Dolphin Slaughter Public Policy
The Wakayama Prefectural Government in Japan allows for the hunting of 2,026 small porpoises and dolphins (557 are for bottlenose dolphins) each year (Wakatsuki). Hundreds to thousands of dolphins are driven into a cove in Taiji, Japan and then either brutally slaughtered for meat or sold to marine parks across the world for thousands of dollars (Bale). The brutal inhumane slaughtering of dolphins that is taking place in Japan must come to an end and the current quota for how many dolphins can be “captured” each year should be greatly reduced. It needs to be stopped by international governments and agencies, and pressure from average citizens throughout the world.
Dolphins are the second most intelligent animals on this planet behind humans. They have the ability to learn from other species and even pass on their knowledge to others. Dolphins have wide ranging families and social groups, where each dolphin is dependent on one another in some way. When they are removed from these aspects and placed in captivity, the effects can become catastrophic. Things like depression, physical illness and abnormal behaviors have all been documented (us.whales.org). The dolphins that are left behind also suffer because they may depend upon them for many social reasons, and vital bonds that are necessary for survival are lost.
A dolphin’s primary sense is sound. They get a lot of information from various sounds that are transmitted within the ocean’s waters. They send out sounds and listen to the echo, this tells them exactly what is around them and where their prey is. “When you’re in the water, the dolphins can see right through you. They can see your heart beating. They can see your bones. They can see if you’re pregnant” (The Cove). When they are captured and put into a concrete tank surrounded by thousands of screaming people, this is the exact opposite of how one would live. “In the wild they are traveling around 40 miles a day” (The Cove), so captivity is a parallel to prison for humans. They are very sensitive to sound and it’s their primary source of survival, in Taiji it is their biggest downfall.
The annual dolphin hunt takes place between September and March. In Japan, the hunting is done by a select group of fishermen of about 100. When they spot a pod of dolphins swimming by, they line up their fishing boats and move into position. They lower long steel pipes into the water which have a flange on the bottom and then proceed to hit them with mallets. The clamor creates a wall of sound which frightens the dolphins. Several hundreds of dolphins are driven to shore, “running for their lives, running from this wall of sound.” (The Cove) and into the infamous cove. By the time they get there “they’re totally freaked out, stressed out to the max” (The Cove). The fisherman close off the cove with nets, then go home. The dolphins are left there overnight. The next morning, dolphin trainers are lined up to pick out the ones they want for the dolphin aquariums. They also pick out young females for swim-with programs because females tend to be less aggressive than males (us.whales.org). After all of the trainers leave, all of the dolphins that weren’t selected are slaughtered and sold for meat.
The killings take place in a very secretive location where no one would be able to witness this horrific event. To capture it Hans Peter Roth, along with a German filmmaker, accessed the Cove after dark and plant hidden cameras to capture the slaughter process. The fisherman get on their boats and begin. Before the documentary ‘The Cove’ came out they used to stab the dolphin’s with sharp fishermen’s hooks and haul the still alive dolphins onto their boats, while they begin to bleed to death. The slaughter turned the cove red with their blood. Now, the fisherman push a sharp metal spike into the dolphin’s necks just behind the blowholes, which is supposed to sever the spinal cord and produce an instant death. In fact, film footage from the hidden cameras planted by Hans Peter Roth show the dolphins suffering for up to 20 minutes. The fishermen then push “dowel-like wooden corks” (dolphinproject.net) into the wounds to prevent blood from spilling out into the waters of the cove.
“It’s the captivity industry that keeps this slaughter going by rewarding the fisherman for their bad behavior. They only get $600 dollars for a dead dolphin, but they get more than $150,000, for a live show dolphin” said Ric O’Barry, the creator of the dolphin project, in The Cove. Big marine parks like SeaWorld make millions of dollars off of the captivity of animals. They bring in millions of people to educate them about marine life and for entertainment. It has created a desire for people to swim with them because they are so friendly and seem so happy all of the time. But as Ric O’Barry said “a dolphin’s smile is nature’s greatest deception.”
The Japanese fisherman argue that they kill the dolphin’s because it’s tradition, it’s their culture bit in reality very few people in Japan actually eat it. Dolphin meat is less valuable than whale meat, so some dolphin meats are labeled as expensive whale meat for more profit. A consumer may think they are buying healthy whale meat from the southern hemisphere, but they might be getting a bottlenose dolphin from the coast of Taiji, Japan with high levels of mercury. This leads many to believe that this whole slaughter is just about money.
Members in the documentary ‘The Cove’, asked the fisherman if they were to pay them the same amount of money they would normally make killing dolphins in Taiji, they would then stop and they responded “It’s not about money. It’s about pest control.” They are being told by the Japanese government that the dolphins are consuming too many fish in the ocean. The fisheries of the world are declining, and the main culprit are people. Humans are harvesting fish out of the ocean at such a high rate, and destroying the marine ecosystems, that the whole system could fail.
Dolphins are simply not the problem, humans are. That is why the infamous hunt and slaughter of these innocent, majestical creatures needs to come to an end. The current policy on how many dolphins are allowed to be “captured” each year In Japan should be reduced to only 100 or less. It won’t be stopped unless the demand for dolphins is diminished by pressure from the public, government agencies, and environmental groups. Once the people become educated about this horrific event, there will be no more dolphin slaughter in Taiji, Japan.
- Bale, Rachael. “First Dolphins Killed in Japan’s Notorious Hunt.” National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 9 September 2016. Web. 20 February 2019.
- “Facts about Dolphins.” WDC, Whale and Dolphin Conservation. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 February 2019.
- Morell, Vriginia. “Opinion: Real Tragedy of Taiji Is Our Inhumanity Toward Animals.” National Geographic Society, 2 February 2014. Web. 19 February 2019.
- O’Barry, Ric. “Frequently Asked Questions.” Ric OBarrys Dolphin Project RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 February 2019.
- The Cove. Dir. Louie Psihoyos, Jim Clark, Mark Monroe, Fisher Stevens, and Paula Presmen. WorldCat, 2009. DVD.
- Wakatsuki, Yoko, and Madison Park. “Japan Officials Defend Dolphin Hunting at Taiji Cove.” CNN, CNN, Cable News Network, 22 Jan. 2014, www.cnn.com/2014/01/20/world/asia/japan-dolphin-hunt/index.html.