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article imageOp-Ed: Third pod of pilot whales driven into Taiji Cove

By Elizabeth Batt     Sep 28, 2012 in Environment
Taiji - Another pod of 20-25 pilot whales were driven into Taiji's Cove last night. Sources who witnessed the drive, said whales caught between typhoon-churned swells and fishermen's boats threw themselves onto rocks in an attempt to escape.
It was a particularly gruesome scene by all accounts said sources on the ground in Taiji, Japan. As fishermen drove in the pilot whales, the brutality of this particular drive proved too much for even veteran observers. Cove Guardian leader Melissa Sehgal who is in Taiji for Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS), wrote on her Facebook page:
Words cannot describe my emotions now as we just witnessed these pilot whales fight the strong current and killers. Whales repeatedly smashed into rocks as killers wrestled with them, the water turned bloody. One pilot whale broke net and swam into shallow beach in front of us. Beaches herself just feet in front of police. Killers and coast guard rushed into water before anyone could help her.
It was the third pod of pilot whales driven into the Cove since the season began on Sept. 1 and followed the capture of 24-26 pilot whales during the first week of the dolphin drive season, and a further 80-100 whales driven in on Sept. 13.
The majority of these animals have since been slaughtered.
Several activists on the ground in Taiji have reported that the hunts this year in the small fishing village on the coast of Japan have been relentless. The hunts, which earned recognition after the release of the Academy Award-winning documentary, The Cove, appear to have adopted a new level of depravity this season. Eyewitness reports have told of drives taking place with a level of brutality and cruelty that has left many dolphin advocates stunned and speechless.
And last night's drive, sources say, was probably one of the worst.
For one Cove Monitor with Save Japan Dolphins and one of the first Japanese nationals to ever represent the organization, taking a brave stand within her own country, was almost too much to bear:
Big pod are in cove; pilot whales. One big pilot jumped over to our beach! Fishermen ... panic and we are panicked too; I needed specialist for this, I don't know what should I do.
On the Save Japan Dolphins Cove Monitors Page, the monitor later added:
"Today was so sad and too panicked for me ... I don't want to see anymore like this ... too hard for me ..."
For Guardians and Monitors who travel to the Cove each year they are left with memories that haunt them forever. Taiji gouges the soul and leaves a festering wound that never heals. If you've never been one source tells me, you just can't understand.
It is a thankless job, but one they are compelled to return to again and again. Armed only with cameras, they document what they can, hoping to push their message through to an international media.
Year after year, the dolphin drives twist the gut of outside observers with a grip that never eases. Battling their emotions, they watch and document the slaughters hoping to spark any action against the inhumanity that occurs there for six months of the year.
For the pilot whales driven into the Cove last night, these vigilant advocates remain the only witnesses to their last few hours. These whales are just "waiting to die," writes Sandy McElhaney at CNN iReport. "Trapped between the fishermen's nets and the rocks against which they will have no protection, the whales may find themselves torn to shreds before the fishermen raise their knives," she adds.
After spending a night in the Cove, activists believe these whales only have an hour at best left. Sea Shepherd tweeted seconds ago:
Sea Shepherd ‏@SeaShepherd
Taiji: there is activity at Fishermans Union and tarps are in place. There will be a slaughter today. #Tweet4Taiji.
Meanwhile, many still fight for their right to live. "Activists around the world are calling upon the mainstream media to cover this story LIVE from Taiji," said McElhaney, "Will the media answer the call of #Media2Taiji?" she pleads.
Sadly, for half of these pilot whales it is already too late, the slaughter began around 20 minutes ago. "One pilot whale lingers outside nets," said Sea Shepherd, "Appears to be a juvenile not wanting to leave family." The remainder, battered and traumatized, were pushed back out of the cove, but it is not clear whether they have been released back to sea. Fishermen often separate the pod into manageable sizes for slaughtering.
The video above appears courtesy of sound recordist Martyn Stewart. Stewart who has been to Taiji for the past three years, documents events in Taiji through film. Stewart is an audio/naturalist specializing in location and field recordings, mostly for natural history documentaries. Many of Stewart's sounds have been included in over 150 feature films, radio and TV. The video above, is of a pilot whale shortly before being slaughtered on Sept. 16, 2012.
In a desperate attempt to escape the boats and the knife, she crashes into the jagged rocks. Heartlessly, divers are dispatched to wrestle her into submission. Tying a rope around her tail, she is dragged into the shallows and slaughtered.
Stewart captures some of the best footage to ever come out of Taiji. For more of his incredible videos, visit his YouTube page, or follow him on Facebook.
Taiji's annual dolphin drive season runs from Sept 1 through the end of March.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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