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Typhoon Delays Taiji Dolphin Massacre

Ric O’Barry’s group gathers on the shore of the cove in Taiji, Japan, to pray for an end to the drive hunt

The infamous dolphin drive hunt that takes place at this time each year in the coastal town of Taiji, Japan, is on hold – but only temporarily.

The massacre, which came to most people’s attention through the Oscar-winning movie The Cove, involves fishing boats driving families of dolphins into a narrow cove from which they can’t escape and then systematically knifing, battering or suffocating them to death by hammering wooden plugs into their blowholes.

The dead dolphins are then cut up for meat that most people don’t want to buy, in part because it’s dangerously high in mercury toxins. For several years, dolphin meat was sold to schools to be put into children’s lunches, until, again, that was stopped for health reasons, leaving the hunt with no financial value to the fishing industry.

Instead, today, it’s kept alive by the captivity industry. Representatives from various marine circuses around the world attend the drive hunts and indicate to the fishermen which dolphins they want taken alive so they can be sold to the entertainment industry.

The indefatigable Ric O’Barry – former dolphin trainer turned protector – has once again been leading a team of peaceful protestors to the town to beg the dolphin hunters to stop the killing.

Typhoon Talas has given the group a few more days of publicity, but observers at Taiji report that many families of dolphins have already been herded into the cove with no means of escape to the open ocean, so they risk being battered to death by the storm itself. Appeals to the hunters to release the cordon that holds the animals captive have been ignored.

All of this is simply to maintain what the proponents of the drive hunts explain away as being a “cultural tradition.”

For their part, O’Barry and his group maintain a thoughtful respect for Japanese culture and tradition. On their way to Taiji, the group stopped off at the small island town of Miyakejima that thrives on snorkeling with dolphins, and where the townspeople have even given them names. They also met and prayed with a Shinto priest.

“It’s very encouraging to see people celebrating dolphins, respecting dolphins, and I’m all for that,” O’Barry said. “We support them all the way.”

Chikara Atsuta, an official with the tourism agency at Miyakejima, replied with praise for O’Barry.

”I feel so grateful,” he said. “We do not hunt dolphins.”

After arriving in Taiji, the group held a prayer ceremony for the people who died in the earthquake and tsunami earlier this year and for the dolphins who will die in the massacre this month.

About 2,000 dolphins are caught in the Taiji drive hunt every year, and what’s shown in The Cove, as the waters turn red with blood, has made the town synonymous with slaughter.

All around the world, last week, people came together to protest the massacre and to ask the people of Taiji to bring an end to it.

Protests in London . . .

. . . Auckland . . .

. . . and Atlanta

“We want the people of Japan to know we are here not just for the dolphins, but for them as well,” O’Barry said. “We must stop the sale of poisoned dolphin meat and help coastal communities develop their dolphin- and whale-watching ecotourism.”

What do you say? Have you seen The Cove or read other stories about Taiji? Let us know in a comment or on Facebook.

What You Can Do: Follow Ric O’Barry and his team on their blog at SaveJapanDolphins.org, where you can also donate to their efforts to save the dolphins.