The Cove: Song of the Jolly Dolphin Hunters

“Hi Ho, Hi Ho

It’s off to work we go…”

Sing the jolly dolphin-hunters as they prepare their nets and put on their wet-suits, filing onto their boats in their white butcher boots.

Okay, so they probably are not exactly as jolly as I imagine them, but I find myself trying very hard not to de-humanize people who actually kill and catch dolphins for a living.

They claim that the hunt is part of their cultural tradition — a tradition that dates back to 1969?! This is officially the lamest excuse I’ve ever heard. But then, it is human nature to try to justify our actions no matter how inane or immoral they are.

Yep, it seems the dolphin hunters are all too human after all.

What’s really at stake here is arrogance and pride. The Japanese government doesn’t like Westerners telling them what to do. So they build up barricades to hide their work from prying eyes, and refuse to back down in the face of activists. The Japanese government spends millions of dollars on increased security for the fishermen of the cove.

dolphin-demonstrationThe majority of Japanese people are not at all party to dolphin killings. In fact, Taiji is an anomaly being currently the only dolphin-hunting village in Japan. Also, it seems most Japanese citizens are unaware of what is happening in Taiji, but thanks to the efforts of conservationists, word is now leaking out.

It takes a lot of guts for a Japanese citizen to stand up for dolphins. Anytime that an anti-dolphin-hunting demonstration occurs in Japan, nationalists go to that location and stage another demonstration, protesting their protest. They call the activists “hypocrites” and “unpatriotic.”

Meanwhile, in my swashbuckling headquarters, I am looking at daily reports from Ric O’Barry and his team who are monitoring the cove.

“The boats have returned with no dolphins,” reads the report from Taiji. I breathe a sigh of relief.

On other days, the report states, “Dolphins were slaughtered in the cove today.”

The dolphin hunting season usually begins in September or October and goes on until April. (“It’s dolphin hunting season… again!” sing the jolly dolphin-hunters in a show-tune-esque way as they twirl their top hats.)

Seriously, I don’t know how I’m going to make it through so many months. It’s the first time I’ve been following these reports on the hunt.  There is some hope in the fact that more and more people are finding out about the hunt and about the dangers of eating dolphin meat, which is contaminated with mercury.

“It’s the capture of the dolphins that’s the economic underpinning of the dolphin slaughter,” dolphin activist Ric O’Barry said in a recent interview, “The dolphin slaughter is not economically viable any longer. They’re only getting about $400 to $500 for a dead dolphin’s meat. I know they’re getting at least $154,000 for a live dolphin.”

O’Barry, who began his career working as a dolphin trainer, says that the best way to prevent the slaughter and capture of dolphins is to boycott dolphin shows and dolphinariums.

Cute Animal Encounters in the Wild

Last summer, I went on a swimming with dolphins experience in Cuba. From what I’ve seen there, the dolphins did not seem abused. The dolphin enclosures were spacious and located out in the middle of the ocean. There was no blaring music, no noisy crowds, and our experience with the dolphins was quite sedate. However, these dolphins were still confined and depended on the trainers for their meals.

It’s hard to tell what really goes on behind closed doors. In many dolphinariums the dolphins are starved to keep them tractable and willing to perform for their daily allowance of fish. Also, unlike the dolphins I saw in Cuba, many dolphins are kept in small, dirty, chlorinated tanks.

For those who are really into dolphins and would like to see these creatures in real life, I recommend swimming with wild dolphins adventures such as Wild Quest. Even these encounters in the wild could be problematic as sometimes dolphins are harassed too much by noisy boats, and I would recommend tours that use sail boats rather than motor boats.

So, as hard as it is for me to say this, knowing that cute animals are kind of like cocaine for me — not that I snort them, but well, you know what I mean… I pledge to only see whales and dolphins in the wild. I hope you will join me!

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5 thoughts on “The Cove: Song of the Jolly Dolphin Hunters

  1. Very interesting. I must say I’ve had a problem with zoos of all kinds for many years, so joining the pledge is easy for me! It means I never get to see so many amazing creatures for real, but I’m happier knowing they’re out there living a natural life undisturbed by me.

  2. One of my goals in life is to see whales migrate off the coast of Newfoundland. They do it every year, and there are boats that go out to meet the whales in the sea to view their majesty. I’ve seen the videos, but friends tell me it’s a once-in-a-lifetime dream. Can’t wait!

  3. I have completely stopped visiting any zoos or aquariums ever since I watched DOLPHIN COVE. I personally feel that the best way to stop this slaughter is to delivery the msgs through out Japanese rather than putting pressure from the outside. I think all animals should be seen in the wild, only !

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