A fine morning last week was marred by an email forward titled “Why the sea turned red”. The content was about Dolphin massacre that happens in Faroe Islands. Since that day onwards, somewhere at the back of my head, this issue has been constantly pounding, and has left a tinge of guilt in me for belonging to the beastly race called homo sapien. On researching further into this issue, I came across a movie called The Cove – a documentary on a similar instance that is prevalent in Japan. It’s a silent horror – few people knew about it until this documentary, even the Japanese themselves unaware of the atrocity.
Richard O’Barry, a world renowned Dolphin trainer, a pioneer in the field, has been trying to bring down the industry that was built on the popularity of his show with dolphin Flipper. He has uncovered a gory practice in Japan, and pulled together a team to help him get the message to the world through this movie.
The whole issue has many dimensions to it. On one side, there is the cause for animal welfare. Ruthless captivity of Dolphins for training and dolphin shows around the world, and the “unsuitable” for shows face the fate of the unjustified death to be sold as meat in one of the world’s largest fish market. The other side is the potential for yet another breakout of the infamous Minamata disease – Mercury poisoning at it’s extreme. Dolphins are at a high level in the food chain, and since toxic substances increase in concentration as they go up the food chain, Doplhin meat contains high levels of Mercury.
The authorities in Japan turn a blind eye towards the issues. What is surprising is that there is little concern for it’s own public health, and opening the gates for another breakout of heavy metal poisoning – to the extent that Dolphin meat was introduced into the school lunch, which is compulsory for students. The well known facts of Japan’s greying demographics and very low fertility rates have also been attributed, amongst other causes, to high levels heavy metals in their food consumption, which predominantly includes seafood. Dolphin meat is also sold under the disguise of whale meat, which is considered safe by Japanese standards, thereby leading the public to innocently consume dolphin meat, on the way to their own destruction.
Why are they doing this? Well – simple – since the International Whaling Commission placed a ban on Japan’s extensive and age old whale hunting industry, the number of Dolphins and Porpoises being killed has risen drastically, and currently stands at about 23,000 of them every year.
In the recent years, Japan has been buying votes from member nations of the IWC, to repeal the whaling ban, and was successful in doing so. What is extremely amusing is the kind of arguments put forth – that Whales consume a large quantity of fish catch, and hence deplete the fisherie resources. Am yet to do some research into the current stand IWC has on the same issue. Anyway, it matters not much, because little good comes out of a bunch of sleepy leaders and delegates who just want to get their way out.
As a person who strongly believes in humane treatment of animals, I was speechless as I delved further into this issue. Dolphins for many reasons are not meant to be kept in captivity. They are very sensitive in their hearing, and excessive noise beyond their capacity can actually cause stress. Research in the past has linked many cases of mass stranding of Dolphins and other sea mammals to SONAR that is sent out during navy training. So when these poor creatures are trapped in over crowded,noisy shows, and are confined withing a limited space, though they appear like they smile forever, they actually undergo a lot of stress, causing ulcers etc. This inturn is treated by excessive drugs.
Dolphins are fast – really fast – I think upto 40 kmph , when in their natural habitat, and keeping them captive is like tying up a bird’s wings. They are intelligent and friendly – They can connect and communicate. They are no less than human beings. It was a sin in ancient times to kill one. Now, it’s like man’s here to wipe every other species on earth.
They very strong hearing ability of Dolphin is being taken advantage of in Taiji. The hunting season starts in September and goes on until March. A large number of fisherman go out into the water, and stick long metal poles into the water and bang them, thus creating a wall of sound. This causes mass stranding of dolphins in one area, and huge nets are cast immediately. Then the trainers come in to pick the good ones and take them away in boats, planes, etc to shows, aquariums and what not. Taiji is the largest exporter of Dolphins to many such places around the globe. The remaining dolphins are herded into a secluded part of the sea line, a cove where another silent torture happens. Ric O’Barry and his team trespassed the area at night and stealthily captured the bloody things happening there.
This is just one among the many horrors that plague the world today. The list is endless. It is in a way amazing to see the contrasting results of man’s sixth sense; In his capacity of being the only species to be able to think;express; act and create – all of these far superior to any other – He has come a long way in both advancement of his race and destruction of the others. The earth has been a victim of his extravagances. There will come a day when it’s time for payback. A time when nature will get it’s due.