Friday, 21 December 2012

New Traditions are NOT Traditional

This blog should have been written 24 hours ago but I couldn't see the keyboard for tears.

Yes, it does say Glaswegian at the top of my blog. Yes, I am tough. But I'm not tough enough to see mums and babies being driven into a killing zone; I'm not tough enough to hear the death throes of those same mums and babies being slaughtered directly below our vantage point; I'm not tough enough to then hear the bodies of those mums and babies being loaded into the killers' barges; I'm not tough enough to see the bodies of those mums and babies under the tarpaulins as the barges emerge into plain view; and I'm not tough enough to see the meat sale after those mums and babies have been delivered to the butchering shed in Taiji town. I'm not tough enough to experience all of that without emotion. So I cried.

I'm not ashamed and I'm damn sure not going to apologise even though I am clearly not as tough as the big, brave, hard, macho men of the Taiji Fishermen's Union who laughed and joked as they slaughtered those mums and babies.

I am not as tough as the male and female dolphin trainers from the Taiji Whale Museum who were present throughout the slaughter and who I am convinced are aiding and abetting some kind of grand scale "dolphin laundering" so that the captive industry can claim that "their" dolphins did not come from Taiji.

I am not as tough as those trainers who must have known what the outcome was going to be when they decided not to purchase any of those dolphins for their captive dolphin slave trade.

I am not as tough as the trainers who watched the barges being loaded with the bodies

I am not as tough as those trainers who then rode the same barges back to Taiji harbour with the killers and disembarked at the butchering shed calmly walking past the bodies of those mums and babies who they had condemned to slaughter and had seen transported a matter of minutes earlier.

I never want to be that tough.

I am not weak though and I am aware that the more my heart aches, the stronger my resolve is becoming. I have faced significant physical challenges and many moral tests in my life, this is simply a mental challenge without any moral test whatsoever. You see, I already know the difference between right and wrong and what I saw yesterday was as wrong as it is possible to be.

Let me describe Thursday 20th December 2012 in Taiji to you.

The banger boats left as normal at first light and scattered to the horizon in search of dolphins.

We now know that they had a specific order for the live capture of at least one striped dolphin (Stenella Coeruleoalba), a beautiful animal: sleek, graceful, fast.

Within a couple of hours they were back in view, clearly in drive formation: they had found their prey and were chasing it back towards the killing cove.

From around 5 miles out we could see through our long-range lenses that they had found a very large pod and waited in fear lest they had found another super-pod of 200+ bottlenose dolphins as had happened last week. (See the chilling end to that horrible capture in my last blog 101 Damnations.)

The tell-tale puffs of black smoke appeared as killers on the helm slapped engines from full ahead to full astern and back again, chasing the pod and creating walls of sound to drive the dolphins ever onward to their certain doom.

Whether by accident or design, by the time they got closer we could see that the pod had split, a large group ahead of the southernmost banger boats and a smaller group seeming to draw the hunters close attention at the Cove end of the line of death.

With more experienced Cove Guardians amongst us we were warned not to rejoice too quickly when we saw that one of the groups had escaped. These hunters were not chasing for food, as they claim they have been doing traditionally for centuries even though the dolphin drive hunt was never a tradition, indeed as practiced by the Taiji dolphin killers it would be impossible without modern technology, powerful engines and long-range communications equipment.

No, these hunters were chasing the big cash prize - live dolphins for sale to the entertainment industry. Live dolphins to be sold into a life of slavery, made to dance for and swim with human parents and children who must not know the horror which produced that experience for them and the ongoing misery which accompanies it.

Surely no parent could allow their children to participate in this international web of death and exploitation firmly tied to the evils of Taiji if they were aware of the evils of Taiji, could they?

Could you? Could you still give money to dolphinariums now that you know what is going on?

The boats got closer and closer and eventually we were able to identify their intended victims: a group of around 25 to 35 striped dolphins many of which were very young juveniles.

The murderers drove them ever onwards, no longer needing to hammer the metal tubes which produce that sickening taung, taung, taung, taung sound interfering with dolphin senses, stopping them communicating and chasing them to harm. Instead they were now throwing slap-sticks from the smaller skiffs which had joined the banger boats.

And so the pattern continued all the way into the killing cove where we watched them drop net after net to confine them ever closer to the beach, hidden from our cameras under tarpaulins erected each morning in anticipation of a capture.

So desperate are the authorities to keep us from viewing what is going on and exposing it to a still mostly unaware World that they commit a Coastguard cutter to the operation as well as an onshore police deployment which would not be unimpressive at a full scale riot involving an aggressive mob of hundreds.

All this to monitor our slack handful of vegan pacifists armed with nothing more deadly than a camera, carrying nothing more offensive than a bottle of water and a packed lunch.

We don't break laws here but it is very obvious that no-one has any fear of us breaking any laws, they are just terrified that we get the one picture which horrifies the World into action.

The Taiji fishermen know that if the World becomes fully aware of what is happening here that they will be forced to stop. They also know that, like Governments the World over, the Japanese Government is scared to stand up to them, a minority for sure, but a powerful and vociferous minority in the fishing community.

These men are the controlling kingpins who have the biggest boats, the biggest houses, the most expensive cars and the greatest unfair influence on how funds are distributed amongst a community which claims to offer fairness to all who go to sea but which patently fails to deliver on that promise. These men pander to the captive entertainment industry who are the main source of BIG income for them, not the dolphin meat sales which they claim as their "traditional" raison d'ĂȘtre.

I don't have that iconic image yet but if a picture paints a thousand words then I hope and pray that my thousand words paint a picture and that you will share them far and wide. Share them with anyone you think does not yet know about this. Share them especially with any Japanese friends you have because even a few miles away we are aware that Japanese people are simply unaware, they just do not know what is being permitted in their name.

But we are aware, and, like my fellow Cove Guardians I already have impressions of the most awful horror represented by images like this:

When the dolphins were eventually brought all the way into the Cove and herded under the tarps, we were told that the trainers from the Taiji Whale Museum had rejected them all as unsuitable for their dolphinarium. Very simply, the babies were too young to survive without their mothers and the mothers were no use to these evil people.

So the slaughter began. Their way of dealing death is by using a spike t-bar to stab through the dolphins spine. The death throes are lengthy and horrific to listen to. Again and again and again.

The photo above shows the last dolphin which tried to escape that slaughter by throwing herself onto the rocks lining the cove. She was dragged off and sent back to her death.

This photo shows a youngster leading a mum and two babies from the same family group and was taken less than 10 minutes before that slaughter began, less than 20 feet from where that slaughter took place. There was no escape, there was no mercy. They were not wanted by the dolphinarium so the fishermen had to kill them.

These evil men could not let them go or else people would question their "traditional hunting to feed their families," although no-one seems to question why so many of the actual "fish" fishermen in this town are having to scratch a desperately poor living while the dolphin salesmen get rich beside them.

Despite the horrors of Taiji I am nevertheless falling in love with the rest of Japan. It is a beautiful country and her people are mostly wonderful, friendly, warm-hearted and generous. She also has the most magnificent diversity of marine wildlife and the scenery has to be seen to be believed.

Taiji is a problem though. It must be one of the few regional main fishing ports in the World which doesn't feature in any published English language tourist guide books.

That is insane given the hotels in the town and the potential of this area to compete with the best wildlife tourist resorts in the World. Taiji's negative impact on the entire prefecture, indeed on the entire Kii peninsula cannot be ignored either; nobody wants to be tainted by association with what is happening here but everybody is. So we see a familiar pattern again, a few wealthy men become even more wealthy and the majority have to offset the cost of that wealth with undeserved damage to their own reputations and the obvious impact on their own earnings.

If like me you think this is wrong. If like me you think that killing dolphins in the 21st Century is blatantly wrong. If like me you think this needs to stop then please encourage everybody you know to read this blog and to visit these links:

Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians on Facebook Cove Guardians Page (Official)

Cove Guardians on Sea Shepherd Web Taiji Dolphin Defense Campaign

New traditions are NOT traditional. They are changeable. Changeable for the better.

Thank you for reading.


Apparently the 20th December was International Human Solidarity Day. Not sure what that meant for the rest of the World exactly but I damn sure didn't experience any solidarity whatsoever with the malicious dolphin killers here in Taiji. There are a growing number of wonderful Japanese people who I do feel solidarity with, some of them even in Taiji, but they are people with whom I have a strong common bond - like me, they detest the killing. Like me, they want it to stop as well. Please help their voices be heard.