Road to Taiji: Why We Are Here
By Ric O’Barry
I’ve come back to Japan, heading for Taiji for the beginning of the dolphin season of slaughter, which officially begins on Sept. 1st this coming week.
Why am I here? One of main reasons is to keep the spotlight on Taiji and the hunts, so the whole world can know what goes on.
On Friday, I did an interview with Associated Press. I am including that whole article here, as it says what I want all the people of Japan to hear:
‘Cove’ Star Urges Dolphin-Watching, Not Killing
By YURI KAGEYAMA Associated Press
TOKYO August 26, 2011
The star of the Oscar-winning movie about dolphin-killing in Japan had only praise for a small island off the eastern coast that thrives on snorkeling with dolphins, and he urged the rest of the country to follow that example.
Ric O’Barry was heading to Taji, the southwestern town made notorious in the documentary “The Cove,” where the annual dolphin hunt is set to start Sept. 1. But he stopped along the way at the island of Miyakejima for a look at how dolphins can be spared and used for tourism.
“It’s very encouraging to see people celebrating dolphins, respecting dolphins, and I’m all for that,” O’Barry said Friday. “We support them all the way.”
Chikara Atsuta, an official with the tourism agency at Miyakejima, said he welcomed O’Barry’s praise, and expressed hopes more people from abroad would visit the island of 2,700 people, 180 kilometers (110 miles) south of Tokyo.
“I feel so grateful,” he said. “We do not hunt dolphins.”
Miyakejima’s dolphins live in the area so residents have even given them names. In contrast, dolphins are migratory in Taiji and so the same kind of dolphin-watching would be difficult to duplicate.
But O’Barry urged Taiji to turn to whale-watching and other forms of tourism that are kinder to animal life.
O’Barry said he will lead a prayer ceremony in Taiji for people who have died in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami disaster and for the dolphins about to die in the hunt. He is traveling by bus with two dozen people who are all dolphin-lovers, he said.
Wakayama Prefectural police have said some 100 riot police are carrying out drills to prepare for possible confrontation with activists as the annual dolphin hunts begins, including chasing boats and making arrests.
Members of conservationist group Sea Shepherd have carried out protests and tried to set captured dolphins free. But O’Barry and his team, who visit Taiji regularly, have not engaged in violent behavior.
O’Barry was an expert at training dolphins, such as the ones for the 1960s “Flipper” TV series, until he had a change of heart and instead devoted his life to saving dolphins.
Japan, which defends its dolphin hunt as part of culinary culture, allows about 20,000 dolphins to be caught each year, but very few Japanese have ever eaten dolphin.
Only about 2,000 dolphins are caught in Taiji every year. But the slaughter, as captured in “The Cove,” directed by Louie Psihoyos, is so striking that the town has become synonymous with the practice.
In that film, fishermen on boats scare dolphins into a small cove and bayonet them. The dolphins writhe in pain and turn the waters red with blood.
“We come in peace,” O’Barry told The Associated Press. “We come here to support the economy. We are spending our money.”
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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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