Vegan FTA Japan’s Yuko Kubo shares her heartbreaking eyewitness account of dolphin hunting in Taiji

Every year from September through to March, local fishermen in the small Japanese town of Taiji depart to the ocean to hunt dolphins. This practice is legal in Japan, as the local authority states on its website. Dolphins who are captured in these hunts are either sold to aquariums or killed for meat.

Taiji has less than 3000 residents and made global headlines a decade ago, thanks to the 2010 Academy Award-winning documentary film, ‘The Cove’. In October 2020, I witnessed a dolphin drive hunting there.

A fleet of 11 boats drove a pod of dolphins swimming freely in the ocean to the shallow bay, which is home to The Cove. This method involves scaring and confusing the sound-sensitive dolphins by making a ‘clanking’ noise underwater with an instrument and blocking their escape routes, forcing them to head in the direction which leads to their captivity.

From freedom to a lifetime of humiliation –or death

The dolphins, blocked by nets, were gathered in a small corner, panic-stricken, not knowing what was happening. Some of them were tiny babies. Dolphins selected to be sold to aquariums were cramped into small tanks until they would die, never to swim freely in the ocean again. The humiliation of being forced to perform tricks for the show was waiting for those who were “smarter.”

The hunters transported the dead dolphins by hanging them on the other side of the boat so they were not visible to the activists. This process used to be open to the public, so we heard. Why is it hidden now?

That morning, dolphins killed for meat were melon-headed whales. They watched their family members being killed before their eyes while waiting for their turn. The hunters -not fishermen in this case, as dolphins are mammals -sometimes laughed and chatted while removing the nets they had used to drive dolphins, and left.

After that, the Cove was as quiet as if nothing had happened. The blood that had stained the water disappeared without a trace. From Taiji town, you can see the horizon of the Pacific Ocean. I stood there for a while, unable to connect the beauty with what had just happened here.

Three ways you can help put an end to dolphin hunting:

1.) Send your voice to Wakayama Prefecture, the local authority which permits Taiji town to conduct dolphin hunting. The Inquiry Form is not meant to be for the petition, but it seems to be the only access for non-residents of Japan to access them.

2.) Sign the Dolphin Project petition to end dolphin hunting in Taiji.

3.) Take our Vegan FTA pledge not to visit aquariums and other facilities which hold wild animals captive for entertainment.

Reference: NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, September 10, 2021

Dawn at Taiji Fishing Port just before the dolphin hunting boats departed.
Hunters take advantage of this tiny hidden corner to kill dolphins.
Dolphins killed in the Cove are transported hanging on the other side of the boat to the meat factory.
Taiji Bay
Memorial stone for whales
Yuko Kubo
Yuko Kubo is a multicultural communication expert and passionate animal rights supporter. She transcreates vegan materials from English into Japanese and vice versa. Having worked in the private, academic, and public sectors, she utilizes her expertise to support people better understand veganism, which is new as a term but rooted in humanity. She believes combining veganism and philanthropy is a key to finding solutions to urgent issues we face to make the world a better place. She lives in Tokyo and longs for an opportunity to snorkel in the tropical water.