Trapped, tiny Taiji tank
Photo Courtesy of: James Whitlow Delano
TRAGICALLY, IT’S THE SAME every year around this time. We see the awful footage of the blood-stained waters around Taiji Cove as the Japanese commit their annual slaughter of dolphins. And whales.
Protesters risk imprisonment, Sea Shepherd does its doughty job and thousands of us hit the Retweet button on Twitter.
But the ritual killing goes on. Even though it was all so graphically exposed five years ago in the Academy Award-winning documentary The Cove.
Just when I thought nothing more could shock me about what goes on in and around Taiji in the name of culture, comes news that the burghers of Broome in our Northern Territory are complicit in this rape of nature.
I had been told that Broome and Taiji had a Sister City relationship since the 1980s because of their whaling antecedents from the early 1900s but that relationship had been suspended after the release of The Cove in 2009.
The Shire of Broome reinstated the relationship and while noting that ‘it does not condone dolphin harvesting’ it sent a delegation of councillors and community members to Taiji in 2011 and their cosy little celebrations and photo sessions (reproduced here) virtually amounted to an enthusiastic stamp of approval.
a gruesome fate
As one of my informants put it:
‘Remarkably, we do know from photographs released under freedom of information that the delegation enjoyed a performance by captive dolphins and whales. It is inconceivable that the councillors did not know that the dolphins they were watching were cruelly captured in drive hunts a few hundred metres away in Taiji’s cove, where the dolphins' family members would have met a gruesome fate. But there is no evidence the Shire of Broome raised any concerns about the dolphin trade during the trip. When asked by reporters about dolphin hunting, then Mayor Graeme Campbell said there is a "cultural and religious difference between us".’
On that trip, the intrepid Aussies toured the Taiji Whale Museum, a notorious facility responsible for selling captured dolphins to aquariums. It is not known whether they viewed the museum’s onsite dolphinarium, where dolphins are kept in small tanks so shallow they are unable to swim.
The Broome connection is important to the people of Taiji. Many emigrants from there died working in the hazardous pearling industry off Broome and the ‘spirits’ of these ancestors remain in Broome’s cemetery.
The mayor of Taiji, Kazutaka Sangen, has spoken of how his ‘emotions well up when I think of our ancestors in Broome’. After a group of school children returned from a visit to Broome, Mayor Sangen said he ‘could not stop crying’ as he read the children’s impressions of Australia.
A group called Australia For Dolphins (AFD) has launched a campaign (and a petition) demanding that Broome suspends its relationship with Taiji until it discontinues dolphin hunting completely and permanently.
AFD says: ‘The residents of Taiji, most of whom are not dolphin hunters and don’t benefit from the dolphin trade, might start to wonder about the costs for the whole town of one small industry’.
The Japanese have long held (and rightly so) the title of Vandals of the Seas but the pics released under FOI show that some of us are embarrassingly complicit.
Opponents of mindless slaughter on land and sea still, obviously, have a long way to go.