Taiji: A few days ago, shortly after the hunting boats went out in search of dolphins, our team of Dolphin Project Cove Monitors saw a crane truck parked. It was obvious a dolphin transfer was going to take place. Lining the truck were coffin-like crates, commonly used by the dolphinarium industry for transporting dolphins.
Several trainers from the Taiji Whale Museum (wearing their orange t-shirts) had gathered by the dolphin cages in Moriura Bay, as did many divers in black wetsuits. There was a lot activity by the cages, and through binoculars, we could see that the trainers were force-feeding some of the dolphins. Once ended, divers entered one of the sea cages and manhandled a dolphin into a sling, lifting the mammal out of the water and attaching the sling to the side of an awaiting skiff. A total of three dolphins were transported this way across the bay.
The dolphins were lifted into the air, and hanging, remained utterly helpless and exposed to gravity. Through a hole in the fabric, we saw the dolphins’ eyes. My first thought was, “I’m so sorry”.
The entire experience must have been terrifying for them: the commotion, being wrestled into slings, then being forcefully separated from the other dolphins; the yelling of human voices, the sound of the boat motors, and the roaring sounds of the crane.
The dolphins began making high-pitched sounds, possibly calling out for one another in fear and uncertainty. They had lost everything that makes life worth living for them. Gone were their families, their vast, ocean world and the ability to swim freely. Brutally stolen from the wild, for the rest of their lives they will be forced to entertain never-ending crowds of spectators for food rewards of dead fish.
We noted that divers, nor trainers, showed any empathy whatsoever. The dolphins were going through hell and yet, to the humans facilitating this hell, this was all normal. To them, this was just another day at work. During the transfer, people drove by in their cars, quickly glancing at the crane, then moving on. In Taiji, this scenario is likely as common as crews doing roadwork, or some other construction. The dolphins were then dumped into the crates, were covered with a blue tarp and off the truck went. This was the last we saw of them.
Perhaps the dolphins were trucked to the nearby Taiji Whale Museum, perhaps somewhere else, maybe even abroad. There is no way of knowing for certain. But no matter where the dolphins end up, it’s “nowhere” for them, as their new accommodations will never provide the necessities for the life they were meant to live.
I have heard dolphin trainers refer to dolphins that are chosen for captivity during a drive hunt as “the lucky ones”. This couldn’t be further from the truth. These dolphins are doomed, sentenced to a slow death in concrete and glass tanks. Dolphin trainers will present them to paying audiences as “ambassadors of their species”. But they aren’t ambassadors at all: they are victims.
It is mind-boggling to me that anyone can treat dolphins like this. In Taiji, trainers work side-by-side with dolphin hunters, selecting the ones that fit the desired criteria. This selection process, which may last for several hours, is grueling. No words can fully describe the horror that dolphin trainers subject dolphins to as they subdue and inspect the dolphins, deciding which ones are ideal for swim programs and dolphin shows. Mothers are separated from their babies, yet their distress calls are entirely ignored. Once this process is complete, the hunters are welcome to slaughter the rest of the dolphins. Of late, dolphin hunters have driven unwanted dolphins back to sea. We suspect they are doing this because of a shortage of dolphins, hoping instead the mammals reproduce and hence, the vicious cycle can be repeated all over again, with more mammals available for the dolphinarium industry.
I have witnessed trainers help hunters kill dolphins, showing no mercy as the mammals struggled and died. These are the same trainers that will get up in front of an audience during a dolphin show and talk about how much they love dolphins.
This is the big lie that the dolphin captivity industry is based upon. And that is why we are here – to document and expose the lie. Captivity is where the big money is, and accordingly, this is where the solution lies. Without paying customers, demand for captive dolphins would drop, and the industry would have to adapt with the times, utilizing cutting-edge technology to entertain and educate, rather than brutalize and imprison live dolphins.
Together, we must end this madness.