Taiji

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

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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

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