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Another season of dolphin suffering in Taiji

In a few days, another bloody season of the infamous dolphin drive hunts will start in Taiji, Japan. Last week, the Japanese Fisheries Union released the quota for 2016/2017, shared via IKAN – the  “Iruka & Kujira Action Network” and Cetabase. A total of 1,820 from seven dolphin species, amongst them bottlenose, Risso´s and striped dolphins, are allowed to be taken over the next six months in Taiji.

Last season, a total of 902 dolphins from five species had been driven into the cove. 652 were slaughtered, 133 released and 117 were taken alive. All of those dolphins have to suffer immense cruelty. A veterinary analysis of the killing method, commissioned by WDC, revealed the unbelievable suffering the individuals have to endure: A few years ago, the Taiji Fishing Cooperative published the details of a new killing method which involves cutting the spinal cord by insertion of a metal rod. Analysis of video material of this method indicates that it does not immediately lead to death, and that the time to death data provided in the description of the method, based on termination of breathing and movement, is not supported by the available video data. Damage to the vertebral blood vessels and the vascular rete from insertion of the rod will lead to significant hemorrhage, but this alone would not produce a rapid death in a large mammal of this type. The method induces paraplegia (paralysis of the body) and death through trauma and gradual blood loss.

Science has proven that dolphins experience shock and distress and even death when chased and herded at sea, whether for live acquisition or for eventual slaughter. The dolphins who are released back into the wild had to witness the suffering of their family- and pod-members and their chances for survival without them are unsure. As for the ones “chosen” for  a live in captivity: They will spend the rest of their days confined to small concrete pools or tiny sea pens, forced to perform tricks for the sole purpose of human, but never humane, entertainment.

Only last week a heartbreaking video was circulated in international media,showing a fenced off area of the Taiji killing cove, crowded with smiling tourists swimming with a small group of Risso´s dolphins, sad survivors of a practice so cruel it has been drawing worldwide attention and protest for many years. It is hard to imagine that the happy swimmers, at least the adults, are unaware of what goes on in the same waters every year, but it’s possible, given the lack of media exposure in Japan about the drive hunts. The happy smiling children certainly don´t know about the dolphins’ suffering. They are being raised in the belief that capturing and confining wild dolphins for human fun is completely normal and that they enjoy it just as much as they do.

This video is a good reminder that education is key: We are continuing our support of Japanese individuals and groups working hard to oppose both captivity and the drive hunts in Japan through educational outreach and advocacy, promotion of responsible whale watching, creation of protected areas, and other activities that nurture the love of whales and dolphins within Japan. We are also continuing our outreach through the highest diplomatic channels to encourage political action against these hunts, and targeting the airlines that facilitate this trade through the carriage of dolphins to international facilities.  Our work to raise awareness and advocacy against the hunts within the marine mammal scientific community also continues.

Please join these efforts and sign our petition!