Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Slaughter from The Cove

Sunday Feb 12th~ Taiji, Japan
Sun comes up over Taiji

  When I woke up, I had an awful feeling. I just knew... it would be a bad day. I tried to stay positive, but when the feeling is so strong...what can you do?

Our morning went on as it normally did, Tons of coffee, watch the hunters leave in their boats, go to the look out spots and keep an eye out for boats... but this was as much as we had experienced thus far. We had only been there a few days, and the boats either did not go out, or they came back in port with no dolphins. This day was different. There was activity going on that we had not seen before. Things were different, things looked bad. Today would be the day... Our lives forever changed... Our hearts would break in this place and we would leave part of it here forever...

Hunters standing around their morning fire
 On this day, the team we were on set up at The Cove. When we got there, and saw the nets up on the rocks, my heart sank...striped dolphins... No, not striped dolphins! Understand, I do not want any dolphins killed. But, when one keeps up with updates from Taiji, you learn how different dolphins often react to this hell. Striped dolphins have always haunted me... the way they throw themselves on the rocks. The fear they must feel in these moments... to want to leave their home, for the rocks, just to get away. One could never be "ready" to witness what was about to happen, how can you? As the updates came in, we prayed they would lose the pod. It seemed they were having a hard time with them from time to time, but then we heard they were passed the sea wall...the boats would be in the cove soon...

 There are no words to describe the emotions that ran through us. There is no way one can prepare for such a thing. I spoke with my team at our location. There were several meaningful conversations that happened that morning... but nothing could ready us for what was about to take place, we knew this. We both just knew we were there to do a job, and that was all we could think about. A dear friend and passed Cove Guardian had told me to use my camera as a shield...let no emotions get past the lens... and that's what I did, or tried to do.

Boats and Dolphins reach The Cove
 The sound of the banger boats filled the air, my heart was in my stomach. The sound will forever haunt us... the sound of death knocking. Time seemed to stand still, it seemed like it has hours that we stood there waiting for the first sight of the boats and the dolphins. But then, all of the sudden, a banger appeared. I felt as if someone punched me in the gut. I quickly pushed aside all emotions, and just started taking pictures. I knew that what I was about to see would haunt me. I knew I would never forget any of it, but in this moment, I was not to "feel", I was to "film".

Striped dolphins trapped in The Cove
 As the hunters pushed the dolphins closer and closer to their death, I prayed they would figure out how to get away. "If they could just break away!". But these dolphins were exhausted, you did not need to be a dolphin expert to see how tired they were. I knew it was over, but prayed something would happen. That was... until the nets closed in behind them and the cove was sealed off. Trapped! No where to go! No escaping what was about to be their death. So unfair... what had they done to deserve such a violent and horrific fate?  Earlier that morning they were a happy pod, enjoying life and their freedom. Now, they were about to be murdered. How could anyone let this happen? Why in the world do people turn their heads from this and pretend that it does not happen? The questions filled my head, and I continued to take the last pictures of these amazing souls.

Dolphins in sheer panic
 As they were pushed further and further into the cove, I braced myself for what would happen next. I knew it would happen. I knew it was only a matter of time. And just like that, the dolphins that seemed so exhausted minutes before, went from tired to terrorized! A sure panic took over. The water went crazy, as they splashed and threw themselves about trying to find a way out. They leaped out of the water, onto the rocks, anywhere they could. They would get trapped in the nets, and divers were on stand by to rip them out. It was shear chaos, and all we could do was keep filming and pray for these souls.

As the dolphins were pushed further in to the killing cove, we could no longer see what was going on. Our view was blocked by the rocks. My heart ached for the rest of my friends, who were seeing the killings from a different angle. I knew, from pictures and video, what they were seeing first hand. I hated not being with them. Anger rushed over me as the hunters screaming and laughing as they murdered these dolphins. How could one do such a thing? How could one take the life of a being that was just as intelligent, if not more intelligent, then themselves?  How can they not see how wrong this is? How could they sleep at night or look at themselves in the mirror?

Live Dolphin on Skiff
 After what seemed like an eternity, a skiff emerged from the rocks. There were only 3 hunters on it, and it seemed to look odd. As it moved further out from behind the rocks, I could see a tail was hanging out from under the tarp. And then suddenly, the tail moved... "That dolphin is alive!", I screamed. Then, on the other side of the boat, another dolphin fighting in the boat... "Those dolphins are alive!", I said again. From our view, I could not see where they went. Were they not dead yet, and on their way to the slaughterhouse alive? What was going on? We later found out that they took 3 dolphins, an adult and two juveniles,  back out to sea and dumped them back into the water. You can read more about this and see footage of the dumping of these 3 dolphins, on the Sea Shepherd Cove Guardian Updates.

Skiff full of dead dolphins
 After the skiff with the live dolphins left, another pulled out of the killing cove...this one filled with dead dolphins and five hunters sitting on top of them. You could see the side of one of the dead dolphins under the tarp. An awful feeling, knowing they were all dead. Knowing that you were one of the last to see them alive, and now you had to watch their lifeless bodies being taken away. The last skiff came a few minutes later, more dead bodies under tarps... 7 fisherman sitting on top of them, and ropes hanging from the sides... dragging the bodies those who could not fit into the boat.

 All went quite. The police boat made its exit and the cove was empty again. I looked around and felt nothing. I was numb. I could not have shed a tear if I wanted to. I went by the waters edge and just stood there for awhile. How could this have happened? I looked down and saw something shining up at me. I leaned down to see what it was... a piece of amber sea glass. It was perfect, though little. I would have thought if anything would have made me cry, it would have been this piece of sea glass... but I felt nothing. (There is a story behind the sea glass, a dear friend collects it, and I promised her I would get her a piece, if I found some. That's the very short version) I put the small piece of glass in my pocket and just looked out at the water. A place that was so beautiful, turned red and cold in less then 30 minutes. Stained... forever stained in the blood of the innocent life they take here. We stayed a bit longer, trying to process it all, and then we departed to meet up with the rest of the Cove Guardian team.

 We were in Taiji 10 days, and this would be the only slaughter we would see. On this day 34 Striped dolphins were driven into the cove. 31 were murdered and 3 were dumped back into the sea. I will never forget this day, as long as I live. It does not matter if I go back and witness 50 more slaughters. This day will forever be burnt into my soul. Branded forever in the sadness that happens in Taiji Japan. This slaughter must end. We will continue to fight for these dolphins, and will never give up. We will return to Japan next year and every year after that, until the slaughter ends!
Video of the Striped dolphin slaughter...


  1. The most touching part of this post is the line "I looked around and felt nothing". I witnessed a few slaughters and I felt nothing. It was extremely difficult for me to come to terms with this. All the other CGs got emotional about what they witnessed and I.felt.nothing.

    It was only after I got back home that it hit me full force. It has been 2 months since my return and each day, as it gets better, it also gets worse. Taiji will never leave you. Ever. It will consume you. It was the best and the worst trip of my life and I cannot wait to go back.


  2. Thank you for documenting this. You and the other Cove Guardians are amazing people.

  3. Thank you for bearing witness. Thank you for being there with them in their final moments and letting them know that all of humanity is not bad...and that there are those of us who will stand up for what we believe in...until the waters of the Cove are forever blue...

    Love you & Eric always

  4. I can't even imagine. I am so sorry, but so proud of your strength of character that you put yourself on the front line of this horror. Peace and love to you.

  5. Wow, my heart breaks as I read this poignant blog, your words seared my heart and left me envisioning the horror you witnessed, it takes strength and conviction to do what you have done. Thank You for being their in the last moments of the Dolphins life, I'm sure your presence was felt by these striped Dolphins in their last moments of life.