Society for the Advancement of Animal Wellbeing

- Protecting Animals and Conserving the Environment

The Taiji dolphin and Faroe Island massacres

About dolphins

This marine animal has long held a special place in the heart of humans and has appeared in Greek, Indian and other ancient mythologies as a symbol of wisdom and kindness. There are more than 33 species of marine dolphin and 4 types of river dolphin. These highly social beings travel in pods of up to 12 animals however these groups may join to form super pods of up to one thousand individuals.

They use a variety of clicks and whistles to communicate with each other as well as ultrasonic sounds for echo-location. Dolphins have also been observed to be altruistic to other species such as humans and other whales.

Much scientific study has been carried out on these intriguing creatures. Dolphin researcher Dr. Louis M. Herman from the Department of Psychology and a faculty member of the Department of Oceanography at the University of Hawaii, Manoa uses the term “cognitive cousins” to describe dolphins due to the fact that bottlenose dolphin’s cognition is at the same level of humans and great apes.

Dr. Ken Marten a dolphin research biologist gave testimony in front of the US congress and stated “The conclusion of my research is that bottlenose dolphins also appear to belong to this exclusive group of creatures whose consciousness has evolved to the level of self-awareness.”

The Taiji Massacre

There are a few countries which still take part in inhumane dolphin hunts. These countries include Brazil, Peru the Solomon Islands and Denmark in specific the Faroe Islands.

However the largest massacre of dolphins takes place in the waters surrounding Japan, where more than 20,000 of these marine mammals are killed annually. Usually these sensitive animals are harpooned with barbed spears, however a large number of dolphins are captured and murdered in a process called “drive fishing” or “oikomi” as it is known in Japanese.

Drive fishing occurs in mainly coastal towns such as Futo and Taiji. The small fishing town of Taiji lies on the tip of a peninsular that runs in to the Pacific Ocean and is home to the largest dolphin massacre on the face of the planet. During the “driving” season which runs from October to March, in this small picturesque town alone up to 2,500 dolphins are viciously hacked to death every year.



Drive fishing - How its done

The drive fishing massacre in Taiji involves the use of 13 motorized boats which are 40 foot in length. Each boat has two fishermen aboard. In the early morning the fishermen drive out to the dolphin migratory routes in search of a pod. Bottlenose, stripped, spotted or Rissos dolphins are more sought after or even pilot whales.

When they have found a pod of dolphins they will line up the boats at equal distances apart behind the dolphins facing toward the land. Next each boat places two 15 foot long metal poles in to the water. The fishermen will then bang the poles with hammers to create a deafening and hideous sound that frightens, panics and disorientates the dolphins. Each pole has a bell shaped end so as to amplify the sound and create a “sonic wall” that drives the dolphins towards a shallow cove also known as the “killing cove”. The boats keep moving closer whilst all the time banging the poles.

The dolphins, confused and disorientated swim for their lives. To gain further control over the pod, the fishermen will stab a few of the marine co-inhabitants with spears, this is done to prevent the other dolphins from trying to escape as these caring creature never leave a sick family member behind. Soon the pods which consist of adults as well as babies and mothers are confined to the cove. Next two nets are placed at the mouth of the cove so as to imprison the animals and thus seal their horrific fate.

The killing 

Some animals so stressed and shocked of their confinement will die and some pregnant females will spontaneously abort their fetus. The dolphins will then be killed in a frenzied blood filled attack, the fishermen wielding knives will try to slash the throats of these poor creatures, often missing they will repeatedly try to hack in to the dolphin’s flesh, others will use spear or pointed hooks to repeatedly stab and slice at which ever animal is closest. In pure terror these peaceful beings thrash around filling the air with whistles and screams of anguish.

 So many animals are so ferociously attacked and slaughtered in this notorious cove that the water turns red from the massive amount of blood. It takes hours before the ocean can wash away the red. Some dolphins are hoisted by their tails still alive, on to trucks to be driven to a temporary slaughter tent, where they will be butchered still fully conscious, their necks cut gapping wide as they convulse, rock and shiver from the imaginable pain and shock.

They take up to 6 minutes to die, for that entire time they shake in anguish from the excruciating pain. Yet some of these highly intelligent and friendly animals will be tied to the back of a vehicle and dragged along the road over the gravel whilst still alive, their sensitive skin is thus ripped and scrapped off.

Although the dolphins maybe slaughtered immediately some may have to wait a day or so whilst they listen to previous captures being killed and butchered. So appalling is this attack on totally unassuming and innocent fellow beings that the “killing cove” is covered with blue tarp so as to hide the atrocity from the Japanese public who surely would not stand for this kind of savagery.

In fact most Japanese are not even aware of the horrors that occur in Taiji and other locations such.


Their fate

A fully processed dolphin only fetches a meager US$600 at market so how are these cruel hunts being funded; the answer comes from aquariums that pay up to US$150,000 for live dolphins to perform at shows in zoos or other such entertainment establishments all across the globe. These animals do not fare well in captivity and often die and thus frequently need to be replaced.

The rest of the dolphins are carved up and sold for food in supermarkets, dolphin meat is also served for lunch at many Japanese schools. However scientific reports have shown that dolphin meat contains highly toxic amounts of mercury and PCBs.

In fact mercury levels in some samples of dolphin meat were 35 times higher than the safe level allowed.


The Faroe Islands (Denmark)

Another infamous and equally horrific dolphin and whale massacre takes place in Europe in a group of Islands called the Faroe Islands which are a protectorate of Denmark.

Lying in the North Atlantic halfway between Scotland and Iceland, every year thousand of extremely trusting and friendly pilot whales as well as hundreds of White sided dolphins are killed in a “so-called” hunt locally known as “grindadrap”. Pilot whales are so friendly that they have been known to approach humans out of curiosity.

The hunt begins when the first pods are spotted, a number of boats will then gather around the pod and herd them towards the shore. The distressed animals panic and when they get close enough, the locals from school children to adults wade in to the sea with hooks known as gaffs, spears as well as knives. The hooks are thrust in to the whales and dolphins to pull them on to land. Sometimes the hooks are forced in to the animals blow holes causing extreme pain and suffocation.


As these sweet natured beings are hacked at and stabbed they are hauled on to land using ropes or hooks.

Still alive they will be killed in a most vicious and deplorable manner. First, using an 18 cm long knife called a “grindkniver”, the dorsal fin is cut off then the spinal cord containing all the nerves is axed through in order to get to the main arteries. Finally the arteries are slit and the animal completely and agonizingly bleeds out.

So much blood spills out in to the sea that the entire area turns red, literally creating a bloodbath. The meat also contains toxic levels of PCBs and mercury, so much so that the number of children born on the Island with mental problems is unusually high.

So much meat is collected that the locals can not finish it and it is left to rot, even so the massacre continues.

What can we do?

So how can we stop such cruelty, the answer lies in awareness. Most people in countries with drive hunting do not know that it occurs. Tell the people you know what is happening. Alternatively you can write to your European member of parliament or even to the Japanese government. Sign on-line petitions and get informed on the facts and what’s going on. Also by adopting a compassionate plant based diet you can also promote respect for life as well as for our animal friends.

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