This week Australia for Dolphins CEO Sarah Lucas is taking the stand in Japan, to give evidence in AFD’s Action for Angel lawsuit against the Taiji Whale Museum.
While Angel is a special dolphin, her heartbreaking story is typical of the Taiji hunts. Swimming in the Pacific Ocean with her mother, the pair were spotted by dolphin hunters and driven into the Taiji Cove. For Angel and her family, only two outcomes were possible: life in captivity, or death.
Poor Angel’s mother and family were subjected to the latter. Angel was spared only for her distinctive albino colouring – which makes her both a rarity and a profitable exhibit.
Sadly, Angel was dragged out of the ocean in heavy nets. In spite of laws prohibiting the capture of juvenile dolphins, she was bought by the Taiji Whale Museum.
In February 2014, Sarah Lucas, CEO of Australia for Dolphins, attempted to enter the Taiji Whale Museum to check on Angel’s well-being. But she was turned away at the door because of her Western appearance, as attendees held up a sign stating ‘anti-whaling supporters’ would not be permitted entry.
Sarah’s rejection from the whale museum was clearly racially motivated. Staff automatically presumed she was part of an anti-whaling campaign, purely on the basis of her appearance. Museum Vice Director Testuo Kirihata confirmed Sarah had been rejected entry, but denied there was any racial motivation. He stated all tourists are welcome to gain entry to the museum – however multiple tourists of Western appearance who were turned away from the doors of the museum will attest this simply is not true.
The behaviour demonstrates the Taiji Whale Museum does not want the condition of Angel to be documented in any way, and are using intimidation and discrimination to achieve this end.
The conduct by the museum is contrary to Japan’s Constitution, which states ‘there shall be no discrimination in political, economic or social relations because of race’, and it is on this basis AFD launched legal action against the museum in 2014.
While so far hearings into the case have been procedural in nature, this Friday the final hearing will take place in Wakayama, Japan. Sarah will take the stand to give evidence in relation to the discriminatory treatment she received at the museum.
While the legal action is concerned with protecting and maintaining fundamental rights as set out in Japan’s Constitution, the action serves a secondary function in bringing considerable public spotlight on the drive hunts, and Angel’s poor conditions. What’s more, it also places public pressure on aquariums such as the Taiji Whale Museum, who have since allowed access to anti-whaling individuals, to be transparent about the conditions in which their dolphins are held. Not only that, but it sends a clear warning to aquariums purchasing dolphins in the incredibly barbaric hunts: you cannot get away with abusing animals in the shadows.
Thank you to everyone who has stood by Angel and supported the legal case so far. Your support has made this ground-breaking legal action possible, and has helped expose a horrific act of animal cruelty. To add your support to the Action for Angel legal case, and help fund other peaceful legal actions, please consider joining Australia for Dolphins today.