Animal Emotions

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Horrific and Bloody Dolphin Massacre in Taiji in the News

The reprehensible killing of dolphins in Japan continues to be widely exposed

It's well known that thousands of dolphins are horrifically killed each year in Taiji, Japan. The Oscar winning documentary "The Cove" exposed these utterly horrific killings and an essay titled "A Veterinary and Behavioral Analysis of the Killing Methods Used in the Dolphin Drive Hunts in Taiji, Japan" by researchers and dolphin experts Andrew Butterworth, Philippa Brakes, Courtney S. Vail, and Diana Reiss has been published this week in the prestigious peer reviewed Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science. The full text of the essay can be seen here

The abstract for this article reads as follows:

Annually in Japanese waters, small cetaceans are killed in “drive hunts” with quotas set by the government of Japan. The Taiji Fishing Cooperative in Japan has published the details of a new killing method that involves cutting (transecting) the spinal cord and purports to reduce time to death. The method involves the repeated insertion of a metal rod followed by the plugging of the wound to prevent blood loss into the water. To date, a paucity of data exists regarding these methods utilized in the drive hunts. Our veterinary and behavioral analysis of video documentation of this method indicates that it does not immediately lead to death and that the time to death data provided in the description of the method, based on termination of breathing and movement, is not supported by the available video data. The method employed causes damage to the vertebral blood vessels and the vascular rete from insertion of the rod that will lead to significant hemorrhage, but this alone would not produce a rapid death in a large mammal of this type. The method induces paraplegia (paralysis of the body) and death through trauma and gradual blood loss. This killing method does not conform to the recognized requirement for “immediate insensibility” and would not be tolerated or permitted in any regulated slaughterhouse process in the developed world.

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An essay in the New York Times by Andrew Revkin summarizes this essay nicely and includes questions by Mr. Revkin and answers by Diana Reiss, one of the authors on this study. 

Clearly, the dolphins are slaughtered in utterly and unacceptably brutal ways. There is no doubt they suffer deeply and for long periods of time as they are being inhumanely killed. All in all, about 22,000 small whales, dolphins, and porpoises are slaughtered in Japanese waters in supposedly "humane" ways. This simply is not so; they are wantonly and brutally maimed and killed without any concern whatsoever for their well-being. 

Let's all work together for the dolphins: We need a good deal of patience and deep passion

I realize that some people want much more action and they want it now. They are frustrated by the slow progress that is being made on the egregious and thoroughly unethical and inhumane murder of these amazing sentient beings. However, this press is a very good and much needed move for continuing to raise awareness of what is happening in Taiji. Many people really do not know about it. I surely understand the passion of those who want more and want it now. How could anyone sit back and let this brutal slaughter go on as if it isn't really happening. It is, and countless gallons of the blood of these highly sentient beings are being spilled into the waters around Japan. Shame on those who kill the dolphins and shame on people who know about and who remain indifferent to this massacre. We all need to work together to stop the blood spills.

Those who share common goals must work for the animals and not against one another. There really is strength in numbers. For example, the frustratingly slow progress made over many years on gaining protection for chimpanzees is finally paying off (see also). A strong and unified community effort is needed to help the dolphins along and to stop this bloodthirsty, bloodcurdling bloodbath.

Patience and passion are sorely needed because the dolphins and billions of other animals need all the help they can get, and exposure like this will reach those who don't know about what is happening in Taiji and elsewhere, and it is priceless. No longer will people who read about what's happening be able to say, "Oh, I didn't know about it" and walk away as if nothing is happening.

 

 

Marc Bekoff, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

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