Ric O’Barry, founder of The Dolphin Project and subject of the 2009 documentary The Cove, captured this troubling footage over the weekend. The Taiji dolphin drive, which occurs each fall, began this past Friday in Taiji, Japan. The dolphin drive kills more than one thousand dolphins each year for commercial purposes, while others are captured and sold to zoos and marine parks.
But many activists oppose these hunts, noting that dolphins are highly sensitive and intelligent animals. O’Barry’s footage seems to corroborate this view of dolphins. In the video, a male Risso’s dolphin that has been herded into a small enclosure throws himself onto the rocks at O’Barry’s feet in fear and despair. As O’Barry says, “This is anguish.” A throng of journalists can be seen filming the hunt, but interference is illegal and would result in arrest.
Slowly, a group of hunters makes their way over to the desperate animal and pull him toward their boat. As this happens, the animal loses all hope and begins to sink to the bottom of the water. “That dolphin’s not going to make it,” O’Barry is heard to say. “He’s given up.” Soon after these words, the dolphin disappears from sight, and the boat dispatches a diver to finish him.
The video is sparking conversations online about whether such practices should be allowed to continue, as well as broader conversations about the way humans treat animals. Some say that the dolphin hunt is a traditional Japanese practice, while others argue that the current form of hunting was developed recently and is unnecessary. According to a paper published in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, the killing method used — driving a rod into the spine of the animals — would not be permitted in a slaughterhouse.
No matter what your opinion on the hunting of dolphins, this video offers some very sobering food for thought. The defeat and death of this clearly intelligent animal is very difficult to watch and demands that we ask some questions of ourselves about our relationship with animals.