First Lawsuit to Defend Taiji Dolphins

Action for Angel

(NOTE: This is our Media Release that we presented to the world at a press conference on Thursday, May 15th in Tokyo, Japan. — Ric O’Barry)

Australians for Dolphins and Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project have initiated legal proceedings on behalf of dolphins caught in the bloody drive hunts in Taiji, Japan, and in particular Angel, an extremely rare albino dolphin calf kept in appallingly inadequate conditions in Taiji. The Action for Angel lawsuit will, for the first time, compel the Taiji government to defend its globally-condemned dolphin hunts.

Action for Angel takes aim at the Taiji town government as the owner and operator of the Taiji Whale Museum, the aquarium that holds Angel and which brokers wild-caught dolphins from the drive hunts to aquariums in Japan and around the world. The lawsuit asserts that the Museum behaves illegally by denying entrance to dolphin welfare experts and observers on the basis of their opinion and race. This conduct is in breach of the Japanese constitution, which protects equal access to public places for all law-abiding people.







Angel was swimming in the Pacific Ocean off Taiji in January with her mother when dolphin hunters ripped her from her mother’s side and her pod. Her mother was killed in a mass slaughter so violent it made global headlines, and prompted US Ambassador Caroline Kennedy to declare the US government’s opposition to the Taiji hunts.

Angel is now a highly-valuable “freak” show on display in a tiny, filthy tank. Eyewitness’s report she floats lifelessly, or swims in small distressed circles, much of the time with her eyes closed.

“Angel is living in hell,” said world-renowned dolphin advocate and Dolphin Project director Ric O’Barry. “This one small dolphin has become a global representative of the thousands of dolphins slaughtered and captured each year in Taiji.”

Thousands of people around the world have signed the “Action for Angel” petition calling for her release into an appropriate ocean pen and a decent life.

Takashi Takano, Representative Partner of the Tokyo-based Takano Law Office said: “The Taiji Whale Museum’s conduct is an egregious violation of the Japanese constitution and deeply-held Japanese values. My clients were refused entry to a public place simply because of their appearance. We are confident we can demonstrate this in court.”


Our legal papers, presented to (but not accepted by) the Director of the Taiji Whale Museum in Taiji on May 14th.  Photo by Ric O’Barry, Director, Dolphin Project


If successful, the lawsuit will ensure access for those wishing to legally photograph and monitor the wellbeing of dolphins in aquariums in Japan.

Sarah Lucas, CEO of Australia for Dolphins and a plaintiff in the case said: “The Taiji Whale Museum tries to hide its cruel treatment of Angel in a dark indoor tank from the world’s cameras. We hope this action will open up the museum to the sunlight of public scrutiny, and bring about improvements to Angel’s living conditions.”


Local television media showed up in Taiji to film Sarah Lucas of Australians for Dolphins and Ric O’Barry, across from the entrance to the Taiji Whale Museum.  Ric and Sarah were prevented (again) from entering the Museum, but they did get to read a statement to the Museum’s Director.  Photo by Ric O’Barry, Director,


As well as addressing the conditions of captive dolphins, the lawsuit takes aim at the notorious dolphin drive hunts, which supply the aquariums.

“Action for Angel ramps up the pressure on the Taiji government to bring an end to these inhumane hunts once and for all,” said Ric O’Barry. “The Taiji Whale Museum is the government institution at the heart of the Taiji dolphin trade.”


Ric snaps a selfie in Taiji.


Watch the video of the press conference in Tokyo where our lawsuit was announced:





Action for Angel is a joint project of Australia for Dolphins and Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project.
Photos by Ric O’Barry, Dolphin



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About Ric O'Barry

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Ric O’Barry, Dolphin Project Founder & Director has worked on both sides of the captive dolphin issue, making him an invaluable asset in the efforts to end exploitation. He worked for 10 years within the dolphin captivity industry, and has spent the past 40 working against it.

In the 1960s, O’Barry was employed by the Miami Seaquarium, where he captured and trained dolphins, including the five dolphins who played the role of Flipper in the popular American TV-series of the same name. He also trained Hugo, the first orca kept in captivity east of the Mississippi. When Kathy, the dolphin who played Flipper most of the time, died in his arms, O’Barry realized that capturing dolphins and training them to perform silly tricks is simply wrong.

From that moment on, O’Barry knew what he must do with his life. On the first Earth Day, 1970, he launched a searing campaign against the multi-billion dollar dolphin captivity industry and has been going at it ever since.

Over the past 40 years, Ric O’Barry has rescued and rehabilitated dolphins in many countries around the world, including Haiti, Colombia, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Brazil, the Bahamas Islands and the United States. He is a leading voice in the fight to end brutal dolphin hunts in Japan, the Solomon Islands, the Faroe Islands, and wherever else they occur.

O’Barry has been recognized by many national and international entities for his dedicated efforts, such as being voted Huffington Post’s 2010 Most Influential Green Game Changer, and being listed on O Magazine’s 2010 Power List – Men We Admire for his “Power of Passion.” O’Barry received an Environmental Achievement Award, presented by the United States Committee for the United Nations Environmental Program. He has done countless interviews with such prestigious news programs as Larry King Live, Anderson Cooper 360, the Mike Huckabee Show, and the Oprah Winfrey Show.

His book Behind the Dolphin Smile was published in 1989; a second book, To Free A Dolphin was published in September 2000. Both of them are about his work and dedication. He is the star of the Academy Award-winning documentary The Cove and the Animal Planet television series Blood Dolphin$.

Author: Ric O'Barry


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