We had a great turn out of people at the Japanese Consulate General’s office today in downtown Seattle. Thanks to all who came!
Once the dolphin season ended in Taiji, the hunters went on to other jobs with captive dolphins and with Japan’s coastal whaling expeditions. For the next 6 months, dolphins are largely safe except for those slaughtered at sea as opportunities arise for the whalers. The focus of the Cove Guardians moved toward other areas of Japan where close relatives of dolphins are also slaughtered in a similar scale.
However, upon arrival in Iwata Prefecture, tragedy struck the Japanese coastline when a magnitude 9.0 Earthquake triggered a tsunami which devastated a number of towns and cost thousands of lives. Nearly every Cove Guardian I know has a deep love for Japan and those who call the island nation their home. The devastation we’ve all witnessed through news reports on our televisions and computer screens at home is simply heart breaking. I want to emphasize here in this blog that we have never had a dispute with Japan or the Japanese people, only with the activities of those who slaughter cetaceans. In the event of an emergency such as this earthquake, the Cove Guardians would offer their help to a “fisherman” in need just as they would for any other person. We’re all humans. We’re all equal. We’re all important. Let’s not forget that.
After borrowing money from friends and asking for help from supporters, all of the Cove Guardians managed to purchase emergency plane tickets home with horrifying tales of their experience. Instead of attempting to tell their stories here, I’ll let them tell you themselves. I shot this video at the airport while friends and family waited to see their loved ones again.
My apologies to Michael Vos who is not shown in this video. When I shot his interview, the sound didn’t record. He should have been given just as much attention as everyone else, but unfortunately, it would have been silent video footage had I included it in this edit. Sorry Mike.
Our hearts are with the survivors of this horrible tragedy. Japan is a strong nation and will ultimately prevail, but for now we should all help in any way we can.
Please consider making a donation to the American Red Cross HERE
TEXT: donate $10 to the Red Cross International Japan Earthquake/Tsunami Relief Fund through your cell phone. Text message the word “REDCROSS” to 90999. The donation will be added to your cell phone bill.
There are other organizations if you don’t prefer Red Cross. Please be careful and research any unrecognized charities before you donate.
It seems like it was just last year that the world was exposed to the secret slaughter happening in Taiji through the film, The Cove. In fact, the story of Japan’s dolphin drives was brought to the global eye long before this film was ever even conceived by a filmmaker named Hardy Jones in 1980. Through his camera’s lens, he brought global attention to the dolphin drives happening in Iki Island and Futo, later releasing footage in his film, The Dolphin Defender. Once the secret was out, concerned people from around the planet converged upon these villages in protest until the agency responsible for Japanese fishing quotas made the dolphin drives stop.
Today, we are attempting to create the same result in Taiji, but the rules have changed since Hardy first captured those images from Iki Island and the cove in Tiaji. Today, the hunters know what happens when enough people learn of their work and they take steps to prevent that knowledge from spreading. Could it really be that their thinly veiled activities are successfully being kept a secret by simply covering them up with blue tarps? From what we can tell, it would seem so. But more importantly, these days, there’s nationalistic pride involved. Japan is not likely to change their policies on fishing due to external force on principal. They need to save face. The world really does care about marine mammals… especially whales. But no amount of “outsider influence” is likely to sway the policies or quotas set for the dolphin slaughter today.
But as modern activists, we’re a clever bunch and we continue our efforts to inform the Japanese people of the slaughter happening today in their backyard. We realize that within our collective daily struggle, there is room for caring about more than just what happens in our own lives. We know that the human capacity for caring is large enough to encompass not only our concerns for all of humanity, but also for non-humans and the world itself upon which we all live. We are keeping the issue alive until the problem is solved. One way, is through talking to average people. When not in Taiji, we are involved with speaking engagements at community centers, in front of small groups at coffee shops or within articles written for newspapers. And also by addressing lecture halls filled with students at universities.
The video embedded in this article was shot at Huxley College for the Environment and features Scott West, whom most know through his work with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and from his time in Taiji for the fall 2010 killing season. He was asked to speak due to an increasing curiosity building within the student body and faculty regarding Japan’s dolphin drives. The hall was filled to capacity. In attendance were not only westerners, but also the mixing pot of global citizens which flock to United States’ universities each year – including Japanese.
The response we received from this group of students was overwhelmingly positive. It’s obvious that these people really do care about their world and, after speaking to a few afterward, I expect some will spend much of their lives fighting alongside us to protect the environment and whats left of our dwindling wildlife population. I don’t feel that this caring attitude is limited to this one school or even to this one continent. I feel that people from around the globe really do want to make positive change regarding humanity’s impact on Earth’s ecosystems. Through organizations like Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, they can start that journey on the right path by learning the importance of first, stopping destructive human activities through direct action, then second, promoting constructive activities through education and advocacy.
One of the main issues with animal protection is the rampant attitude of “fence sitting” which comes from both sides of the debate. One side proclaims that we need harsher measures to stop the destruction as soon as possible and at any cost. The other side says we need more debates, gradual changes in regulations, and many levels of compromise before change can happen. And while the majority of both camps sit tenaciously on the fence of indecision, trying to figure out what to do next, the number of endangered species continues to follow behind the list of species driven to extinction by our inability to decide. All the while, the killers keep killing, unaware of the destruction they are passing off to their grandchildren. It is up to our current generation and the generations which follow to not leave a barren wasteland as our legacy to the future.
But we must stop the ongoing destruction before we can begin healing our world. We need the help of regular people – exactly like those seated in this classroom and those reading this text right now. People who care enough about their world… about OUR world… that they are willing to defend it. All life on our planet is interconnected and inter-reliant. Without a variety of abundant life flourishing in the oceans, life on land will wither and die. We’ve caused so much damage thus far, is it really that outrageous that we want the destruction to stop? Waiting around for someone else to fix it hasn’t worked so far.
This is my last blog entry before I leave Japan. I want to say a few things about my visit here:
I have the deepest respect for the culture and people here. Almost every local resident I’ve met was courteous and friendly with myself and the other Cove Guardians. The images you will likely not see in the news are of us making friends everywhere we go and of us being appreciated by most of the people we encounter. There’s just no story there. News broadcasters want to make this issue between the dolphin hunters and us seem grossly simple by alleging that we’re racist or that we’re somehow getting paid to be here. Neither of these insulting statements could be further from the truth.
This island nation has something wonderful which we lack in the States. An ancient history which serves to promote a deeper sense of respect between the people and the land which families have occupied for generations. A strong sense of community where cooperation is celebrated and selfishness is frowned upon. And a reverence for humbleness and serenity. I wish I could take some of the personalities I’ve encountered here back with me and show how small-town-Japan is so much different than small-town-America. I have a fondness and deep admiration for the Japanese people and I look forward to continuing to learn more about the language, culture, and society here.
As for this media-sponsored distraction that we are somehow being paid to be here. I would like to ask, who exactly is paying us? And if our presence here is to make someone rich, how would that be possible if that person is paying 40+ global citizens to spend half a year in such a remote location? If this were the case, I say that the money would run out rather quickly. None of us have made a single dime coming here. We all purchased our tickets with our personal savings, even the official Sea Shepherd representatives had to pay their own way. Future generations will enjoy the benefits of work being done by conservationists and activists today, even though historically those same activists seldom receive the respect and support they deserve. None the less, if we are successful, tomorrow’s children will have a world with rich forests, clean air, abundant wild life, and oceans teaming with a myriad of species. The future looks bleak, but we will not stop trying.
We come here to Taiji right now, and not to other parts of the world, because we have a chance of making a real difference here today. The same efforts in the Faeroe Islands, Amazon River, Russia, Iceland, South Africa, United States, or any other area where similar slaughters and exploitations happen will take much longer, and many of us are already there now. Our goal is to reduce the ocean’s death toll as quickly as possible. That’s why we are working here, at the captive dolphin capitol of the world and a place where it’s possible to make a difference.
Not because we want to “attack Japan”. That’s utterly nonsense. Japan, as a nation of people, has done nothing wrong. The “racist” remarks you will hear from time to time are nothing more than a crude device used by our opposition in an attempt to discredit our efforts. An classic and obvious smoke screen based on a complete lack of evidence. And we’ve seen this used in the past whenever there is a lack of real argument to be made.
As I walk around Katsuura and Taiji, I see many real fishermen unloading and gutting fish every day. None of the Cove Guardians have a problem with that. When you see them, they’ll smile and wave at you. They might even ask if you want to come examine the quality of their catch. But the dolphin hunters know that what they are doing is different. They know that dolphins are special. Why else would they hide their activities from the rest of the world?
Here’s my belief regarding the nets in the park: The park is owned by the nation of Japan and is a public park. Kind of like the public campgrounds you can go to in your country. They are for everyone to use and enjoy. The locals have a wink-and-a-nod relationship with local police. If the police at any time appear to favor the activists for any reason, then the fishermen will make their lives more difficult… and continue doing so long after the activists have left. So the police allow the fishermen to litter in the park by hanging privately-owned fishing gear from publicly-owned trees and fences giving the illusion that these nets are the legal* boundaries. That would be like Coca Cola stringing a bunch of those plastic 6-pack rings from the trees of your local campground. First off, who would allow such a thing?! Secondly, who would charge you with a crime if you removed the dangerous (to wildlife) garbage and put it in it’s place? My guess is that in Taiji, the police will tell you to not do it, but when asked if you’ll be arrested they’ll simply say “Just don’t do it”. We have recordings of police telling us we’ll go to prison for 3 years after committing the heinous crime of swimming at a public beach. Tarah called them on that warning and the police quickly downgraded her prison sentence to “just don’t do it”. So, if someone pulls down the nets undamaged and returns them to the fishermen, there’s no destruction and there’s no theft! Just litter removal.
Thanks to everyone who has shown support for my work in Taiji over the last 3 weeks. My resources are depleted and my personal savings is now gone, so I’m unable extend my stay. It’s with a heavy heart that I must bid farewell to a beautiful country, home to so many wonderfully delightful people, but also to 26 men who kill the ocean’s most friendly and intelligent creatures in small town, Taiji. My work continues.
To those dolphins who lost their lives during my stay: I’m so sorry we couldn’t save you… I promise you we will never stop trying!
We’re all aware that the dolphin killers spend a lot of time on the internet reading our blogs. You can almost tell who’s blog they’ve read based on their activities the following day. After seeing the images and videos which we posted online recently, the “fishermen” erected some more netting on the trails of the public parks around the cove. They think that these nets somehow keep us from seeing where they park their ghastly gutting barge. They spend so much time HIDING from view, I can only imagine how silly they feel… grown men playing hide-and-seek with a handful of activists!
This was a very tense couple of hours which I couldn’t resist livening up with some humor. But really, it’s kind of hard not to laugh seeing this circus of weirdness as they drape their fishing gear on the trees and flowers of Tsunami Park. This netting is a hazard to the safety of birds and other wildlife that live in this park. How can anyone think that WE are the “bad guys” when you see the lack of regard these fishermen have for the wild animals that call this forest home?? The worst thing we do is hold cameras and make a few jokes! Meanwhile, the fishermen are draping hazardous netting around bird habitat and leaving it there! After seeing them repeatedly toss plastic wrappers and drink bottles into the ocean while they work, it starts to makes sense. In my country, that’s called “littering”.
I’ve removed this video because it has been repeatedly stolen and re-posted by pro-whalers who continually misrepresent us as being racist and disrespectful toward Japanese culture – which we are absolutely not! Not a single racist word was uttered in this video. Every Cove Guardian I have met has been extremely fond of the Japanese people and truly in love with Japan as a nation. They only hate the activities of 26 individuals in Taiji who continue to slaughter dolphins. Not the individuals themselves and not the town of Taiji… Just the slaughter.
Anyone who knows me personally knows how much I love Japan and Japanese culture (more than American culture often times). To call me a “racist” is ignorant.
It’s necessary to point out that everyone featured in this video remained peaceful – we didn’t even raise our voices. Both sides were non-violent. Yes, both sides were frustrated with teach other, but they were also being civil and law-abiding toward each other, regardless of what anyone might say. Cove Guardians do not break Japanese law and do not harm others.
Can you also say “the hunters did not harm others”?
No you cannot… in fact they killed over a hundred sentient beings that week.
The fishermen tell the media that they give reverence and respect to the dolphins that they take from the sea. Meanwhile they herd the dolphins into a cove filled with sharp rocks where they bloody themselves in attempts to escape. They starve them for 2 or 3 days while they themselves eat dinner and breakfast in the comfort of their home. They then kill them, enslave them, tear apart their families, dump their innards into the ocean and use their severed heads as bait in lobster traps. Dolphins are little more than edible play-things to the hunters of Taiji. Mere things who never fight back, never bite, and have no concept of captivity and murder. Easy targets for the bullies who slaughter them by the thousands every year. I just don’t see the respect and reverence anywhere in this place.
On November 6th, the hunters destroyed the lives of over 100 bottlenose dolphins. About half were captured for a life of slavery in cement aquariums, the rest were slaughtered so their toxic bodily tissues can be fed to Japanese school children who don’t want to eat them.
We film these events not because we enjoy watching them… We don’t. We are here to capture this piece of history to have a record of this dark time in Japan. Also, we feel we are nearing the edge of this dark time and hopefully our images and stories will serve to remind future generations of Japanese of the ugliness done by their forefathers. And maybe by doing so we can protect the oceans of our world long after our own passing. Only a selfish person thinks solely of their own generation. We should instead think farther ahead to how the world with be seven generations from now. We are shaping the world, there is not doubt. But how we are shaping it is up to us.
I have in my hotel room a book, Sea of Slaughter, written by the Canadian author and conservationist, Farley Mowat. Within it’s pages are details of the European plight brought upon the Eastern Canadian seaboard by fishermen and hunters within the last few hundred years. And although these events are safely behind us as “history” (well… as recent as the 1970′s), we are here in Taiji seeing the same careless and selfish activities that drove countless species to extinction in the past. They’re still doing it today. Reading this book, I say to myself “If only I could go back in time and stop them”. Today, I feel as if I have been given that opportunity, but a strange reality is setting in. These ghastly evils being thrust upon our planet are difficult to prevent and the people living in this time and space are too apathetic and stubborn to do anything to stop the evil doers. When diplomatic attempts and logical reasoning fail, what are we left with?
We’re not asking the fishermen to give up their livelihood. We’re telling them that, until they find another line of work (I don’t know… like FISHING?), that we will continue to come to their little town in increasing numbers, year after year, to make them more and more miserable. We will continue to bring light to the shame which they have created for themselves and their families. We’re using direct action at the location where this crime against nature is happening while other groups use diplomacy in Tokyo where the laws are made. It’s only through our combined action that change will ever occur. If we wait to figure out a non-confrontational tactic, then we’ll die of old age before anything changed. Anyone who criticizes the Cove Guardians for what we do here doesn’t understand the situation and/or doesn’t care. Fortunately, those people are easily ignored by us, and will be ignored by history as well. Their legacy will be a pathetic story of apathy and ignorance.
The Japanese government is currently spending far more on satiating the fishermen and containing the activists than the fishermen are making off of dolphin sales. They could use a fraction of that money to help them modify their skill-sets to hunt for something other than marine mammals. They just aren’t thinking outside of their little box and they don’t want to look like we won. Those are petty reasons to continue murdering. Meanwhile, the oceans are dying at the hands of man. Anyone who doesn’t work to save the oceans is culpable for their ultimate death.
We will never stop trying. We will never back down.