Activists Worldwide Protest Japan's Dolphin Slaughter

SAN FRANCISCO, California, October 7, 2005 (ENS) - Joined by America's Whale Alliance's 35-foot Whale Bus, members of In Defense of Animals, the International Marine Mammal Project of Earth Island Institute and One Voice - France held a protest in front of the Japanese Consulate in San Francisco today. The activists want to draw attention to the annual killing of thousands of dolphins in Taiji and other bays in Japan.

The demonstration is part of a day of international protest October 8 against Japan's slaughter of over 23,000 dolphins and small whales each year, the largest kill of dolphins anywhere in the world.

Forty-four demonstrations are being held at Japanese embassies and consulates in 26 countries. Activists are demanding a permanent end to the drive fisheries and the preservation of dolphins and whales as natural treasures

Protesters in Miami, Florida object to Japan's annual dolphin killing. They say if enough people protest, the Japanese government might stop the slaughter. (Photo courtesy Sea Shepherd Conservation Society)
Every year from September through April, fishermen in Japan hunt and kill thousands of dolphins. The activists are moved by the cries of the dolphin mothers with newborn calves "who call out in distress as they are separated in the most brutal ways imaginable," they said today.

"They are driven onto Japanese beaches and bays, stabbed with spears and knives, then left to slowly bleed to death literally turning the sea red while others drown entangled in nets. Some of the dolphins are taken alive, pulled out of the water by ropes tied around their tails to be sold to marine parks," the groups said in a joint statement.

Video footage, taken by One Voice - France, documents dying dolphins struggling in a blood-stained bay. Photo and video evidence of the slaughter caused so much embarrassment to the Japanese Government that it now prohibits photos or video being taken of the killings.

"Japan's annual slaughter of dolphins is cruel and barbaric," says Mark Palmer, associate director of the International Marine Mammal Project. "We will continue to expose the senseless killings until Japan puts an end to this bloodbath."

The international consortium of environmental organizations fighting to end the slaughter Tuesday released an internal memo prepared by the Japan Cetacean Conference on Zoological Gardens and Aquariums to its member aquariums encouraging the buying of more dolphins from the Taiji drive fishery.

"The aquarium industry is secretly subsidizing the violent slaughter of thousands of dolphins in Taiji and other fishing villages in Japan," said David Phillips, director of the International Marine Mammal Project. "This memo is the first direct proof from the Conference to its member aquariums soliciting buyers for dolphins."

"In a key part of the memo, the Conference encourages its member aquariums to request even more dolphins that are currently not available due to permit restrictions," said activist Richard O'Barry, former trainer of TV star Flipper and marine mammal specialist for One Voice, the French animal welfare organization.

"Fishermen herd dolphin schools into shallow waters, where around 2,000 are annually slaughtered for meat," said Sakae Hemmi, spokesperson for Japan's Elsa Nature Conservancy.


Japanese fisherman with dolpins in his boat sits in bloody Taiji Bay. (Photo courtesy Sea Shepherd Conservation Society)
"The aquarium industry subsidizes the slaughter by offering thousands of dollars to buy a few prime specimens of dolphins from the shallow waters of the blood-filled slaughter pools," said Hemmi. "Without these enormous prices for prime specimens, it will be quite difficult for the drive fishery to survive, for dolphin meat is much contaminated with mercury."

The memo was prepared by Senzo Uchida, executive secretary of the Japan Cetacean Conference on Zoological Gardens and Aquariums and sent to the directors of aquariums that are members of the Conference.

The memo outlines a meeting held by representatives of the Conference, the Taiji Fishing Cooperative, Taiji town councillors, and the Isana Union, representing the drive fishermen at Taiji. Even the Japanese government was involved, as Hidehiro Kato of the Japan National Research Institute, a government agency, originally recommended this meeting be held.

Each year from October through April fishermen at Taiji hunt the passing schools of dolphins, writes long-term Japan Correspondent Kjeld Duits. In Taiji Bay, fishermen beat on long metal poles stuck into the water. At the end of each pipe is a metal disc which carries the sound, panicking the dolphins so they are easy to capture.

The fishermen drive the dolphins into a bay and close it with nets, Duits observes. The next day the dolphins are caught, one by one. Fishermen drive a long metal pin into the neck of each dolphin, and within seconds they are dead. Until recently their throats were slit, but Japanese authorities have banned that method, he says. It sometimes took minutes for the dolphins to suffer and die.

"These are no fish. They are self aware creatures that routinely make choices and decisions regarding the details of their life. They are entitled to freedom of choice, thus they are entitled to freedom," O'Barry told Duits in an interview.

"Dolphins are more like gorillas or humans than fish," said O'Barry. "But they are treated the same way as tuna. Does an animal have to be close to extinction before we treat the animal with respect?"

Sea Shepherd Society founder Captain Paul Watson has been fighting the Taiji dolphin kill for years. The Japanese fishermen are indiscriminate, he says, they kill any species that approaches the coast. Sea Shepherd crew have witnessed the killing of striped, bottlenose and Risso's dolphins, pilot whales, false killer whales and melon-headed whales.

In October 2003, Sea Shepherd crew documented a mass slaughter of dolphins on the beach at Taiji, Japan. The video and photos of dying dolphins struggling in a bay stained red with dolphin blood was embarrassing to the Japanese government, to the point that Sea Shepherd has been banned from approaching areas where dolphins are killed.

In November 2003, Sea Shepherd crew physically freed 15 dolphins from a net in Taiji just before they were to be slaughtered.

Since September 2004, Sea Shepherd has offered a reward of $10,000 to encourage people, including citizens of Japan, to document the killing. The most graphic footage will be rewarded with the cash.

Sea Shepherd has a one-minute Public Service Announcement available, featuring Academy Award winning actress Susan Sarandon. "Susan has made a significant contribution to our educational campaign to bring attention to the large-scale, cruel dolphin massacre in Japan by donating her time and her voice to this project," Watson said.

The marine mammal conservationists believe if they can get 100,000 people to demonstrate against this kill on one day - October 8 - public opinion will reach a what O'Barry calls a "tipping point" and the dolphin kills will end.

Phillips said, "The public, including the people of Japan, would be outraged if they knew the truth - that thousands of innocent dolphins die a horrible death so that a few can be shown doing tricks in aquariums. The drive fishery and the slaughter must be stopped, and the aquarium industry should be ashamed of sponsoring the killing of thousands of dolphins annually."