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Cry of the Matriarch: A Call to End Bloody Slaughter in "The Cove"

Killing and capture of dolphins and whales continues in infamous Japan village

Still from "The Cove" which documented the slaughter of dolphins in the town of Taiji, Japan and was awardedthat awarded the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2010.Imagine this: it’s a beautiful sunny day and you are out enjoying it with your entire family- your grandparents, parents, brothers, sisters and young children. Then out of nowhere a man approaches your group and puts a gun to your back. Within moments, a gang appears and they have your entire family under siege. They kidnap you and using brutal force drive your family to a house. Once there, holding tightly onto your baby and trying to protect those you love from the grip of the kidnappers you watch in horror as your beloved mother is murdered before your eyes. As she cries out in pain, with her blood everywhere the killers turn and begin to come after you. They rip your newborn out of your hands and beat and wrestle you closer to the room where you just watched them your family. They choke you so that you can barely breathe as you struggle to get to your baby, who shakes and shivers crying out for you. You are stabbed to death as your teenage daughter is taken away where she will be locked up and become a slave. She will have to beg for food for the rest of her life. Your newborn son is taken deep into the forest and left to die alone slowly and in terror. Eventually, some hikers will come across his body, his mouth still open waiting for you to nurse him. He will die of starvation or at the jaws of predators.

Welcome to a typical day for a dolphin family in Taiji, Japan.

I recently returned from ten days in Taiji, Japan where I served as a Cove Guardian with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and witnessed this hell firsthand. I am calling on parents—and mothers in particular—to be the voice that stops the slaughter. Taiji is ground zero for the captive dolphin industry. The by-products are the remaining pod member’s bodies, who though high in mercury, are killed for their meat and sold for human consumption. Without a demand for performing dolphins these drives would simply stop. No demand, no death.

"We saw the family all clinging together and surrounding the matriarch who was for the first time powerless to save her beloved family and small offspring."

For six months out of the year in Taiji, pods of whales and dolphins are chased by banger boats that use sound to disorientate them for hours exhausting and terrifying them.

On one day, we Cove Guardians live-streamed the boats driving a pod of 27 pilot whales into the cove, with boats closing in on them, mowing over their bodies as they splashed and swam in confused, terrified circles. We saw the family all clinging together and surrounding the matriarch who was for the first time powerless to save her beloved family and small offspring. We saw her violently wrapped in a yellow tarp as killers in wetsuits wrestled her as she struggled, grunted, and heaved heavily in pain and panic.

During the process these men laughed and cheered as they tied her fin with rope, separating her from her family who fought to stay with her, finally dragging her with sadistic force into the killing Cove. Then a sound that we will never forget echoed throughout the cove—first the yelling of all the killers, loud and in unison, followed by a sound I can only liken to thunder which seemed to shake and pulsate the lookout we stood on. I remember grabbing our lead Cove Guardian Melissa Sehgal's arm and asking,"WHAT is that?!?" She knew. She said, "It's the Matriarch."

The Matriarch is the largest, most dominant member of the pilot whale family—it is she that the family looks to for everything. During the two plus hours of driving the family under the tarps, as they swam in confused circles, getting caught in the nets they moved closer to their matriarch, desperate it seemed to save her, certainly knowing their turn was next. The cove turned red as they were all stabbed to death. Then we saw one lone juvenile pod member being taken captive—doomed for a life of enslavement.  

After what seemed like an eternity the sounds of struggle stopped. With the cove now red, thirteen orphaned and confused juveniles remained. They swam tightly together and after a few hours we saw them driven out to sea—too small and "worthless" to the killers to be counted as part of their quota. The small whales have basically no chance of survival without their mother and their family.  A few days later we saw a small body washed up on the shore and we cried.

So to you—the mothers, fathers and everyone who believes in justice—I beg of you: take cruelty off your holiday plans. Never buy a ticket to a marine park and never swim with captive dolphins. Remember, ALL mothers love their children… and we ALL deserve to be free to raise them and live in peace.

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