By Hans Peter Roth
Journalist and Cove Monitor
At a meeting on Friday, March 28th, the Director of WAZA pledged to hold a meeting with JAZA and 168 Japanese non-governmental organizations about the Taiji dolphin drive hunts. “Without today’s demo and historic meeting, this proposal would never have happened,” stated Ric O’Barry, Director of the Dolphin Project. “The JAZA/WAZA/NGO meeting is to take place before the annual drive hunt begins in September.”
The demonstration and meeting took place at the head office of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) in Gland, Switzerland. OceanCare President Sigrid Lüber, dolphin activist and star of The Cove Ric O’Barry, Daniel Jost who organized the demonstration, as well as Sakae Hemmi of Elsa Nature Conservancy of Japan demanded during a private meeting with the director of WAZA, Dr. Gerald Dick and his lawyer, the expulsion of WAZA’s member association, the Japanese Association of Zoos & Aquariums (JAZA).
The village of Gland on the shores of Lake Geneva and the Japanese fishing village of Taiji are fatefully connected: “In Gland a decision must be taken that will eventually phase out the brutal drive hunts of Taiji,“ OceanCare President Sigrid Lüber had said ahead of the important meeting.
With his environmental thriller The Cove, which won the Oscar four years ago for Best Documentary, the former dolphin trainer for theFlipper series Ric O‘Barry, now an animal activist, revealed how ruthlessly JAZA continuously violates WAZA’s Code of Ethics and Animal Welfare. The Code forbids all of WAZA’s members to purchase dolphins caught in the Taiji dolphin drive hunts. Nonetheless, the Taiji Whale Museum, a member of JAZA and the world’s largest live dolphin broker, sells the most picture-perfect animals to an array of international dolphinarium representatives, before the less beautiful pod members are slaughtered in a violent blood bath.
Japan’s shame is dismissed by the Japanese government as “tradition” and “culture”. Yet in actual fact, the underlying motive for the hunts is of a financial nature: Up to $154,000 US are paid for a live trained dolphin from Taiji, which will bring its buyer around a million dollars during its short lifetime in a dolphinarium.
“The dolphinarium industry is what is driving the Taiji slaughter,” says Sigrid Lüber. Moreover: Sakae Hemmi of Elsa Nature Conservancy puts the issue straight: “The drive hunts of Taiji are neither tradition nor culture.“ Ms. Hemmi asked WAZA to acknowledge this in the name of 168 Japanese NGOs. Furthermore, she handed WAZA Director Gerald Dick the corresponding petition, with the demand to expel JAZA from the WAZA organization. More than 140,000 people have signed the petition.
“To expel JAZA from our organization would not solve any problems,” Dr. Gerald Dick replied. “To the contrary, any form of influence through contact and dialog would be suppressed.” Rather, he felt it would be desirable and he sees a good chance for the agreement of a special meeting before September 1st, between Gerald Dick, Shigeyuki Yamamoto of JAZA, as well as Sakae Hemmi representing numerous Japanese NGOs, “to discuss goal-oriented solutions for the Taiji drive hunts.”
Sakae Hemmi and Sigrid Lüber very much endorse this step, agreed upon in the final minutes of the Gland meeting. They hope that a further encounter in Japan between WAZA, JAZA and ELSA before the beginning of the next season, would be “a first important step on the path to abolishing the shame of Taiji.”
This graph, prepared by the Elsa Nature Conservancy of Japan, shows the numbers of dolphins that are being killed from year to year in Japan (Blue Line – Left Vertical Axis) with the number being kept for captivity (Green Line – Right Vertical Axis). The yellow line shows the mean rise in captivity captures of dolphins. Virtually all dolphins being caught for captivity in Japan are caught in the Taiji dolphin drive hunts.
Ric O’Barry agrees: “Sakae Hemmi and the Elsa Nature Conservancy of Japan has been in the forefront of efforts in Japan to stop the dolphin hunts for many years. She knows the issue thoroughly, and the JAZA representatives will not be able to mislead her or distract her with the myths and excuses the Japanese government uses with outside organizations. This could be a very important meeting for the dolphins.”
Photo of WAZA Demonstrators by Viktoria Kirchhoff.