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article imageRed letters for dolphins aims to make Japan 'see red not sea red' Special

By Elizabeth Batt     May 6, 2012 in Environment
A dolphin activist looking to raise awareness in Japan of the Taiji dolphin drives has embarked on a mission to send one million red envelopes to key figures in the Japanese government.
The red envelopes, each one representing a dolphin killed in Taiji's now infamous cove, will be sent to Japan's Prime Minister, Yoshihiko Noda, and the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, Michihiko Kano. The mass mailing, timed to coincide with Japan's 'Marine Day' on July 16, is hoping to attract coverage from the Japanese media and in turn highlight the plight of the dolphins to the country's people and its leaders.
The Red Letter Day for Dolphins campaign, whose motto is to "Make Japan see red, not sea red," is the brainchild of dolphin activist Sandy Shell. Shell told Digital Journal that she's loved dolphins since she was a little girl:
My parents used to take me out on the boat in the Gulf of Mexico just about every weekend. We saw dolphins almost every time. I also enjoyed the show Flipper on TV, which inspired me to want to be a whale or dolphin trainer at SeaWorld. Being around dolphins always gave me a lot of joy. They're so intelligent, and so willing to interact with humans.
But it didn't work out that way. Instead Shell said, through education she realized what was involved in the capturing and training of these sentient marine mammals. And the activist credits Ric O'Barry and Keith Coulbourn's book To Free a Dolphin (Renaissance Books; 2000), for helping her to appreciate "how wrong it was for dolphins to be in captivity."
Impressed by the work of dedicated organizations such as Ric O'Barry's 'Dolphin Project' and 'Save Japan Dolphins' and also by Hardy Jones of, Shell felt compelled to help, but "didn't have any money to donate." Aware of another red letter campaign used effectively years ago, Shell believed it could be something that would work for this type of protest:
I saw others who felt like I did, grieving for all the dolphins daily. I wanted it to be something that everyone could join in on, to persuade Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda how the world felt, and to stop this horrible event from ever happening again.
Shell went to work, creating a website and a Facebook page. "I designed some flyers, and I started Twittering my fingers off, trying to get someone's attention and support." That work has now garnered over 21,000 Tweets for the Saving website and earned the backing of her mentor, Ric O'Barry. O'Barry said:
Earth Island Institute’s Dolphin Project and I strongly endorse the Red Letter Day concept. We urge everyone to send a letter in a red envelope on July 1st or 2nd, 2012, to arrive in Japan in time for Marine Day in Japan on July 16th, 2012. Letters are to be sent to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries for Japan.
Marine Day, formerly known as Marine Memorial Day until 1996, is a Japanese national holiday also called 'Ocean Day' or 'Sea Day.' Held on the third Monday in July, its significance is a poignant reminder for the dolphin drives because the holiday honors the blessings of the oceans and economic prosperity of maritime Japan.
With around six weeks to go, Shell said she is hoping for "one final wave of interest, momentum and commitment, to get those letters in the mail on time" and flood the Japanese PM and Ministry of Fisheries. Hopefully, she added, "they won't know what hit them" and will heed "what people all over the world are imploring them to do: stop the killing."
Shell is also requesting help with advertising for the event. "We need big time media attention," the activist explained and "big groups involved." But more importantly, said Shell, "we need the red letters mailed on the target dates, full of the heartfelt words of people who care." Then just maybe, she added, this "tidal wave of red will get their attention."
For more information on the Red Letter Day for Dolphins, visit the website, or follow the campaign on Twitter and Facebook.
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