”Humane” killing method leaves dolphin to drown while dragged to butcher’s house for processing.
Taiji, Japan, 11-26-18: After two days where dolphins escaped Taiji’s hunters, the tide turned today – and not in a good way.
A family of approximately 50 melon-headed whales was driven into the Cove. The dolphins tried to make their way back to the open ocean but were consistently cut off by the banger boats as they hammered on their banger poles or skiffs, and threw their slap paddles into the water near the dolphins to frighten them and herd them towards the Cove. Many were spyhopping as if trying to figure out what was happening to them. Having no idea of the terror and violence they were about to endure, their fate was sealed as they were pushed a little further in and the first net was drawn across the Cove, behind them.
The dolphins of all ages huddled tightly together – large adults, slightly smaller juveniles and some very small calves. They were rubbing against each other as if trying to comfort the other. Soon, the skiffs turned around and came towards them, revving their outboard motors, creating both a loud noise and prop wash to frighten the dolphins further towards the killing beach. A second net was drawn and then there was a pause. Trainers from the Taiji Whale Museum were brought under the tarps indicating there would be a captive selection. The commotion started again as the skiffs came right at the dolphins, forcing them even closer to the killing beach. The dolphins were tightly constricted as a third net was drawn.
Being confined near the shore and surrounded by disorientating noise, the dolphins began to panic. Several dolphins got caught in the net as they attempted to escape their tormentors.
Divers swam over to the panicking dolphins and violently grabbed one mammal, pulling it back into the killing area. *See video below. Another dolphin made it over the net for a temporary reprieve but it was captured and forced back. With so many dolphins in such a small area, there was a lot of panic as the divers went after some of the juvenile dolphins. Divers could be seen grabbing and manhandling the dolphins over to waiting skiffs, where divers would force the dolphins into nets and under the tarps to be examined by trainers. Female voices could be heard as they looked over the dolphins, measuring, determining their sex, and checking their bodies for scarring, looking for the young “pretty” dolphins favored by the captive industry. Four were chosen and taken out in slings towards Moriura bay, sentenced to a life of captivity. One dolphin could be seen struggling violently to get out of the sling, but a trainer grabbed the mammal by its dorsal fin, attempting to restrain it.
The next skiff that came out of the Cove had something covered up in the middle with a silver tarp. Our fears were confirmed as we were able to see movement underneath, indicating that young calves were under the tarp. Hunters kicked their wriggling bodies as they panicked under then gravity of their own weight. *See video below.
The skiff continued out to sea, past the fishing nets. Off in the distance, the hunters could be seen dumping the young dolphins overboard. With this season’s melon-headed quota set for 200 individuals, hunters did not want to waste any of that quota on such small bodies. Instead, the very young calves, still dependent on their mothers, were dumped out at sea, alone. Their suffering will be prolonged as they are left to wander the ocean, unable to feed themselves. The dumping of young calves back at sea, without their mothers, is an extremely cruel and inhumane aspect to these hunts.
There were still a large number of dolphins left in the Cove. As the divers began to come for them and push them towards the killing beach, their panic increased. The dolphins could be seen swimming tightly together, desperately looking for an escape. Dolphins got tangled in the nets and, in one of many heartbreaking moments, a young dolphin threw itself on the rocks and thrashed around wildly, becoming more and more bloody before it slipped back into the water. *See video below.
In one moment that we will never forget, as a diver grabbed a dolphin out of the net, the mammal turned, looking directly into the diver’s face. The dolphin continued to look at the diver as it was wrestled under the tarps to be slaughtered.
The killing was done in groups. Cove Monitors could hear the violent slapping of flukes on the water as the life was drained out of each dolphin. The dolphins could hear one another being slaughtered. Being self aware and intelligent mammals, they knew what was happening and must have felt terror beyond imagination knowing the same thing would soon happen to them. The killing seemed to go on for an eternity before the Cove fell eerily silent. Despite the hunters’ best efforts to keep blood from flowing into the Cove, the water began to turn a sickening brown-red color as the blood of the dolphins was mixed with sediment kicked up during their final struggles.
“To describe the hours during the suffering this pod of melon-headed whales endured as humane, decent or necessary would be a far reach from the awful truth. The daily operations in Taiji would not be possible if people around the world stopped giving their money and support to the captive dolphin industry. The melon-headed whales showed us how important it is to keep a loving bond alive.” ~ Hayley Brooks, Dolphin Project Cove Monitor
The ultimate horror occurred as the last skiff was dragging bodies out of the Cove. Among the lifeless bodies, there was life.
The first two skiffs removed the bodies which were covered with tarps. However, the next two skiffs that came out didn’t seem as concerned with hiding the dead dolphins, their slim, torpedo-shaped bodies being dragged by ropes as they made their way to the butcher’s house to be processed for human consumption. The final skiff that emerged provided irrefutable evidence that the dolphin slaughters that take place in Taiji, Japan are not humane, not quick and cause unimaginable suffering to the mammals.
One melon-headed whale began to thrash violently as it was dragged through the water! *See video below. The hunters nonchalantly tried to cover it with the tarp as the thrashing continued. As they motored through the water, the thrashing decreased and finally ended as the unfortunate dolphin must have either drowned or succumbed to its injuries. Cove Monitors were stunned and speechless by what we had just seen. There is no defense for this. For a hunt and killing method that is claimed to be “humane”, this is compelling evidence to refute that claim. All aspects of these drive hunts are inhumane, from the terror and suffering dolphins experience as they are driven towards the Cove to the brutal and violent killing method. We’ve seen this repeatedly when dolphins die from the stress of the process and are seen floating lifeless in the Cove, not slaughtered, just overwhelmed by the whole ordeal. But this brings the brutality to a new level. No living being should be subjected to such immense suffering.
“The hunters have always claimed that their killing method (pithing) is a very humane one. They also claim that they have respect for these animals that give life to their village. This drive proves both of these claims to be false. Hunters kicks young calves before they were dumped back at sea, alone, without their mothers. An adult melon-headed whale was dragged alive to the butcher’s house, drowning as it struggled. In no country would this be considered humane.” ~ Tim Burns
As we left Takababe hill, still stunned, we worried. Melon-headed whales often travel in very large pods, from 100’s to 1000’s. Not knowing if this was an entire pod or part of an even larger pod, we worried about what tomorrow will bring, what each day will bring. Dolphin Project will be on the ground in Taiji, documenting each and every day of these cruel and inhumane drive hunts until the season ends. It is so important to have eyes on the ground, exposing these slaughters and captures for the world to see. We all hope to see the day when these hunts end, permanently, and the Cove remains forever blue. When people stop buying tickets to captive dolphin shows, and pods are left to swim wild and free. Until then, we must keep fighting for the dolphins who suffer so greatly at the hands of humans.