The Taiji Dolphin Hunt and Me

The Taiji Dolphin Hunt and Me
Every year from September to April, thousands of dolphins are driven into a small cove in Taiji, Japan to either be captured and sold or slaughtered.  The dolphins are herded together and pushed into the cove by using loud noises and motorboats to disorient them. Once herded together, dolphin trainers descend upon them to select “prize” dolphins who will be shipped to theme parks, aquariums, or other locations to be used for entertainment. The dolphins who are not selected by the trainers are eventually slaughtered by the hunters who spear their throats or backs. Some reports state it can take at least thirty minutes for dolphins to succumb to death when killed this way. The slaughtered dolphins are then sold for consumption in Japan. Taiji is not the only place dolphins are hunted. Dolphin hunts take place around the world, but Taiji was pushed to the forefront since the release of the documentary, The Cove


The demands for dolphins are increasing due to  the popularity of “swim with the dolphin” programs and interactive tanks at theme parks – such as  SeaWorld, Discovery Cove, and Dolphin Quest. I visited SeaWorld several times in the past and still remember my first visit to the park. I was 18 years old at the time and visited the theme park with my mother and grandmother.  I was very excited to finally be visiting SeaWorld and I could not wait to see the dolphins.   As soon as we entered the gate, I headed for the dolphin tank. At that time, it was a small, solid white tank that was maybe 30 feet deep x 30 feet wide x 60 feet long. (As of March 2015, SeaWorld was scheduled to upgrade the facilities for the dolphins over the next year.) There were so many dolphins in the tank that they could only swim in a circle. People hovered over the edge with their hands in the water, myself included, waiting for a dolphin to swim by so we could touch her/him. I remember being very conflicted at that point. I stood there, so torn between being excited to touch the dolphins and also shocked by their obviously inadequate living conditions that my eyes filled with tears. It wasn’t until a few years later and several additional trips to SeaWorld that I made the connection and realized that I was causing pain and suffering to the dolphins. Even though I was not directly causing harm, I was casting my vote to keep the park open by buying an admission ticket and spending my money in the park.

There is good news in the midst of what is a very disheartening topic. Documentaries such as The Cove, and organizations, including Sea Shepherd, have shed a global light on this issue.  Their images, reports, and videos have helped other people realize how dolphins are hunted, captured, and then either killed or held in captivity. More and more people are becoming aware of how they are connected, as I did after visiting SeaWorld, and deciding to stand against the annual dolphin hunts. reported the 2013-2014 hunting season saw the lowest number of dolphins killed.  One Green Planet mentions several reasons for the lower numbers, but includes policy changes at The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums and individual countries taking a stand against the hunts are having an impact.
These associations and government agencies are taking action, in part, due to citizen activism. They are listening to the collective voices of individuals around the world who are speaking up for the dolphins. There are still many things we can do to take action to help keep dolphins safe and in their natural environment.
We can contact purveyors of “swim with the dolphins” programs to explain that the cruelties dolphins suffer while being captured and then held in captivity (or slaughtered) is the reason we do not support these programs and are taking a stand against them.  This can also apply to zoos and aquariums. Dolphins are not the only animals who are hunted and taken from their homes.  Orcas have been captured for marine mammal parks, elephants captured from the wild are used in circuses, and many other animals are captured for entertainment purposes, hunting excursions, or sold as “exotic pets.” As long as consumers support environments and industries that use animals to entertain us, these hunts will continue.  The dilemma we face, of course, is that many of us want to visit zoos and aquariums because we LOVE animals! We do not think of these situations from the animal’s point of view – it took several visits to SeaWorld before this common disconnect became clear to me. I made a decision then not to support cruelty with my consumer dollars. We can choose not to attend these theme parks, aquariums, or zoos – and let them know why. We can also choose not to support organizations, such as Groupon, that sell discount admission tickets to the theme parks or interactive programs – making them aware of why we will no longer purchase items/tickets from their company.  We can also contact our senators and local government agencies to garner support from them regarding cruel practices against animals. A quick search on the Internet will return hundreds of places that we can contact – not forgetting to contact SeaWorld, Discovery Cove, and Dolphin Quest as mentioned above. This search will also reveal many organizations that are working towards protecting dolphins and animals and how we can help support their cause. Perhaps mention that this quick search also reveals several organizations and programs working to protect dolphins and animals?
We can use our voice to support and improve the lives of living beings who are not able to speak our language and stand up for themselves.

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