Dolphin Buyers Change Cove’s Calendar to Distance Selves from Taiji Slaughter


 In Taiji, Japan, dolphin buyers hide behind separate ‘herding exercises’ for live captures. Critics call it a PR move that doesn’t exonerate financial support of the slaughter.

In recent years, the dolphin drives that corral hundreds of animals into the cove in Taiji, Japan, have been separated into two phases. The first occurs in early September, when bottlenose dolphins are captured alive for sale to aquariums, but none are slaughtered. This is followed by the regular season of massacre, which lasts until April, when a mixture of dolphins and small whales is butchered in the crimson waters of the infamous inlet.

The bottlenose “herding exercise” period was carved out of the regular killing calendar at the request of aquariums and theme parks around the world, which pay top dollar for captured dolphins but don’t want to be tainted by the moral stench of the slaughter. (Although no bottlenose dolphins are killed in September, many other species are.) Previously, buyers would inspect the catch, selecting the youngest and/or cutest animals for purchase, while the rest of the pod was brutally dispatched with spears and knives.

Now, with two separate types of drives, one for bottlenose capture, the other for slaughter, industry leaders believe they can distance themselves from the bloody part, even condemning the fishermen for killing dolphins from one side of their mouths, while still placing orders for new animals from the other.

Many of the dolphins will remain in Japan, where more than half of the nearly 100 aquariums have dolphins on display. Most of the other animals will be flown to facilities in countries such as Dubai, South Korea, China, Iran, Egypt, Vietnam, the Philippines and Turkey.

Staging separate “capture” drives before the bloodshed allows the industry to claim the high ground—and the bragging rights, so to speak—that no animals were harmed in the taking of their dolphins.

But critics say that doesn’t get them off the hook. Activists have long contended that the only thing keeping the bloody “tradition” alive is the infusion of cold, hard cash from Japanese and foreign aquariums, whose representatives descend on the site each season to buy dolphins for their “collections,” at prices reaching $150,000 apiece or more.

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About David Kirby

DAVID KIRBY is the author of 'Evidence of Harm,' which was a New York Times bestseller, winner of the 2005 Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) award for best book, and a finalist for the New York Public Library Helen Bernstein Award for Excellence in Journalism, and 'Animal Factory,' an acclaimed investigation into the environmental impact of factory farms which NPR compared to Upton Sinclair’s classic work 'The Jungle.' His latest book, 'Death at SeaWorld,' was previewed by Library Journal, which wrote: “Lives are at stake here, and Kirby can be trusted to tell the story, having won a passel of awards for his investigate work.” Booklist called the book “gripping” and “hard to put down.”
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