Every year, from September to April, Taiji enters into the spotlight because of the dolphin hunt carried out by fishermen and local residents; on the 1st of September 2015 the 46th dolphin slaughter has begun.
This activity started in 1969 when the Taiji Whale Museum requested for the first time a dolphin to be held in captivity in their aquarium. Since then, numerous drivers have supported this practice, including entertainment parks and the dolphin meat consumption industry.
Although only a small part of the population actually consumes dolphin meat, almost 50% of the captured animals are ultimately destined for the food industry. Consumers are not always aware of the risks associated with the consumption of dolphin meat, mostly due to the high concentration of mercury and methyl-mercury that bio-accumulates in the tissues of apex predators like dolphins, which can reach up to 2000 times higher than safe levels. Moreover, due to the decrease of whale meat consequent to their stricter protection, dolphin meat is often labelled as whale meat, which is considered more valuable.
The sale of live dolphins attracts the highest price as they can be trained for amusement parks. For instance the cost of a live dolphin can reach up to $250.000. Such a lucrative industry has proven to be difficult to control under voluntary caps or restrictions.
Adding to the controversial nature of this industry, many of the ethical and clinical health and wellbeing problems of the animals are not publicly disclosed. Indeed, there is very little knowledge of the situations and treatments those animals are subjected to. The process to captivity is composed of a number of brutal steps: firstly the selection phase takes place in the “cove” of Taiji, following the long and exhausting observation of the animal reactions; secondly, in order to force the animal to play tricks and obey the trainer, a process of starvation is carried out. The transportation method, which consists of the closure of the animal in a small wooden box with little air and water, results in a sharp peak in mortality rates. In fact, usually when the park requires one dolphin, up to six individuals are actually sent.
Paradoxically, among all phases the last one, when the animal is confined to the captivity of the aquarium, can be considered the most distressing and inhuman. This is due to the fact that toothed whales such as dolphins rely on a system of echolocation for their communication, consisting of a high frequency two-way sound transmission (emission and reception). Once those animals are closed into a tank, they are surrounded by a wall of sound caused by the echo of the emitted ones bumped by the sides of the tank. This environment, very different from the natural one, generates an uncountable amount of stress for the animal. Analyses over bodies of dead captive dolphins have revealed the presence of stomach ulcers caused by the unbalanced and unnatural behaviour those individuals are forced into.
A wide number of animal right groups, including Sea Shepherd, have mobilised several protests against the hunt in Taiji and the captivity process in general. Unfortunately similar activities are carried out in the Faroe Islands, in Russia and in Peru.
As the captivity industry is completely supported by the selling of parks tickets to the public, it would be fundamental for people to get to know the treatment their beloved and admired animals are forced into. The anatomic nature of those intelligent and sentient beings that makes them look like they are smiling hide a sad reality.
riproduzione consentita con link a originale e citazione fonte: rivistanatura.com