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article imageOp-Ed: Video: Dawn to Death — The dolphin slaughter in Taiji, Japan

By Elizabeth Batt     Nov 11, 2012 in Environment
Warning – Graphic Footage. A newly released video by sound recordist Martyn Stewart captures the Taiji dolphin drive like never before. Compiled from footage taken over three years, the film offers a gut-wrenching view of the six-month-long slaughter.
It's almost impossible to fathom the carnage to follow as 12 gleaming white drive boats leave Taiji harbor to go hunt dolphins. The serene departure of the pristine vessels is both beguiling and contradictory. These stark contrasts which echo throughout the film, are captured easily by Stewart in his newly released video: 'Dawn to Death — The dolphin slaughter in Taiji, Japan.'
A little over 28 minutes long, Stewart presented his film at this year's WhaleFest held in Brighton, UK. It had a profound effect on people and left few hearts untouched as this photo shows:
Martyn Stewart (Left)  talks to the public after the screening of his film about the Taiji dolphin d...
Martyn Stewart (Left), talks to the public after the screening of his film about the Taiji dolphin drives.
Courtesy Martyn Stewart
Stewart has been to Taiji for the past three years to document the drives. Since the release of the Academy Award-winning film The Cove, much of the slaughter itself has been hidden from view. Still, Stewart's compilation rips through the tarps that now drape the process, and lays bare the aftermath that follows.
The film's intent is to inform by following the path of the dolphin. From freedom to panic, to confinement or death, it is impossible to ignore the repeated injustices heaped onto these intelligent marine mammals by the hand of man.
At times it is hard to watch, especially when the allegedly "humane" killing is shown. As cetacean carcasses are hauled to the slaughterhouse by their tails, the weakened twitch of a fluke pierces the soul. Despite everything, "I still live" it says, and you realize that the end for this marine mammal has not yet come.
For a few of the dolphins captured — around 8% says Stewart, they are force fed or tube fed until they learn to eat dead fish. Then by using food as a motivator, they are trained and sold to captive marine facilities around the world.
Taiji dolphins have historically been globally distributed and even absorbed into entertainment shows at SeaWorld and the US Navy's Marine Mammal Program. Until this demand for dolphins in entertainment parks ceases says Stewart, the Taiji dolphin drives will continue. Every time a person buys a ticket to a dolphinarium he explains, this is what you pay for.
This year, Taiji's quota for dolphin is (according to, 2,089 total animals from seven species. The dolphin hunt — which begins September 1 and runs through March 31, has captured 295 dolphins from four different species so far this year. There still remains more than four months left in the season.
Stewart is an audio/naturalist specializing in location and field recordings, mostly for natural history documentaries. Many of his sounds have been included in over 150 feature films, radio and television, and have also found their way into CD’s books, bio-accoustic study data collection research and commissioned field work.
Stewart, who will talk about the drives on NPR Nov.19, can be found on the web at Nature, Facebook and via his YouTube Channel.
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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