Torture in Taiji: The Annual Slaughter

I recently wrote about the slaughter of the pilot whales in the Faroe Islands and so I think it’s equally important that I cover the current events in Taiji, Japan, better known as ‘The Cove’.

At this very moment, a pod of pilot whales have been cornered and the horrific slaughter is in progress. Since October 4th, the group has been held hostage in the cove and has already endured strong winds and tides. Now it seems they are to endure something so much worse- a slow and agonising death.  As with the Faroese grind, the whole process of the slaughter is not only unnecessary but incredibly brutal and it shocks me every time I read about it.

Once a pod has been spotted, they are surrounded by boats and confused with loud banging noises before being driven into the bay and cut off from freedom. The next day, fisherman enter the area and begin slaughtering each animal one by one with a slice to the brainstem.  Now put yourself in their positions.  You and your family are herded into a building where

A screenshot from the Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians live stream shows a large number of pilot whales trapped against the rocks and a blood stained sea.
A screenshot from the Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians live stream shows a large number of pilot whales trapped against the rocks and a blood stained sea.

you are then kept hostage for at least the next 24 hours, watching as one by one someone you love is taken away and murdered right in front of you. Imagine the pain you’d feel and now think about what those whales are feeling right now. Whales are known to have extensive emotional capabilities so to say they don’t understand is not an option- they quite clearly do. As I’m writing this a mother has been tethered to rocks and is bleeding profusely and yet other whales just won’t leave her. I think this shows the true extent of their feelings; they know exactly what is happening and they want to reassure each other as a human family would. It’s beautiful and an absolute shame that it always seems to be under tragic circumstances that these things are demonstrated so clearly from beachings and strandings to slaughters like this. They need to end.

This isn’t even the most horrific part of it but to be honest I don’t think it’s possible to single out a specific part. Instead, another terrible part is when the juvenile animals are herded back out to sea after being forced to watch their mothers and fathers suffering , watch the surrounding water cloud with their blood and listen to their painful dying cries. After witnessing these horrors and at their young ages, there is a high possibility that the young ones won’t even survive.  It’s incredibly painful to think about how the greed and gluttony of Taiji fishermen causes so much destruction and yet they just can’t seem to see it for themselves. It’s not that these people look at what they are doing and empathise with the whales, all they see is money. They know that they have to remain within the quota set and so only keep the largest whales for the biggest profit. The way the fisherman approach this murder seems so callous and harsh it’s as though they don’t even see what they are doing. There is no emotion on their faces- you can almost see the pound signs flashing in their eyes. Incredibly wrong.

I think one of many things that are so awful about this slaughter is the fact that the fisherman repeatedly call it “pest control”. I may be mistaken here but I’m pretty sure that nobody goes out looking for pests to bring back and then kill. I wouldn’t go out trying to get myself a nice long tapeworm or a flea infestation- nobody wants pests. I’m also positive that humans evolved to live on land and not in the oceans and so for them to also imply that the whales are stealing “their” fish, is so incredibly implausible and so wrong. Likewise, as with the pilot whale meat in the Faroe Islands, the meat itself contains very high levels of toxins so realistically it’s dangerous for both species and so so unnecessary.

Of course it’s not just the sale of the whale meat that funds the Taiji dolphin drive, it’s also the captivity industry.  This season so far 31 bottle nosed dolphins have been captured and sold to dolphinariums bringing in huge profits of around $9,000,000. It’s such a shame that this industry is still so popular when the thrill of dolphin watching in the wild is there. I really hope that with ‘Blackfish’ highlighting this issue and ‘The Cove’ showcasing this slaughter, people realise that it’s just not worth the animals suffering at the hands of greedy, self indulgent people and stop supporting it.

The last two weeks has seemed so hopeful with 15 ‘Blue Cove’ days. Due to bad weather conditions, fisherman had been unable to venture out far or even at all which did mean thatdolphin_slaughter_taiji_japan_the_cove_brooke_mcdonald_14 many cetaceans had escaped this terrible fate. Unfortunately this has come to a sad end. Dead whales are currently being transported ready for slaughter whilst the remaining pod members are forced to swim in a stained red cove, no doubt mourning the loss of their family.

It seems that the end is nigh for the pilot whales in the cove and soon many lives will be changed forever. There may not be much we can do for them now, as upsetting as it is, but their deaths will serve as a painful reminder of cultural practices that need to end.  It’s estimated that over 20,000 cetaceans suffer at the hands of the Taiji fishermen every single year and with the high level of police presence, it’s extremely difficult to get close to intervene.  I think it’s vital that this problem and blight on conservation efforts is repeatedly shown to people so that the news can spread and more can get involved.  I’ve said it before in my last blog about the Faroese grind and I’ll say it again, there’s no place for this in society anymore; not in a world where education and knowledge is so prevalent. Things need to change right now and I for one hope they do so soon.

If you want to know more about the Taiji drives and get live updates, please visited the Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians for a live camera feed and twitter updates.