Wednesday, February 15, 2012

All Your Dolphin Base Are Belong to Us

Well, this is a little different: for the next two weeks, I'm coming at you live from Taiji, Japan. I'm here as a Sea Shepherd Cove Guardian to document, and eventually end, the annual dolphin slaughter that happens here. So I'll finally be updating regularly again, but very little (if anything) will be about food and there's a good chance some of the content will be graphic and depressing as hell.

I left New York Monday afternoon, arrived in Osaka Tuesday evening and arrived in Katsuura (where we're staying) Wednesday morning. It was raining so the dolphin killers didn't go out. Hurrah! We went to Dolphin Base, where they train dolphins captured in the Cove for dolphin shows. Which brings me to my first point: PLEASE do not go to Sea World or any other dolphinariums. Many of them get their dolphins from here. The killers murder most of the dolphins straight out and set aside a certain number for captivity. Supporting people who profit from this is not cool.

The dolphins "lucky" enough to be taken to Dolphin Base are fed twice per day as part of their training. At Sea World, it looks like they perform in order to get treats. At Dolphin Base, those are their meals. They have to (sometimes literally) sing for their supper. Today, one person walked back and forth to the pens, in the cold and the rain bringing roughly one bucket of fish per dolphin, while I played the world's tiniest violin for him. Then the trainers arrived to feed (and by "feed", I mean "withhold food until they do what the trainers want") them. Before the fish could be fed to the dolphins, they had to be treated. Some of that was done out in the open, so we were able to see the trainers do things like add water from the pens to the buckets of fish. For other things, they set up a little white barricade and worked kneeling behind it.

What are they hiding?

And why are they cutting fish small enough for the dolphins to eat whole?

And why do the dolphins stay in the pens when they can leap like this?

I actually have the answer to that one: training. I suppose in other species, we'd call it brainwashing. They don't seem to remember that life extends more than a few feet beyond those pens and that they're capable of fending for themselves. So now they're not. They've become wholly dependent on their trainers. On the rare occasions that these dolphins see a live fish, remember what they're supposed to do with it and actually catch it, if these trainers see it happen, they take it away in order to make it clear that they run the show. It's depressing and disgusting.

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