These are dark days in Taiji, Japan, as far as conservationists are concerned, because this week marks the beginning of the annual dolphin hunt in the remote village made famous last year by the Academy Award-winning documentary, “The Cove.”
The hunt began Wednesday despite widespread international opposition and protests in Tokyo.
Ric O’Barry, who trained dolphins for the 1960s show “Flipper” and helped produce “The Cove,” traveled to Tokyo and delivered a petition of opposition, signed by 1.7 million people from 155 countries, to the U.S. Embassy. The activist, who also has produced an Animal Planet miniseries called “Blood Dolphins,” was forced to cancel a trip to Taiji amid alleged threats from an ultra-nationalist group.
“I wish all these people could be in Taiji,” O’Barry told The Associated Press. “It was too dangerous. The big losers are the people of Taiji.”
Most of the dolphins corralled into the cove during the hunts are killed and processed for meat, but some specimens are sold live to aquariums. Japan allows the killing of about 20,000 dolphins a year and claims the hunts are an important part of the nation’s culture and tradition.
Taiji, a community of about 3,500 and the birthplace of Japanese whaling, accounts for about 1,500 dolphin deaths annually. Its “oikomi hunting” practice of banging on metal poles to create a wall of sound to herd dolphins into the cove in preparation for slaughter is what drew worldwide criticism after “The Cove” was released.
“We will pass down the history of our ancestors to the next generation, preserve it. We have a strong sense of pride about this,” town Mayor Kazutaka Sangen told the AP. “So we are not going to change our plans for the town based on the criticism of foreigners.”
The first victims, about 20 bottlenose dolphins, were herded into the infamous cove on Thursday. The cove, with the help of netting, will serve as a holding pen. The actual killing of dolphins won’t begin for about two weeks.
O’Barry, 70, and the group Save Japan Dolphins have produced a celebrity-studded public service video — Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox and Robin Williams are just a few to lend a voice — intended to tug on heartstrings and convince citizens who appreciate dolphins as intelligent mammals to become involved in the campaign to end the hunts. The video, which has been viewed by 500,000 people, is attached below. Please share your thoughts.
– Dolphin image courtesy of Animal Planet. Dolphins in the image are not victims of the Taiji hunt.