Saturday, February 5, 2011

I Have A Dream for the Dolphins of Japan

Make the moment count! Dr Martin Luther King Jr. took a moment to deliver his speech "I Have A Dream" and it changed lives and society forever

My dream is to see an end to the brutal, savage inhumane treatment that man perpetrates on our beautiful friends of the ocean, dolphins and whales.  To fully understand the importance of this issue it is important to know that dolphins and whales are NOT FISH.  Dr. David Busbee of Texas A&M University says, "If we can show that humans are similiar to dolphins, and anything that endangers dolphins is an equal concern for humans."

Humans and dolphins may have much more in common than people think, especially when it comes to genetics. Dolphins and whales breath air, have a complex echolocation system for communication and have familial structures the same as humansDolphins are marine mammals that swim in the ocean and it was astonishing to learn that we had more in common with the dolphin than with land mammals,” says geneticist Horst Hameister.

 For the rest of this amazing discovery go here:  Dolphin-Human


My love and compassion for dolphins began with a mid 60’s television show “Flipper” the story of the bond between a bottle nosed dolphin and a human family.  Like millions around the world this was the beginning of a life long dream to swim with these beautiful cetaceans.  It is ironic that Ric O'Barry who was trainer for the show has spent the last 35 years campaigning to end the captivity and training of dolphins. The bond that dolphins have with humans has been well documented with many instances of dolphins protecting humans from shark attacks.  I read an account on how a surfer survived a shark attack when a pod (family) of dolphins encircled him, protecting him so he could make his escape to shoreHere is an encounter with dolphins in the wild, in the waters near Hilton Head clearly showing the affection they have for humans. The day that this was shot there were 5 dolphins that came to interact with my friend, they were playful and unafraid.  The encounter was totally natural, no food was offered to them. 

I have attended many Dolphin and Whale entertainment shows over the years and it never even occurred to me to ask the question about  where the dolphins and whales  came from or how they were treated.  The dolphins always seemed to enjoy putting on a show for the crowd.  Like most of the world I had no idea what was happening in Taiji, Japan and the direct link of the brutal slaughters to these shows. There is a saying “You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know” 


An award winning documentary “The Cove” changed that forever. The movie, filmed in 2007 tells the true story of a small town in Japan with a very dark and deadly secret.  They kill dolphins, 2,200 annually. The primary targets are bottlenose dolphins, pilot whales, spotted dolphins and risso dolphins. Those that are not slaughtered are captured for aquariums and swim with dolphin programs. An individual dolphin will fetch up to $250,000.00 US. This is a multi-million dollar industry.  According to export statistics compiled by the Customs Bureau, 57 live animals under the category of whales, dolphins, dugongs and manatees were exported from Taiji from January to August 2010, of which 22 went to China, 16 to Ukraine and 11 to Thailand. Customs declarations show the total monetary value of the animals was ¥172 million 



The modern day practice of drive hunts only started 40 years ago and in 1986 when whaling was banned by the International Whaling Commission.  Whaling has a long history in Taiji and was a way of life for the small coastal town.  Looking for other forms of fishing they turned to the dolphin drives.  The Entertainment Industry recognized the intense desire of people wanting to interact with dolphins and a partnership was formed.  Watch this short clip:

Until this hunting season Taiji, Japan was the only place in the world where these practices of dolphin drives were still taking place. Unfortunately in Futo, Japan horrible drive fisheries were conducted there again, for the first time in four years! The fishers want the world to believe that they are teaching the next generation how to conduct these drives in order to maintain the skill of killing dolphins and whales. For a complete picture of how many Dolphinariums and Aquariums there are in Japan, take a look at this Google Map

The Solomon Islands are about to resume their capture program because of the huge demand from European Countries for live dolphins.  A report shows that 56 Dolphins have been ordered for France, Germany, Dubai and various other European Countries. They will resume their hunt starting in February for delivery in June 2011. 

The Government of Japan issues hunting licenses to the fishers of Taiji for the slaughter or capture of 2,200 dolphins annually. The total number for all of Japan is 22,000 annually.  Both the government of Japan and the fishers of Taiji claim they have a right to the kills as they are following century old traditions.  They claim that they are killing the dolphins for meat consumption and the issue of the flesh from dolphins being unsafe to eat has been accepted as untrue. Scientific facts show that the dolphin meat from Taiji  exceed mercury levels 5 times higher than is safe.


Dolphins are being slaughtered almost daily in Taiji, Japan. The hunting season begins September 1st and ends March 31st. The dolphin hunters, set out each day in 12 large metal boats and attempt to herd whole pods of dolphins into “The Cove”.  The hunters use long metal poles and bang them against the boats to create a wall of noise, sometimes chasing the pod for up to 8 hours, exhausting and confusing them.  Many die during the chase of fear, exhaustion, or being driven over by the boats. The stress of the drive will cause a pregnant female to abort her baby.  Once the dolphins have been secured behind nets, trainers from the dolphin show industry come out and select the prettiest for a life of slavery.   The rest of the pod, including nursing mothers, babies, pregnant females and juveniles are all brutally slaughtered. An estimated 800 hundred small whales and dolphins have been killed at the killing cove this year to date.

Dolphins are extremely protective and will fight to the death to save the members of their pod.  This is one of the reasons that they do not try to escape when any member is in trouble. Dolphins have family traits similar to humans. The babies are totally dependent on their mothers for survival for the first two years of their lives. Mothers will mourn the death of their babies sometimes for weeks pushing their dead offspring thru the water as they grieve their loss. What they have to witness as their family members are being brutally slaughtered in front of their eyes is no different than if one of our own children were having their insides gutted out as we watch helpless to do anything about it.  Despite the brutality of man towards these beautiful mammals there has never been one reported instance of them turning on man to harm them.  

The dolphins that have been selected for the entertainment industry are then put thru a brutal and cruel process to determine if the are submissive and trainable.  The dolphins are pushed under water for long periods of time and many are drowned to death using this method.  Those that do make it are then subjected to inhumane behind the scenes training.  I was horrified to watch this video clearly showing the dolphins being drugged into submission.


Here is the fate of Dolphins that were sold to Egypt, Saudi Arabia. Several dolphins died trying to survive in these filthy conditions. Unfortunately this is not uncommon and their are hundreds of documented cases of similar conditions.

Thank you Pat Dickens for the following: Facts for You to Consider
1) 53% of those dolphins who survive the violent capture die within 90 days.

2) The average life span of a dolphin in the wild is 45 years; yet half of all captured dolphins die within their first two years of captivity. The survivors last an average of only 5 years in captivity

3) Every seven years, half of all dolphins in captivity die from capture shock, pneumonia, intestinal disease, ulcers, chlorine poisoning, and other stress-related illnesses. To the captive dolphin industry, these facts are accepted as routine operating expenses

4) In many tanks the water is full of chemicals as well as bacteria, causing many health problems in dolphins including blindness.

5) When a baby dolphin is born in captivity, the news is usually kept secret until the calf shows signs of survival. Although marine mammals do breed in captivity, the birth rate is not nearly as successful as the one in the wild, with high infant mortality rates.

6) Wild dolphins can swim 40 to 100 miles per day - in pools they go around in circles.

7) Many marine parks subject their mammals to hunger so they will perform for their food. Jumping through hoops, tailwalking and playing ball are trained behaviors that do not occur in the wild.

8) Confined animals who abuse themselves (banging their heads against the walls) are creating stimuli which their environment cannot supply. Dolphins in captivity tend to develop stereotypical behaviors (swimming in a repetitive circle pattern, with eyes closed and in silence) because of boredom and confinement. This is equivalent to the swaying and pacing of primates, lions, tigers and bears confined in cages.

9) Dolphins are predators of fish and spend up to half of their time in the wild hunting for food. Supplying dead fish results in less exercise and lack of mental stimulation, thus causing boredom.

10)When trapped together, males often become agitated and domineering. This creates pecking orders (unknown in the wild) and unprovoked attacks on each other and the trainers. In the ocean, although fights are not unknown, the wild dolphins have a chance to escape

Dolphinariums claim that their mission is to protect dolphins in the wild through research and public education. Those are nice words but facts speak louder. If dolphins are so happy in captivity, why do they die so fast? Why the secrecy about their mortality rates? There would be fewer spectators if people knew how many animals were "dying" to amuse them. Perhaps if the death records were displayed at the entrance, no one would buy a ticket.

When the movie “The Cove” was honoured with the Academy Award the tide began to turn.  People from around the world took up the cause, they wanted to know what they could do to help.  A world- wide “Save Japan Dolphins Rally” was held on October 14th. 2010 joining thousands of voices sending a clear message to Japan and to the people of Taiji  “We are watching and we will not let this continue, we will not stop until the hunt ends”.  1.7 million signatures signed a petition to see an end to the hunt and was delivered to Government Officials in Japan.


People began to go to Taiji and document the slaughters.  They are called Cove Guardians and they do so at their own expense and personal safety.  These brave people send back daily reports of the horrendous slaughters to a network of thousands of people via Youtube, Blogs, Facebook, Twitter.  Here is a report sent back from a recent slaughter (warning: it is very difficult to watch)

It is essential that the people of Japan have an accurate picture about what is happening in Taiji.
Many in Japan have been intimidated by the aggressive tactics that opponents have been using. After all, would you want someone at your front door blaring insults through a megaphone, with no regard for your family, children or neighbors?  This harassment makes it very difficult for those in Japan who want to speak out.

Here is a quote from one of the brave young ladies that is witnessing these horrors first hand: “Youtube videos and photos you see on websites and Facebook do not come close to the real experience of seeing these animals suffer. As best as I can, I still cannot capture the sounds, cannot capture the laughter of the dolphin hunters, and the atmosphere from up on that hill… it is a feeling that words cannot relay. It is something that will plague my memory for the rest of my life- I will always remember my freezing cold mornings up on that hill, battling my emotions and confirming my worst fears. But to get that message out there, to make sure the world never forgets about the dolphins of Taiji is the reason why I do it. I don’t want this to ever be ‘out of sight, out of mind’…Nicole McLachlan


So what can you do?  I knew I had to somehow make my own statement. I started a petition on Twitter. Please support here:

I invited my friends in Social Media to participate in a video that I produced and posted:

One of the most critical objectives is to have the press present in Taiji.  The Government of Japan has a forced news blackout surrounding this issue and a large percentage of the Japanese people are not aware of what is happening in their own waters. They have no idea where the dolphins within their dolphinariums actually come from. The issues in Japan are no different to other countries where thousands flock to places like Sea World to see cetaceans perform and entertain. 


It has been proven that when the press is present the dolphins are not slaughtered.  On one occasion, one of the brave Cove Guardians swan out into the Cove and pleaded for the lives of the babies and juveniles. Because the press was present they were released. The following day when the press had left Taiji, the slaughters resumed. 


We have an opportunity for change.  The Cove needs a high profile celebrity to go to Taiji and take the press with them.  The Japanese people are fascinated with stars which would bring them to the Cove in droves and bring much needed attention to the issue. 

 In the meantime what can you do?

· Send emails and phone the Japanese Embassy’s and Consulates daily.  Jam their email boxes and phone lines and disrupt their daily activities. 
Click Here for Email List  

Contact Phones Numbers in Taiji


Support the various petitions that are online and add your voice. Give Cetaceans Rights


Become a Cove Guardian: write to:


Donate funds to support the efforts on the ground.  There are many organizations to choose from.  I personally support Contributions to Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to keep their official presence in Taiji.  These contributions cover the costs for transport, telephone, equipment, supplies, food, and lodging for the official Sea Shepherd representative.  They will remain through the end of March and will return for the next season in September 2011.


When dealing with any form of contact with Japanese Officials or the Japanese people it is important to always remain polite. The words iruka- no- kokyo has meaning to them- it means do not kill dolphins 


It is important to understand that by buying tickets to places like Sea World or partaking in captive swim with dolphin programs that this directly supports the slaughters in Taiji.  It is simple…do not buy the tickets. 


Purchase a copy of the movie ‘The Cove” and then share your knowledge with everyone in your circle. If you have Japanese friends, start a dialogue with them.  “Plausible Deniability” which allows us to do nothing because we did not know is no longer the status quo…we do know, so lets make is as difficult as possible for those that profit to carry on business as usual. 

The time to act is now! Stand up and be counted…individually we are one drop but together we are an ocean.  Stay Passionate

Jackie Bigford
For The Love of Dolphins

Resource Links:  

Eyes on Taiji

Sea Shepherd Org.

Cyber Whale Warrior

Article Safari

The Path to Protect

Champions of the Seas

Dolphins Dying to Entertain You

A Family Standing Up For What They Believe In

For The Love of Dolphins