RIC O’BARRY’S 2012 RESOLUTION: END TAIJI SLAUGHTER
RIC O’BARRY’S 2012 RESOLUTION: END TAIJI SLAUGHTER
The godfather of dolphin activism opens up about the future of Taiji, Japan’s senseless dolphin slaughter.
By Salvatore Cardoni
December 20, 2011
On the precipice of his forty-second year at the vanguard of the dolphin abolitionist movement, Cove star Ric O’Barry has no plans of slowing down anytime soon.
“As long as we’re making progress it’s like the carrot on a stick for me,” O’Barry tells TakePart, in an exclusive interview. “It just keeps me going. And I see progress in Taiji, despite the fact that they’re still doing it, their circle is getting smaller and smaller and smaller.”
The Flipper-trainer-turned-activist’s optimism about ending Taiji, Japan’s systematic dolphin slaughter is rooted in basic math. Since 2009, when the Oscar-winning documentary The Cove, was released, the cetacean kill count at the infamous Japanese inlet has decreased every year. “It’s a lot less this year than it was last year and last year was less than the year before,” says O’Barry. “So we’re seeing progress.”
Part heist movie, part environmental expose, The Cove depicts O’Barry’s quest to expose tiny fishing village’s 50-year-old dolphin drive hunt. After luring the marine mammals from the open ocean into the notorious inlet, Taiji fishermen weed out those worth selling to aquariums in Japan and around the world. The rest are harpooned and then butchered, their mercury-laden meat sold in supermarkets.
Recently, I caught up with O’Barry for a wide-ranging discussion on all things cetacean, including his biggest 2011 dolphin regret and why he never returns to Taiji alone.
TakePart: Do you have a dolphin New Year’s resolution for 2012?
Ric O’Barry: We’re involved in so much. I’m just getting back from the Faroe Islands, and you might know about the dolphin slaughter there. Also, the Solomon Islands, and, of course, the cove in Japan is still going on. There’s also Singapore and Thailand. We’re making headway in some places, and other places it’s like banging your head against the wall.
TakePart: Do you have a personal dolphin regret for 2011?
Ric O’Barry: We wanted to stop the dolphin slaughter in Japan before it started on September 1, and we didn’t accomplish that. But we’re still working on it. I’m hoping 2012 will be the year that it finally ends.
TakePart: The film has been out for more than two years. Is there a result that continues to surprise you to this day?
Ric O’Barry: It surprised me that it hasn’t shut down Taiji’s dolphin slaughter. But it seems that there’s a deliberate attempt to keep the Japanese people from seeing the movie by the government, by the fisheries agency—a concerted effort to stop people from seeing it.
TakePart: Do you have a rough estimate of how many Japanese citizens have seen the film?
Ric O’Barry: No, just a handful of their 127 million people, which live a space the size of California. Getting them to see it is a challenge. That’s been the hard thing because the media is owned and run by the government.
TakePart: Of the 127 million citizens, there’s roughly 3,400 in Taiji. Of this, 50 are registered dolphin hunters. The numbers certainly seem to be in your favor.
Ric O’Barry: I think there is less than 50, actually, that kill dolphins. There’s 13 boats, two guys in each boat, so there’s 26 guys there who are physically killing them. Then there’s another couple dozen working in the slaughterhouse. So it’s less than 50. There are 3,444 people who live in Taiji. The vast majority of them are not involved in the slaughter. That’s one of the reasons we don’t support the boycott. Japanese people aren’t guilty. The people in Taiji aren’t guilty. It’s this small minority of people. But I think there’s a lot of pressure on those individuals now by the people in Taiji. They’re starting to look at that and see how they’re getting this worldwide negative publicity because of this small group of people. So alienating them from the rest of Japanese society is what we’re working on.
TakePart: In different interviews you’ve done since the film’s release, you’ve said that you don’t feel safe going back to Taiji alone. Is there one moment that was particularly scary?
Ric O’Barry: The mayor of Taiji had a conference. Over a hundred media came to it. I was there. The Yakuza was there—the Japanese mafia—and a man was pointing, screaming at the top of his lungs. “I’m gonna kill you,” he was saying. He’s pointing at my son who’s got a camera, and videotaping, saying: “I am gonna kill you.” And his assistant came walking down the stairs with a bag in his hand, I don’t know what was in it, but the police got him up against the wall before he could get to me. And so, you see the real danger there. I mean even the police are afraid of the Yakuza. They’re behind all of this. And once you get them into these little towns, you can’t get rid of them. So, yeah, when I go back there, I have to face these guys, and it’s the young want-to-be Yakuza guy who wants to make a name for himself that frightens me, and that’s who this guy was.
TakePart: But when you go back you’re never alone, right?
Ric O’Barry: I try not to be. There’s over a hundred police stationed there now. So that offers some protection. I have a pretty good relationship with the police, and they’ve been very fair, very professional. They’ve seen The Cove. It’s required viewing for them before they’re assigned there. So yeah, I feel somewhat protected if they’re there between me and the guys who want to kill me.
Make a Donation to help Ric O’Barry save Japan’s dolphins:
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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$.
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