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.
“May all beings be wild and free.”