Very glad to see a report from the New York Times on this atrocious hunt, which is inhumane in every aspect. The tactic of using fear and panic to drive these dolphins for miles and miles, all the while fighting the attempts to drive, results in a stress level that is known to kill dolphins even if they somehow manage to escape the spike on which the study focused. The cacophony of noise of the banger poles which is supplemented by the new noise in The Cove of slap paddles to create nowhere for the dolphins to go, and everywhere a wall of noise, for dolphins who have always had the free expanse of the ocean – well, please try to imagine that. The resulting terror, the panic, the parents trying to stay with children through this unEarthly experience of no escape. The driving over the dolphins with propellers once the dolphins have been corralled into ever-tightening netted circles. The individual selection and forceful removal of the pretty young from their parents and family, while their parents try to come between their young and the several loud divers in wetsuits.
The spike is what is left for the parents and older siblings and other pod members after the pretty children have been ripped away for the aquarium industry.
It is significant, though, that in the past, these fishermen from the Isana Fishermen’s Union have claimed that, even if all these methods used in the drive were inhumane, at least the killing was. Activists who have watched and heard the killings every day that they have occurred have known that the dolphins often drowned on the “ride” back from the Taiji Killing Cove to the town’s slaughterhouse because the dolphins were often merely paralyzed rather than killed by the driving of the spike. On the other hand, the young dolphins who had been selected for captivity have been observed to die on the ride back from this Cove, only because of the terror and panic of being removed from their parents and family. But it is nice to see scientists, even if at least one of them benefits from having dolphins held in captivity, finally speaking out in a peer-reviewed study about the science that laypeople have long-known as a result of observation of day after day of the six-month-long hunt.
If this means that this scientist is, at last, going to distance herself from captivity and her research on captive dolphins, so much the better. It is captivity that “drives” the Drive Hunt. Whether at the National Aquarium, the Georgia Aquarium or SeaWorld. Other countries emulate the hugely successful aquarium and marine park programs of the United States, and even though the United States aquariums have not attempted to acquire marine mammals for their shows from the wild (with the exception of the Georgia Aquarium who in 2012 submitted an application currently under review by NOAA for the import of 18 beluga whales specifically captured for the aquarium industry) since 1993, other countries make no attempt to constrain their “source” of dolphins.
Dolphins in aquariums, with few exceptions, do not live as long as those in the wild, and do so only by a regular regimen of antibiotics, antacids and even psychologically-enhancing drugs. The stress of captivity, the unnatural food and water of captivity, the small tanks (compared to the ocean, mind you), the being ripped from family units that dolphins maintain for life in the wild, and more, spell a life of misery for captive dolphins. A life that anyone who studies dolphins should know is also inhumane.
While I am grateful to the National Aquarium’s having ended the dolphin “shows” in 2012, we await the next ethical step to end their captive dolphin program, and to be part of the new age of rehabilitating all the captive dolphins for release into as much of the wild as any individual dolphin can thrive. It is time for all aquariums to recognize that our current knowledge about dolphins requires a different teaching moment for their patrons, one that would go something like this:
It is with bittersweet – but far sweeter than bitter – emotion that we announce that in order to ethically continue our position as “educators” of the public with regard to marine life, we end our captive marine mammal program. We do this because we must. We must because we know, by virtue of the past years of our involvement with dolphins and whales, that they do not belong in captivity. It is with pride that we announce our new endeavor to rehabilitate the ones we have, for so long, kept in concrete tanks so that they may have a life worth living with sea water, fresh air, tides, and the ability to once again be apex predators, something that these sentient creatures deserve merely by drawing breath.
We activists work for that day and see it in our collective minds’ eye, every day.
End captivity, including keeping them as lab rats, and the hunt, and all its inhumane methods, will likewise end.
But as long as the hunt exists, continue to oppose it. Expose the aquariums and those who pay money to go to aquariums as those who keep this killing machine running. Register now to stand, on September 1, with others in your city or town or village or hamlet, and be part of a worldwide demonstration to end the Taiji Drive Hunt.