In a few short weeks on September 1st, the mass annual dolphin hunts will start again in Taiji, Japan.
For six months of every year, thousands of wild dolphins are chased into a small cove. Some are killed for meat and others are sold into the aquarium trade. All are tortured and traumatised, as the world looks on in horror.
These brutal hunts were made famous in the 2009 Academy Award winning documentary The Cove. Even still, there are a lot of myths surrounding what actually goes on in the tiny coastal fishing town every year.
We’re here to debunk a few of those misconceptions, and set the record straight on what is undoubtedly one of the worst, most unthinkable acts of animal cruelty taking place in the world today.
If after reading you want to do something to end these hunts before they start again, CLICK HERE TO SIGN OUR PETITION to stop the horrific Taiji bloodbath in 2015.
Dolphin hunting myths: De-bunked
Myth one: The Taiji hunts are a “tradition”.
Some people argue that dolphin hunting is a tradition, deeply rooted in Japanese culture.
Historically speaking, dolphin hunting in Taiji is a very recent practice. According to The History of Taiji (written by the town’s council), the first recorded dolphin drive was in 1933. And it wasn’t until 1969 that the hunts were conducted on a large scale – to catch dolphins to put on display in a local “museum”.
Today, the annual Taiji dolphin hunts are a multi-million dollar industry.
The hunters use high-powered, GPS enabled boats to capture dolphins, which are sold on to aquariums and marine parks for hundreds of thousands of dollars each.
The truth is, these hunts are more about cash than culture.
Myth two: Stopping the hunts would ruin the local economy and put lots of people out of work.
Only a small handful of hunters and international brokers benefit from the Taiji hunts – and most of them don’t even live locally.
You only have to look at the killing cove car park to see that it’s a huge exaggeration to claim that these hunts support poor, struggling fishermen. The carpark is full of Porsches and Ferraris, paid for by the blood of Taiji dolphins.
So, if by ‘ruin the local economy’, you mean ‘stop that one guy from upgrading his last season Porsche to a Maserati’, then yeah, sure. That guy is going to be pretty bummed. But it’s absurd to claim that stopping the hunts would destroy the economy of the whole town.
Not only that, but the hunts actually damage the reputation of Taiji and turn away tourists. Surely, the wealth would be spread more widely and more townspeople would benefit if the dolphin hunts stopped and in their place was a thriving eco-tourism industry.
Myth three: The killing method is humane and quick.
What goes on under the tarps in Taiji would not be tolerated or permitted in any regulated slaughterhouse in the world.
Dolphins are stabbed with a metal rod aimed at their spine, before the hole is plugged with a cork. This is done so that observers can’t photograph the surrounding waters turning red with blood, gushing from the wound.
It can take up to seven painful minutes for a dolphin to suffocate after being stabbed.
Experts say the killing method used in Taiji would register at the “highest level of gross trauma, pain, and distress”. But you don’t need to be an expert to realise drowning in your own blood is a slow and agonising death.
Not only that, but before the killing begins the dolphins are essentially tortured over several days. They are violently chased into a cove, during which many drown or are chopped to pieces by propeller blades. Then the dolphins are left to starve for days at a time, while some are earmarked for sale and dragged away from their families in nets… all before the slaughtering even begins.
Myth four: People rely on the dolphin hunts for food.
If you ask a Japanese person what they think of dolphin meat, they’ll look at you like you’re straight up cray. No-one eats the stuff, and there are warehouses full of un-sellable dolphin meat in Taiji.
Apparently, it’s slimy. And it stinks. According to a one local Taiji butcher, “The stink stays on you for days, even after several baths.” We’ll take his word for it.
Stats say the demand for dolphin meat is virtually non-existent. It’s abundantly clear the meat is a by-product of the hunts, while the capture and sale of dolphins to aquariums as part of the entertainment industry is the main event.
Myth five: The hunts are necessary to supply aquariums, so people can see and appreciate dolphins, and in turn they will support animal conservation.
It’s a pretty big stretch to say watching a dolphin jump through hoops, balance beach balls on its nose, or “dance” to techno music teaches us an important lesson about conservation.
Let’s be real, when we press our faces against the glass at an aquarium or clap along to pop music as dolphins tail-walk across the water at a marine park, it’s straight up entertainment.
We want so badly to observe and be close to these amazing, intelligent animals
But at what cost? Surely, if people really love dolphins, they would rather see these animals live out their days in peace, free from pain and torture.
Besides, it’s pretty ironic to catch dolphins using some of the most inhumane methods imaginable, just to put them in a tank in order to teach people to treat them with respect, right?