2012 January 21-30
Taiji and Wakayama City, Japan
Wearing another hat, as a Board Director for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, On Wings of Care's "Dr. Bonny" flew to Taiji, Japan last week. We came because one of Sea Shepherd's volunteers and long-time chief engineer on Sea Shepherd's flagship the Steve Irwin was arrested and put in prison in December 16. His trial begins today, January 26, in Wakayama City. Read more about those details at seashepherd.org, including our updates and blogs and press releases about the activities in Taiji. Erwin was set up by a dolphin trainer, who lied to the police and claimed that Erwin had pushed him. Having no witnesses to disprove that, the Taiji police took Erwin into custody. It has been a horrendous case of unjust arrest, detention, and cruel isolation of Erwin from all communication with the outside world, including his own family.
Here I (Bonny) would like to share some personal thoughts with our On Wings Of Care supporters. Many of you may be unaware of Sea Shepherd's activities to protect marine life, though you may have heard about the controversial TV series Whale Wars which documents activities in Antarctica to stop illegal poaching of whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. Another activity that has received worldwide attention in the past decade is the capture and slaughter of thousands of dolphins each year off the coast of the small town of Taiji in southeastern Japan. A couple of years ago a courageous and vivid documentary titled The Cove was produced about this horror by a small group of activists from the United States. Most of the world's captive dolphins are caught from the wild, right here in Taiji. Virtually all of the dolphin meat sold freely in markets and restaurants in Japan is also caught and butchered here. I wrote the following early this morning from a borrowed computer in Wakayama City, sort of a venting to a few friends. it was hurried and is therefore stream of consciousness. But I think that all of you will understand what I am feeling and trying to convey.
Today is Thursday January 26, 2012 here in Wakayama city, Japan. Netherlands Sea Shepherd Director Dr. Street Vons, a dedicated Cove Guardian volunteer named Rex, and I came here by train from Taiji yesterday afternoon. Geert and I arrived in Taiji last Monday to see for ourselves what goes on there. We were told there had been no dolphins killed in over a week, that the seas had been too rough and the hunters had not succeeded in finding a pod that they could successfully herd into their killing cove with their noise-producing torture devices used to disorient and stress and force the dolphins into their death traps. I told them that always in my past work studying wildlife, the elusive animals always seemed to show up when I arrive. Of course while this coincidence has come true dozens of times in the past with great white sharks, elephant seals, whale sharks, sperm ahd other whales, and even land animals such as bear and cougar, I had no reason to believe that it would occur again and every reason in my heart to hope that it would not! But it did.
Within an hour of the start of their hunt that first morning of our presence, the hunters returned toward shore, banging on their ships with their noise-making poles and surrounding a large group of innocent confused, and stressed animals. We noticed two pilot whales among the 18 or so dolphins, but they got away just in time before becoming in the cove. Of the remaining, we witnessed 14 who never returned to their ocean homes or families, seven captured as slaves to go to that torture called "training," and seven others slaughtered in the spot. The Risso dolphins were kept for slaughter or slavery, while two striped dolphins were allowed to return to open water. Within an hour or so, these beautiful, intelligent sentient beings went from a morning of frolicking and feasting and freedom, to fear and frenzy, and then to freezers. Why?
The hunters say this is a grand tradition they refuse to end. They are paid handsomely by aquariums wanting live dolphin slave performers. They are also paid by those who sell dolphin meat as food to unsuspecting citizens. Unsuspecting of what? Dolphins are at the top of the marine food chain. In these waters, polluted by invisible heavy metals and other industrial byproducts brought here by natural currents, the dolphins themselves are ingesting untenable amounts of these toxins. Their health is spared somewhat because the toxins are predominantly stored in fat tissue, and dolphins have naturally high amounts of blubber. But feed dolphin meat to children, slender people, or elderly, and you might just as well inject their bloodstreams directly with these toxins. What do heavy metals do inside living bodies? They are neurotoxins, meaning they effect the entire system of communication within our bodies. They are known to cause cognitive and reproductive problems as well. Said plainly, they make you stupid, weak, and impotent, and bring with those problems a variety of other diseases.
Continued under present circumstances, this slaughter of dolphins for food is a tradition of evil. Those who promote it are poisoning the innocent people who eat it. The same is true of slaughtering whales for food. Let us not speak for the moment of the abhorrent cruelty and disrespect for fellow lifeforms on this planet, the lack of reverence for the unknown Creator of all of us. Is not the poisoning of our own people practical reason enough to cease this "tradition"? Does the government of Japan want to create a nation of dull, unhealthy, impotent people? What about the tradition of life? The tradition of nurturing children so that they grow up strong, smart, and beautiful, and remain that way until very old age? This tradition of death is insanity.
I could not volunteer for this campaign in Taiji which the Sea Shepherds call "Operation Infinite Patience." I could not witness this a second day without burning inside to find a way to stop the killing as soon as possible. I would probably wind up in prison or dead myself for destruction of property as my own frenzied reaction to the dolphins' frenzy of fear is to remove those killing boats. I am not built to witness such horror, nor to live with the anger it causes in my heart.
And here is the other quandary I have: I came here first and foremost as a human being wanting to understand the facts and the reasons why other humans choose to capture, torture, enslave and slaughter wild animals who are no threat to them. I interacted with the local people and found them courteous, gracious, kind to me. I saw them working hard at their jobs. I read their faces everywhere I went. I saw that we are far more alike than we are different. I would protect these people as ardently as I would any other innocent beings. Now I am angered by the cruel enslavement and killing of dolphins as whales but also by the grave injustice those actions are causing to these innocent people! I said "Stop killing the whales and dolphins." Now I also say "Stop poisoning your own people! Stop destroying your nation's future by poisoning your children's bodies and minds and failing to teach them to live in harmony and with respect for life."
I say no more here because typing without a keyboard is arduous, and terribly time-taking. You get my point. Can they?