Blog | A New Slaughter of Pilot Whales in Taiji

A New Slaughter of Pilot Whales in Taiji

May 5, 2011 by Ric O'Barry, Earth Island Institute


A New Slaughter of Pilot Whales in Taiji

By Ric O’Barry

Campaign Director

Save Japan Dolphins

Earth Island Institute

Our friend Brian Barnes is in Japan and just witnessed yet another senseless slaughter of dolphins – pilot whales – in the Cove in Taiji.  Here’s his report:


The last time I came to Taiji was February 26th.  On that day, the Fishermen's Union announced an "early end to the dolphin killing season" – but they weren’t telling the whole truth!

Today I witnessed the slaughter of about 40 pilot whales. Yesterday between 50 and 80 pilot whales were in the notorious killing Cove, and the fishermen spent the day installing tarps over the Cove killing area and running nets to keep the pilot whales from escaping. 

This morning, about half of the pod including babies, mothers and entire families were dragged from the center of the Cove to the tarps and listened to each other scream in pain while they were being fatally stabbed under the tarps.  Then they were dragged out by their flukes and taken to the gutting barge, which was located near Taiji harbor. 

After they were gutted, the "banger boats" would come to the barge and drag them in groups of 5 to 10 at a time back to the Taiji slaughterhouse.

The slaughter started around 5 AM (JST) and ended around 10 AM.  I monitored the remaining pilot whales for several hours with the thought that it was "lunch time" at the slaughterhouse, and they might come back to kill the remaining pilot whales trapped in the Cove.  But I realized they had stopped for the day.  I was informed that because this is a major vacation/holiday in Japan called "Golden Week" and that there are many families visiting the area and small children who were playing on the beach.  The fishermen didn't want to kill the pilot whales in front of the children.

The remaining pilot whales behind the nets haven't eaten for at least two days.  They are exhausted and not swimming.  Instead, they are spending their final few hours spy-hopping in the Cove.  Naturally, they're frightened having just watched and listened to so many of their family members being killed right in front of them.  Without a doubt, they know what awaits them in the morning.

It is unfortunate that 26 dolphin hunters in a small town can bring such shame to an entire nation, and most of that nation doesn't even know this slaughter happens. 

Right now the nation of Japan needs the compassion of the world to help them through the aftermath of the terrible events on March 11th.  Can the leaders of Japan understand that showing compassion to dolphins, porpoises and their larger cousins, the great whales, is something the rest of the world is looking for from them?

As stated, this is a major holiday week in Japan, and there are many tourists in Taiji from the cities.  As several were walking by the Cove and stopped to look at the pilot whales, I pointed out the blood in the water to them - most of them gasped in horror when they realized what was happening.  One woman broke down into tears and began to shake.  I gave them a DVD of The Cove, translated into Japanese.  With shock upon their faces, they thanked me for the DVD and for being there for the pilot whales.

This is the kind of effort we need to repeat all over Japan.

The government of Japan should immediately pass laws to protect dolphins, porpoises and whales in their waters.  By doing so, they would be sending the world a message of compassion.


Contact the Japanese Embassy in Washington DC and urge them to stop killing dolphins and whales.  Be polite, and urge them to protect Japanese consumers from mercury poisoning from eating dangerous whale and dolphin meat.

Ambassador Ichiro FUJISAKI

2520 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.

Washington, DC 20008

Phone:  202-238-6700

Fax: 202-328-2187

Japan Information and Culture Center




Photograph of pilot whale being dragged in the Cove by Brian Barnes.


Share |
A New Slaughter of Pilot Whales in Taiji