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article imageOp-Ed: Taiji Cove image captured by Sea Shepherd needs few words

By Elizabeth Batt     Nov 22, 2012 in Environment
Taiji - On Tuesday evening a pod of pilot whales were captured and slaughtered in the Cove. Last night, a pod of Risso's dolphins met the same fate. Amid the chaos, this powerful image was captured by a Sea Shepherd Cove Guardian.
And the camera did the talking.
As Taiji goes, it's not an especially gruesome image, but a harbinger of what is to come. It is the moment when two minds briefly touch, and the divide is too vast to traverse. It is a plea for life and a sentence of death. It is Taiji, Japan, and this is a dolphin drive.
A lone Risso s dolphin appears to plead for its life.
A lone Risso's dolphin appears to plead for its life.
Image courtesy of SSCS Cove Guardians
Few words are needed to describe the image, and indeed the interpretation of it should be your own, but there is a before and a tragic after; a back story that needs to be told.
Every year between September and March, fishermen from the tiny coastal town of Taiji, drive in pods of dolphins from the ocean and trap them in a natural inlet called the Cove. As featured in the Academy-award winning movie of the same name, after being netted, these dolphins are then slaughtered for their meat or sold to marine mammal facilities around the world.
The slaughter is brutal. Wrestled by fishermen into the shallows, a metal stake is driven into the dolphin's head. A wooden stake follows this and acts as a plug, preventing the blood from streaming out and staining the Cove scarlet. The killing method is supposed to be humane, but it isn't. Past video footage has captured flukes fluttering weakly as the alleged 'dead' dolphins are hauled to the butcher house.
This was the fate that awaited the Risso's dolphin seen in the image above. He was captured in a drive that took place yesterday, one of 9-10 cetaceans that were pushed into the shallow waters to be harvested for their meat. Cove Guardian leader Melissa Sehgal described the drive in its entirety in this now recorded Livestream.
Dolphins are large animals, so the killing is done in stages. After the terror of being driven and then trapped, these dolphins watch their pod members slaughtered in front of them. Frantic and forced to swim in their pod member's blood, they try to escape. This happened to the dolphin in the picture, one of several traumatized Risso's that became trapped in the nets last night.
As one of 464 cetaceans driven into the Cove since Sept. 1, this lone Risso's is just one animal in an established season quota of 2,089 animals. And the commanding image prevails, where words seem to fail.
For one split second a fisherman and dolphin meet eye to eye. Minds could have met here, perhaps should have touched, but this animal's pleading innocence is greeted only with steely indifference. Minutes after this image was taken, the Risso's dolphin was slaughtered.
To learn more about Taiji's annual dolphin drive, visit The entire Livestream filmed by Cove Guardian Leader Melissa Sehgal, is available for viewing at Live updates on the drives are shared daily at the SSCS Cove Guardian Facebook Page or via
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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