My time in Taiji

A few days ago I sat and tried to write a new blog entry. I only got one sentence out before I shut the computer.

The days here in Taiji are long and emotional.

I was searching for words after a tragic and sad day. It had been the seventh slaughter in eight days. A beautiful family of Risso’s dolphins had been driven into the cove on January 27, 2013. A family of 56-58 individuals, who were swimming freely in the ocean were chased down and trapped in nets. The fishermen killed 26 without hesitation that day. We later realized they may have hit their quota on Risso’s and that would be the only reason the rest were spared.

I can still picture the juveniles swimming close to their mothers as they were pushed farther from other family members. The fear and confusion they must have been experiencing still fills me with emotion and tears. As the family was separated by men, boats, and nets, the outcome became clear. Soon we could hear the struggle beneath the tarps. The distinct sound of thrashing that confirms the dolphins are being slaughtered.

That sound invokes emotion that really isn’t describable. I think you must experience it to even grasp what it does to you. The rest of the family was left to swim within the nets as they watched and listened to their family’s slaughter. They were then subjected to the fishermen driving boat after boat filled with the bodies of their loved ones past them. I can only imagine the trauma that the horrifying procession caused those sentient beings.

Sentient. I want to just say something about that word and what it means. Sentient means to be aware or finely sensitive in perception or feeling. Whales and dolphins are sentient beings. Then there is the scientific matter of what are known as spindle cells within the brain. Humans have them. They are what creates and allows for social bonds, connections, and relationships. Consider how you feel about your family, your pets, and friends. That emotional connection and love. The bond you feel for those you love. Those are your spindle cells hard at work.

Dolphins have more spindle cells in their brains than humans. According to New Scientist, “Spindle cells, named after their long, spindle-shaped bodies, are the cells that are credited with allowing us to feel love and to suffer emotionally.” A documentary by BBC shows that, “some whales and dolphins have three times as many spindle neuron cells as humans. Spindle cells are thought to make us feel love and emotion.” Now imagine experiencing what those dolphins experienced. Sometimes I wish I could force those feelings and pain on the dolphin killers and the dolphin trainers that work along side them. I am willing to bet they would collapse from the heartache it would cause.

Two weeks in Taiji changed my life forever. Going home was wonderful because I missed those I love. But the moment I boarded the train for the airport I felt how badly I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t want to leave Taiji and the beauty of Japan. I didn’t want to leave my family of Cove Guardians who I miss tremendously. Mostly I didn’t want to leave the dolphins. The ones who will be slaughtered and dragged to a butcher house and the ones left scared in the nets of captivity for the rest of their lives. Leaving them felt like an act of abandonment.

I had been worried leaving would be hard but just like witnessing the horrors of Taiji with my own eyes, I wasn’t prepared for the pain. My two weeks went by in a blur but at the same time I can remember every single detail. I remember the slaughters and how my chest would ache, my throat would tighten, and the view through the camera lens would blur from my tears. I remember the sounds that came from below the tarps in the killing cove. The dolphin tails hitting the water as they struggled and died. I remember the trainers yelling as they selected the pod members taken for a life of captivity. And I remember the laughter of the fishermen after they had just killed an entire family.

I know I will go back because part of my heart and soul will always be there now. More than anything I am more determined now to see an end to marine mammal captivity. All the lives lost in Taiji to slaughter and captivity are because of that industry. I do not feel like this is a losing battle, which some people say to me. I know we can win this. I know we can end the cruelties of dolphin captivity and see the day where the waters of the cove are forever blue.

Thank you for reading.

Rachel

“May all beings be wild and free.”

Categories: Animal Welfare, Cetaceans, Cove Guardian, Dolphins, Sea Shepherd, Taiji, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

Taiji – Hell on Earth for dolphins

DSC_0079The beauty of Taiji, Japan is undeniable. There are views here that will literally take your breath away. No photo can do it justice. A couple of mornings ago the Cove Guardians all headed out to a lookout to watch for the gut wrenching “drive formation” of the hunting boats. While walking down the stairs we all had to stop to admire the gorgeous sunrise that was occurring. The orange glow was illuminating the rocky cliffs as it appeared on the horizon. I personally have never seen a sunrise so beautiful. The beauty here is evident and amazing.

The part that is hard to comprehend is the absolute horror that takes place amongst it all. I have been in Taiji as a Cove Guardian for six days and witnessed four slaughters. Three of those four slaughters resulted in dolphins being taken captive as well as being murdered. Monday, January 21, 2013, a family of Pantropical Spotted Dolphins were destroyed by this annual hunt. On this particular day the abuse and disrespect for these animals was appalling. The trainers were present once again for the capture process. They originally selected 27 for a life of slavery in the captive industry. The stress and violence of the hunt and capture resulted in the death of two dolphins before they could even be thrown into the sea pens. How can the Mayor of Taiji say that this hunt is humane and ethical when animals selected to actually survive die in the process? When these poor souls died at the hands of those who claim to “love” them, their loss was not mourned for even a moment. The dolphins that were first considered slave-trade quality were simply thrown onto a boat and hauled away to the butcher house. Their sacrifice was never considered by the killers or the dolphin trainers. They simply joined their slaughtered family members in a pile of waste and death.

Everyday that the hunts take place and the dolphin families are ripped apart shows an absolute lack of compassion and respect. This lack of compassion and respect is not a statement about Japan and the Japanese people. It really bothers me when “supporters” make hateful and racist comments about Japan and the people that live here. These hunts involve a handful of people when compared to all of the country’s population. The fishermen, trainers, buyers, and the few individuals who knowingly eat dolphin do not represent the entire country. The individuals that are a driving force in this annual atrocity live all over the world. Every European or American that takes their family to SeaWorld is responsible. Every hotel or resort owner that enslaves dolphins for tourists seeking a thrill while on vacation is responsible. The dolphin trainers across the globe who KNOW the extent of intelligence and self awareness that these animals have are responsible. The hunts occur to satisfy a demand for captivity. Eliminate the demand and you can end the source of supply.

I say it all the time and I will keep saying it until marine mammal captivity is eliminated, DO NOT BUY A TICKET TO A DOLPHIN SHOW OR SWIM WITH DOLPHIN PROGRAM. Do not support any hotel, resort, or business that profits off the lives of these animals. Every ticket purchased is encouragement for these fishermen to go out with their boats to hunt dolphins.

Thank you for reading.

~Rachel

Categories: Animal Welfare, Cetaceans, Cove Guardian, Dolphins, Sea Shepherd, seaworld, Taiji | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My first days as a Cove Guardian

Being here in Taiji, Japan is incredibly surreal for me. To stand on the beach at the cove is a feeling I am not even sure I can put into words. This post is my first in a very long time. I have been planning this trip for months now and the fundraising and planning kept me very busy. Nevertheless, here I am in Japan. I am sitting in my hotel trying to work through what I have experienced since my arrival on January 16th. Travel to Japan was long but actually pleasant because I traveled here with a good friend and fellow SSCS On-Shore Volunteer. The people I have met in the last couple of days are extraordinary. They are from various countries around the world and we all speak in our own accent and language, but our reason for being here is the same.

I should mention that before this trip, I had NEVER seen a dolphin in real life. I have only ever seen them in books, movies, online and on tv. The first and only dolphins I’ve seen are either suffering a life in captivity here in Japan or were brutally killed in front of me this week. I think this is a clear message that you do not need marine parks and captivity in order to appreciate a species and want to save its future.

Today was by far one of the worst days of my life. It was only my second day of watching the fishermen leave on their boats to hunt mercilessly for dolphins, but it will be a day that I never forget. A beautiful pod of Bottlenose dolphins was driven into the cove in Taiji, Japan. Their lives were destroyed one by one by people whose vile actions are something I will never understand. I stood and witnessed as these 38 amazing, innocent animals were driven by a wall of sound into the deadly nets.

I have constantly kept up with the events happening in Taiji. I have seen The Cove at least a dozen times with friends and family as I try to educate as many people as possible. The images, the articles, the videos, none of it prepared me for witnessing a capture and slaughter with my own eyes. The trainers are some of the most baffling and disturbing people on earth. They spend every single day working with dolphins and claiming to “love” them. It only took a few minutes for them to arrive in the boats once they got word that Bottlenose dolphins had been driven into the cove. They stood up in the boat and acted excited as they looked over the day’s catch. The trainers work side by side with the fishermen who will slaughter any dolphin not purchased by them. Together, the trainers and the fishermen are some of the most horrible and sadistic people I have ever seen. One by one dolphins were violently handled and put into painful slings and hauled away from their family. You can hear the trainers yelling as they try to wrangle the frightened juveniles away from their mothers. These people do not love dolphins. They love the money the dolphins bring to them. The trainers selected 13 dolphins to suffer a life in captivity.

It was painfully clear when the slaughter began underneath the tarps. The thrashing and tail slapping that occurred is a sound that will forever live in my mind. It was agonizing to stand there and know that those animals were being brutally and violently killed. We stood in silence listening as the dolphins fought and struggled until after several minutes the thrashing ended. Again, this is a sound I will hear in mind as long as I live. There is no way to forget it. After it ended the last and thirteenth victim taken into a life of captivity was hauled away on a sling. This means that dolphin watched and listened to its entire family get murdered BEFORE being hauled away from their dead bodies. The trauma that dolphin endured makes my heart ache.

Taiji is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. It is incredible that such a horrible and disgusting thing can take place here. I am glad that 17 Cove Guardians were here today to witness the last moments of this Bottlenose family. Together we (and past and future CGs) are helping spread the word about this dark secret. This is not a proud tradition or cultural right. If it were there would be no tarps hiding the slaughter as it happens. There would be no police monitoring every move the activists make. They want to hide everything that is going on in Taiji. If it is a tradition then what are you so ashamed of? Why wouldn’t you want the world to see what you are doing?

Taiji has changed me in so many ways and my time here has only just begun. To those who helped me get here, thank you so much. To the dolphins, I am so sorry for what is happening to you. We have polluted your home, stolen your food source, and now certain people in this world make a living off your pain and suffering.

RIP to the 24 beautiful souls that left our world today, but also to the 13 lives that will now suffer in the world of captivity, my thoughts and heart are always with you.

Thank you for reading,

Rachel

A bottlenose is dragged back by a diver after trying to escape the nets in the cove

A bottlenose is dragged back by a diver after trying to escape the nets in the cove

DSC_0910

Four dolphins swim close together in their last moments of life

A captive dolphin is transferred from the ocean and it's family to a life of slavery

Two dolphins are taken away from their home and their family. You can see their frantic family members swimming nearby.

Categories: Cetaceans, Cove Guardian, Dolphins, Sea Shepherd, Taiji | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

New Page!

I’ve added a new page to my blog called SeaWorld Sucks. It will be a place that you can refer friends, family, or even strangers to so they can understand the truths behind the world’s “leading” marine park. I hope everyone enjoys the first post! I worked really hard to create a photographic comparison that would show how incredibly disconnected those that own SeaWorld are from the animals they exploit.
Check out the pages at the top or just click here!
Thanks for reading!

~Rachel

Categories: Animal Welfare, Cetaceans, Marine Wildlife, Orca, seaworld, Whales | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Seaworld causes a devestating injury to orca whale

Seaworld is once again proving why they should be closed down and why orcas do not belong in captivity. On September 20th, an orca named Nakai hit a portion of the pool with his face during a show at SeaWorld San Deigo. The injuries are horrific and the fact that SeaWorld continued with the show is absolutely appalling. A piece of his chin that was the size of a dinner plate was retrieved from the bottom of the pool. SeaWorld trainers and management are saying they did not realize the extent of the injury and therefore did not stop the show. I would think that ANY injury would be just cause for stopping a show. I am not sure how these “highly” trained cetacean experts failed to miss the exposed bone coming out of Nakai’s face. I didn’t think it was possible for me to be more disgusted with SeaWorld and their supporters, but this incident has shocked me into a whole new level of disgust and absolute hatred.

Nakai’s injury proves why Orcas do NOT belong in captivity.

Categories: Animal Welfare, Cetaceans, Marine Wildlife, Orca, seaworld, Whales | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Another season of blood and death in Taiji

I was hoping for a blood-free weekend out of Taiji, Japan. I was hoping the fishermen would continue to come back to the harbor without any dolphins, but this weekend marked the first deaths in the 2012-2013 dolphin hunting season. A pod of pilot whales were found on Friday and driven into shore. The nets were dropped and the family of about 25 or 26 were all trapped, awaiting their fate. They were held overnight in the cove to allow trainers to come select the animals that they wanted to buy. Three of the pilot whales were chosen for a life a captivity yesterday. The rest of their family, about 21-23 others, were all slaughtered and dragged to the butcher house.

I cannot believe how shocked I still am after a slaughter has taken place. I have been following the dolphin hunts in Taiji for a couple of years now, but it is still a somber and dark day for me when a family of these peaceful creatures are killed. It is senseless and barbaric and such a shameful moment for those involved. My heart goes out to the 3 juveniles taken into captivity this weekend. They were first chased into the cove by boats and trapped there, then separated from their pod by loud and forceful humans, and finally they had to listen as their mothers and family members were all killed. What a tragedy they should never have had to endure.

Currently, there is a pod a bottlenose dolphins trapped in the cove with a second one still trying desperately to get away. I am sending my hopes and thoughts to those innocent animals and I truly hope they get away and do not face the same fate as the pilot whales and the pod trapped already.

 

Thank you for reading.

Rachel

Categories: Animal Welfare, Cetaceans, Dolphins, Marine Wildlife, Oceans, Sea Shepherd, Whales | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Japan Dolphin Day 2012

It is hard to believe that another dolphin hunting season is upon us. I feel like the waters in Taiji only recently turned blue after the slaughters of last year’s hunts. So far the boats have gone out twice looking for a pod to herd into the cove and slaughter. They have been unsuccessful in their search both times. So it is a good start to the season for the dolphins. On August 31st, 2012, a group of amazing people gathered in Seattle to protest the start of these hunts. We stood together with our signs to bring awareness to the people of Seattle, but also to the world. Cities from across the globe held demonstrations in front of Japanese Consulates and Embassies to send a message to the Japanese Government. The message was: The World is Watching. We also delivered a photographic journal to the Consulate. It was a In Memory Of photo album filled with photos from the dophin hunts in Taiji. It was created to show them exactly why were standing there and what we had gathered to protest. I hate to think we will be standing there again next year, but I have hope for the future and I have hope for dolphins. These are some pictures from this year’s protest in Seattle. I will be on the front lines in Taiji one day soon. I will be another voice for these animals and I will make sure the world remembered they lived and that they died.

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Thank you for reading!

~Rachel

Categories: Animal Welfare, Cetaceans, Dolphins, Marine Wildlife, Oceans, Sea Shepherd | Leave a comment

Georgia Aquarium’s Shameful Permit Request

I discovered this weekend that the Georgia Aquarium has applied for a permit to obtain and import 18 wild beluga whales. These whales have already been caught in Russia and now the captivity industry simply needs to get them into the United States in order to start making money off their lives. The Georgia Aquarium has a great deal of interest in this especially since the death of a baby beluga whale at their facility only days after it was born. The issue that is creating the need to import these wild animals is genetic diversity. The captivity world is running out of breeding options and therefore must create bogus and false statements in order to apply for import permits. One such reason they give surrounds conservation. Conservation? Seriously? Taking wild animals out of the ocean and placing them into an entertainment park is supposed to enhance conservation? I cannot believe the captivity industry thinks people are going to buy that line. If it was conservation they wanted then instead of spending $2 million to research how to bring wild animals into the US, they would spend that money on protecting the wild populations and our oceans.

The other reason they claim to need these wild animals is for research. The research angle always makes me laugh because there is no true and significant research that can be conducted on a captive marine mammal. In captivity these animals cannot eat, swim, play, socialize, or even just exist naturally. It is shameful to even put themselves into a category with true scientists that study animals in their natural habitats.

Since word of this permit application got out the GA has been trying to convince their fans and the public that what’s being said isn’t true and they are basically victims in this. So, here is what I have to say about that.

Georgia Aquarium, the accusations against you are not inaccurate or false. It is simple. The GA has acquired wild belugas from Russia and wants to import them into the United States. It does not matter who took them from the ocean first. These were wild animals and you have decided to purchase them as if they are property to be bought and sold as pleased. There will be no true research done on them at a captive facility, including yours. Captive animals do swim, eat, socialize, or behave like a true wild animals. They swim in artificial water, eat dead fish that are filled with medicines to help with the ailments related to the stress captivity causes, they do not have a natural family group to socialize with and they cannot ever swim the distances like those of their wild counterparts. Your facility is using these animals for profits and entertainment. I do not care if you attempt to hide behind a 501c3 status. If it was education you were truly interested in you would not charge the astronomical amount of $169.95 per adult, senior, or child to interact with belugas. Please do not attempt to fool those of us who know exactly what the captivity industry is all about. One day everyone will see all of you for what your really are and it is then that marine mammal captivity will become another dark spot on human history.

Please take a minute to sign this petition to help these belugas.

http://www.change.org/petitions/noaa-don-t-let-the-georgia-aquarium-import-wild-belugas-to-the-us

 

Thanks for reading!

~Rachel

Categories: Animal Welfare, Cetaceans, Dolphins, Marine Wildlife, Oceans, Whales | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Wasteful Fact Wednesday!

This week’s Wasteful Fact is in honor of wedding season, which results in a whole lot of gift giving. So lets talk a little bit about the wasteful tradition called wrapping paper.

Wrapping paper is dyed, laminated, covered in tape, and a lot of times also has additives like glitter or gold/silver on it. All of those characteristics make it non-recyclable aka a huge waste. Every single holiday, event, birthday party results in bags and bags of non-recyclable trash that ends up in a landfill. And all so that a present looks pretty. Not to mention the extreme cost, but that is a whole other topic.

According to Eco-Chick.com if every American family wrapped just three gifts in reusable materials it would save enough paper to cover 48,000 football fields.

Okay, I realize that half the fun of giving a gift is the unwrapping and surprise part, but there are other planet friendly ways to accomplish this.  Try wrapping the present in a paper bag or newspaper. You can dress it up with organic yarn, drawings, or even a small cutting from a plant in your garden. You can also wrap a gift in another gift like a scarf. Wrapping paper was something I cut out of my household this past year. I have enjoyed attaching a flower or leaf to my presents in place of a $5 bow and my friends and family have liked it a lot as well.

Save yourself money and save the planet a whole lot of waste by making this small change.

Thanks for reading!

~Rachel

Categories: waste, wasteful facts | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Japan Dolphin Day 2012!

It’s hard to believe it, but the 2012-2013 Japan dolphin hunting season is upon us. It feels like the sadness that spun from the traumatic events of last years hunting season hasn’t even gone away. And yet, here we are, facing another season of death and capture in the waters of Taiji.

The start of the hunting season will once again bring together people from all over the globe who want to see Japan end this slaughter.

Events are currently being planned all over the world so be sure and go to one near you and make your voice heard.

Tell Japan to end this for good.

Tell the world that you stand against captivity. You can make difference.

Check out this link to get information on a protest happening near you. Protests will take place on August 31, 2012 in the afternoon.

I truly hope everyone can make time to go out and support dolphins living wild and free in our oceans.

 

And don’t forget to check out my fundraising page for my upcoming trip to Taiji, Japan.

 

Thank you for reading!

~Rachel

Categories: Animal Welfare, Cetaceans, dam guardians, Dolphins, Marine Wildlife, Oceans, Sea Shepherd, Uncategorized, Whales | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

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