Articles Magazine

A Season of Horror Begins: Dolphin Hunting


By Chere Di Boscio

The 2009 Oscar-winning documentary The Cove opened people’s eyes to a horrifying reality: Japanese fishermen slaughter hundreds of dolphins for half the year, starting in January.

Over 20,000 dolphins and small whales, including mothers and their calves, are now being herded into the now infamous ‘killing cove’ just off the small Japanese village of Taiji. After being confused and disorientated by manmade underwater sounds, they are run over in boats, netted, starved for days and then killed by having their throats cut with knives or by having metal spears driven into their spinal cords while their terrified families watch on. The seas run red with their blood.

Dolphins are extremely intelligent and sentient creatures, and are so connected to those in their groups that even those who have escaped slaughter will stay nearby waiting for their families, even risking death as they do so.


Why the Dolphin Hunting Continues

Many assume the dolphins are killed to supply meat to a minority of Asian consumers. However, the reality is that the Japanese government hands out permits for the killing in order to preserve more fish–which is an important Japanese staple food–for human consumption.  Moreover, the best specimens of dolphin are removed before slaughter and sold for captive-dolphin aquariums, shows, and ‘swim-with-dolphins’ programs.

As shown in the BAFTA-winning film Blackfish, life in marine parks is miserable for orca and dolphins. These social creatures normally live in large groups, in which they communicate to each other through complex body language, High degrees of empathy have been shown by dolphins: some drowning humans have claimed to have been saved by dolphins, and they help those sick or dying members of their own pods by pushing them up to the surface of the water so they can breathe.

However, in most marine parks, these creatures are isolated, have nothing to do but swim in endless circles in tiny pools, and are driven mad by their sonar bouncing off the walls of the tanks. More than half die within two years of being captured.


It is also not only the Japanese who hunt dolphins: despite international protest, fishermen in the Faroe Islands insist on killing hundreds of dolphins for nothing more than the sport of it. Brigitte Bardot once addressed a letter to Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, appealing for the sovereign to halt the killing of dolphins in the Danish protectorate of Faroe Islands, calling the activity a  “macabre spectacle” that “is a shame for Denmark and the Faroe Islands … This is not a hunt but a mass slaughter … an outmoded tradition that has no acceptable justification in today’s world,” yet Denmark claims they are powerless to do anything, and the Faroe Islanders seem impervious to criticism.

Also, although it is illegal, fishermen in Peru have also been known to kill dolphins to use their flesh to catch sharks, which they then cut the fins off and sell to Asian consumers–another tragedy for our oceans that must be stopped.

Human-Like Creatures

Dolphins are mammals like us, and their intelligence means they certainly experience pain, fear and depression. In fact, they are so like humans, many scientists and animal advocates believe these animals should be granted ‘non-human rights‘–that is, they should be treated with the same respect for freedom that we give to human beings.

If you are disturbed by the killing in the cove, then make your voice heard–support groups such as Greenpeace, which are working hard to stop this inhuman slaughtering of dolphins. Also, discourage everyone you know from perpetuating demand for captive dolphins by boycotting aquariums, marine parks and ‘swimming-with-dolphin’ programs. By taking such a stance, you’ll help reduce demand and profit from the capture and sale of these wonderful creatures, who were born free, and deserve to stay that way.

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