, in statements to the media, the staff of the Taiji Whaling Museum has admitted they discriminate against Westerners. According to a Reuters report, Taiji Whaling Museum vice director Tetsuo Kirihata said that the museum did try to keep activists out.

“Taiji is full of activists expressing their opposition to the hunt and to keeping dolphins in captivity,” he told Reuters. “If we let them in, they would disturb our other visitors and interfere with our business.”

If successful, the lawsuit will ensure access for those wishing to legally photograph and monitor the wellbeing of dolphins in aquariums throughout Japan. The suit also demands about $65,800 in compensation.

Sarah Lucas of Australians for Dolphins said: “The Taiji Whale Museum tries to hide its cruel treatment of Angel in a dark indoor tank from the world’s cameras. We hope this action will open up the museum to the sunlight of public scrutiny, and bring about improvements to Angel’s living conditions.”

As well as addressing the conditions of captive dolphins, the lawsuit takes aim at the notorious dolphin drive hunts, which supply the aquariums.

“Action for Angel ramps up the pressure on the Taiji government to bring an end to these inhumane hunts once and for all,” said Ric O’Barry. “The Taiji Whaling Museum is the government institution at the heart of the Taiji dolphin trade.”

What You Can Do:

Please sign this petition urging that Angel be moved to a sea pen with shade, more room, and without harassing male dolphins:

You can find out more about the Action for Angel Campaign by Australians for Dolphins and EII’s Dolphin Project here.

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