It took me months to pluck up the courage to watch The Cove. During the time I hesitated I couldn’t help but hear of it – this place where each year hundreds of dolphins are rounded up, pushed into a small inlet and butchered with long poles, the sea turning crimson around them. This was a real horror movie, and I don’t even like the ones that are made up.
I’m not sure why I eventually sat down and switched it on. It may have been the urging from other conservationists to ‘be informed’. It may have been because I felt uncomfortable about looking away. Or that I shouldn’t speak out if I didn’t know what I was talking about. But when I did look it was just as terrible as I feared. I cried for much of the movie.
Since then, it is one of the issues I cannot turn away from. I want to write about it, and talk about it. At the end of last year I visited Taiji. I spent the morning watching the fishermen go out on their daily hunt, returning empty handed. Later I was taken to visit the ‘training pools’ – small roped-off squares where dolphins are trained to become captive performers. They are starved unless they do tricks. They swallow the detritus in the pool and have hands plunged into their stomachs to pull it out. Sometimes they go mad or waste away – those dolphins disappear overnight. They have all witnessed the deaths of their pod members – who are their families, bonded from birth. Dolphins do not suffer silently, and their noises of distress and pain are much like our own.
These dolphins are all destined for the entertainment industry – to be ogled, and petted, and ‘loved’. Some go to other parts of Japan, and all over the world – if you have been to a dolphin show, you may have unknowingly seen dolphins who have been through the tragedy of the Cove.
There is a difference between witnessing distress and experiencing helplessness. I looked away at a time when I felt powerless to do anything – but now I don’t believe anyone is powerless, especially when they join forces and stand together as they do on Japan Dolphin Day. I want to use the anger and pain at what I witnessed to galvanise efforts to work for compassionate, lasting change – whether that’s through writing, supporting a cause, signing petitions, or making donations. I am learning to withstand my fears and take a closer look at things that trouble me. Already, life seems much more rewarding that way.
Over the next few days there are peaceful protests about Taiji in 93 different cities. The one in Perth is at 1pm outside the Consulate General of Japan, 111 Colin Street, please join us if you are able. You can view the events in other cities here: https://www.facebook.com/Savemistythedolphin/events
1st September is the first day of the dolphin hunting season, which runs through to March.