Monday, 17 December 2012

101 Damnations

This is my first post as a Sea Shepherd Cove Guardian, having been in Taiji, Japan for just over 24 hours, partnering my very best friend Anna as a team from Scotland in support of this most important campaign.

It has been one of the most emotional full days of my life so far, and I do mean full!.

I had to laugh when I logged onto Facebook this evening and it asked me to review what it thought were "my" top 20 highlights of 2012. There can be little doubt after today's events that my top 20 most memorable events of 2012 will now happen during the next 2 weeks.

No one comes to Taiji under any illusion that it will be a holiday and that was particularly true for Anna and myself having had the benefit of first class briefings on what was happening and what to expect during the first day or so. We also had the benefit of excellent reporting on the Cove Guardians' Facebook Page and knew that in the few days before our arrival somewhere in the region of 200 bottlenose dolphins (the "Flipper" dolphins most prized by the captive facilities) had been hunted and driven into the Cove to await an uncertain fate.

We were told that dolphins netted into the Cove means we should expect one of 3 things: either capture and processing into a life of captivity performing tricks for the entertainment of the unaware, or, just as bad, slaughter to turn beautiful life into unwanted meat or, hope against hope, we might see them being released back into the wild from which they were stolen in the first place.

Today we experience all 3 and I am feeling completely wrung out.

Let me pause for a moment and tell you our experience of the Japanese people since arriving in Osaka and travelling South to Wakayama Prefecture - most famous for the Nachi Waterfall at Kii-Katsuura, a ten minute drive from where we are staying during our sojourn in this part of the World.

I only mention that because people seem to know all about the waterfall and lots of people have recommended that we visit it but nobody knows about Taiji and they find it hard to believe when we tell them.

Regarding the Japanese, we had been told to expect hostility from the outset. We had been told that, "[They] are cruel and callous."  We had been told that they hated foreigners. We had been told that they especially hated Sea Shepherd. None of this came from Sea Shepherd sources of course and I am not surprised because none of it was true.

Without exception we have been met with friendly smiles, pleasantries and courtesy of the sort that makes you feel so uncomfortable because you know you have never been as gracious to perfect strangers as the grace and dignity being offered to you. We have received gifts twice already as random acts of kindness from complete strangers in a land where gift giving is imbued with the greatest significance. We have seen hard-work and effort, courage and citizenship to the highest degree. We have even had our first interview with the police by torchlight on a cold and windy dockside in the small hours of the morning and that interview ended with smiles and laughter and best wishes for the day ahead.

I love Japan and I love her people. Well, almost all of Japan and almost all of her people, there is, after all, still the issue of Taiji and the Dolphin Drive Hunts. Not tradition, just a bloody, an oh so very bloody, excuse for extreme profit from extreme disregard of the difference between right and wrong. Not a Japanese trait, not an any nation trait, just a sad and all too common trait amongst evil, selfish and greedy men the World over, in this case they just happen to be in this country where I am still just a temporary visitor.

The evil men (and women) capturing and killing dolphins in Taiji have surpassed themselves in diabolical design this week, cynically attempting to win a propaganda coup with the release back into the wild of between 80 and 100 dolphins, perhaps hoping that no-one would notice the 23 bottlenose dolphins which earlier today they slaughtered for meat.

The full tally for the last week was 25 beautiful dolphins which transferred to the butcher's slab when you add the 2 which had earlier died by horrible drowning trapped in the nets of the Cove.

Most dreadful of all though has been the total of 101 bottlenose dolphins sold into captivity.

101 Damnations

Let me go straight back to the wonderful Japanese people we have met. Kind, generous, hard-working - extremely hard working - and, like kind, generous, extremely hard-working people the world over earning just about enough to cover the bills with not a lot left over.

Contrast them with the wealth that is now plainly evident to me as I have been moving around Taiji today and consider that 101 captured and sold into slavery dolphins could represent as much as $1 million per day for each of 6 days work and that will be shared amongst just 30 or so men and women.

I will be returning to the theme of captive dolphins a lot over the next few weeks because in just 1 single day here it has become crystal clear to me that the dolphinarium industry is THE problem at Taiji, not any kind of "traditional" indigenous means of putting food on the table for an otherwise starving family. That isn't and they are not.

I also need to get my head round the dolphin trainers - men and women from all over Japan and beyond who stood by watching whilst 23 dolphins were ruthlessly, bloodily and noisily slaughtered.

Dolphin trainers who then dragged their own live prizes through the blood fouled waters to start earning a return on their investment in the marine parks which paid their expenses for this mission of evil.

I can't write about that at the moment, I am still too shocked at their calculated refusal to acknowledge any sort of moral responsibility by the very act of participation in a bloodbath such as the one we were forced to witness.

Following today's events my emotions are still all over the place but I am trying so desperately hard to bottle my anger at the theft from their families and from the wild of those 101 dolphins, temper my rage at the cold-blooded and wholly unnecessary murder of 23 dolphins from that same family, suppress my fury at the pointless and avoidable deaths of 2 more members of that dolphin family in the nets which were used to hold them all in the killing Cove and instead try to ignite the spark of comfort from the remaining 80 or so dolphins who we saw swim to freedom this afternoon.

I think that is the happy thought I would like to end this blog on today.

Thank you all for reading, thank you all for your support.