Friday, November 5, 2010

President Obama can Help Save Whales and Dolphins

By Ric O’Barry
Campaign Director
Save Japan Dolphins
Earth Island Institute

Today is Worldwide Anti-Whaling Day, and President Barack Obama just left for a trip to Asia, which will include a stop in Japan. Earth Island Institute/Save Japan Dolphins, In Defense of Animals, the Animal Welfare Institute, and several other environmental and animal welfare organizations sent him a letter that began:

“…the undersigned organizations, representing 2½ million members and petition signers, urge you to request that the Japanese government expeditiously and permanently end its slaughter of dolphins and whales.”

You can send a message to:

President Obama is scheduled to be in Japan the 13th and 14th of November, to include a meeting with the new Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

The full text of our letter:

Earth Island Institute
Animal Welfare Institute
World Society for the Protection of Animals
American Cetacean Society
Cetacean Society International
In Defense of Animals
Nantucket Marine Mammal Conservation Program
Orgami Whales Project
Peninsula Citizens for the Protection of Whales
The Whaleman Foundation/Save the Whales Again! Campaign

November 4, 2010

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Washington, DC 20500

VIA E-mail, FAX, and Regular Mail

Dear President Obama:

On the eve of your upcoming trip to Japan to meet with Prime Minister Naoto Kan, the undersigned organizations, representing 2 ½ million members and online petition signers, urge you to request that the Japanese government expeditiously and permanently end its slaughter of dolphins and whales.

More than 2 million people from 151 countries have signed online petitions urging an end to the slaughter of dolphins in Japan, as depicted by the Academy Award-winning documentary, The Cove, and the Animal Planet television series, Blood Dolphin$. Considering that mercury and other toxic materials poison much of the dolphin meat, this issue is more than about protecting dolphins and whales but is also necessary to protect human health.

The Japanese delegation to the International Whaling Commission (IWC), comprised mainly of officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), has been completely uncooperative and disruptive within the body, continuing to defend killing whales in defiance of the moratorium on commercial whaling, including within the Antarctic Whale Sanctuary, and trading in whale products in violation of spirit and intent of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. The MAFF’s bogus scientific research is an illegal front for commercial whaling, this illegal whaling is conducted in direct defiance of international law, and MAFF’s pursuits within the IWC represent a breach of accepted diplomatic behavior and practices. Furthermore, it has been documented that the MAFF has engaged in bribery of delegates to the IWC, including providing funds for travel, entertainment, prostitutes, and cash. MAFF staff and its IWC delegation are paid for through controversial taxpayer subsidies and the sale of whale meat obtained from so-called “scientific” whaling, which is a direct conflict of interest.

For these reasons, continued negotiations at the IWC in an attempt to find a compromise with Japan and other whaling nations are simply useless. The MAFF has demonstrated for years that it has no incentives to compromise or cooperate. Furthermore, if the United States were to continue to pursue such a compromise that allows the resumption of commercial whaling or legitimizes “scientific” whaling, as it has done for the past three years, it will not be acting in accordance with the needs and demands of the American people. Instead, the United States must work cooperatively with other like-minded IWC member-countries to continue to advance protections for all cetaceans, large and small, and their habitats through IWC resolutions, multi-national demarches against the whaling countries, and by using all other legal, diplomatic, and administrative tools to compel these countries to end commercial/scientific whaling.

The MAFF authorizes and legitimizes the slaughter of intelligent dolphins and whales in the cruelest ways imaginable. These dolphin and whale hunts are inhumane and unnecessary. Dolphins and whales are harpooned at sea, while in Taiji, Japan, dolphins are herded into a shallow cove and then harpooned or have their throats slit in a welter of blood.

Killing dolphins and whales hurts the government of Japan’s reputation and likely the economy of Japan due to adverse global publicity. The MAFF also promotes a distortion of the truth about whaling and dolphin killing to the people of Japan, who consequently tend to be oblivious to the suffering of the animals, the potential toxicity of the meat, as well as the implications for the sustainability of cetacean populations.

Your personal intervention at the highest levels of the Japanese government is needed to help change this dynamic. Otherwise, the MAFF will continue to permit the unnecessary slaughter of whales and dolphins, practice the politics of disruption within the IWC, and deceive the Japanese public. Many Japanese do not even know that their Fisheries Agency allows the killing of dolphins and endangered species of whales.

It is high time that Japan’s failure to join the rest of the world in protecting cetaceans comes to an end, and that the government rehabilitate its image that has been so badly damaged by the MAFF and their machinations to promote whaling and the slaughter of dolphins at any cost.

You can convey these facts to the new Prime Minister better than anyone else.

We thank you for your consideration of our request. Please feel free to contact any of us if you or your office needs additional information.


David Phillips
Executive Director
Earth Island Institute

Ric O’Barry
Campaign Director
Save Japan Dolphins
Earth Island Institute

Susan Millward
Executive Director
Animal Welfare Institute

Silla Smith
Interim Executive Director US
World Society for the Protection of Animals

Cheryl McCormick, Ph.D.
Executive Director
American Cetacean Society

William W. Rossiter
Cetacean Society International

Melissa Gonzalez
Wildlife Campaigns Manager
In Defense of Animals

Scott Leonard
Director of Operations
Nantucket Marine Mammal Conservation Program

Peggy Oki
Founder and Director
Origami Whales Project

Chuck Owens
Peninsula Citizens for the Protection of Whales

Jeff Pantukopff
President and Founder
The Whaleman Foundation
Executive Director
Save the Whales Again! Campaign

Vice President Joe Biden
Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke
Secretary of State Hilary Clinton
CEQ Chairperson Nancy Sutley
NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco
United States IWC Commissioner Monica Medina
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
Senator Barbara Boxer
Senator John Kerry
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
Representative Nick Rahall
Representative George Miller

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Taiji Ground Zero Detonates on Nov. 2nd

By Leah Lemieux
Save Japan Dolphins
Earth Island Institute
Author: Rekindling the Waters

I think this has been the longest and most insane, dangerous and fraught day of my life.

At the appointed time this morning, Ric O’Barry arrived at the Taiji community center where he would be joining a number of other people representing the interests and protection of the dolphins (and all the innocent people unknowingly eating mercury tainted dolphin meat) for a meeting with the Taiji Mayor and the fishermen’s union.

But suddenly everything detonated as Ric announced at the door that he was refusing to participate in the Taiji meeting, because the Mayor had placed such heavy restrictions on the media, going so far as to bar any media from participating that might ask unwanted questions of the Mayor and fishermen’s union. Ric also stated the Mayor had been holding secret meetings with the extreme nationalist groups that opposed screening of The Cove movie in Japan. To everyone’s astonishment, Ric announced that he would be hosting his own free dialogue open to all questions and press at the cove, where the Taiji Mayor would not muzzle discussion. Chaos ensued immediately.

Ric and Media crush at the cove on November 2nd.
Photography by Leah Lemieux.

Outraged officials began screaming, as Ric headed off to the cove followed by a divided media hoard. I’ve never been in something like this before – a media riot, where cameramen were actually trampling each other to get close to Ric! I was washed and squashed embedded amid this sudden unruly tide, keeping close to Ric, to try and lend the support of a friendly face in a place where dangerous hostility could erupt from any direction at any time.

At the cove, Ric addressed the press about the issues so close to our hearts and unrolled a banner representing the signatures of two million people around the world who oppose the killing and capture of dolphins in Taiji.

Ric at the cove with the scroll representing 2 million online signatures against the killing and capture of dolphins in Japan.
Photography by Leah Lemieux.

Meanwhile, in another part of the forest… Inside the Taiji community center the other half of the press (those who weren't barred by the Mayor) were attending the meeting. On one side were the Taiji town Mayor and representatives of the Taiji fishermen’s union, the people who slaughter dolphins. And among those in the other corner were representatives of organizations speaking for the dolphins and the oceans.

Taiji Mayor Sangen (far right) and other representatives of the dolphin killers at Nov. 2nd meeting.
Photography by Leah Lemieux.

Many media representatives were present, but the questions they were allowed to ask were very tightly controlled, and no dolphin sympathies were allowed to be voiced by press – those had already been weeded out and barred from the meeting!

Despite the orchestrated attempts to bias the meeting in strong favor of dolphin hunting, the press heard our voices. Various representatives and volunteers for the dolphins spoke with calm assurance and never lost their cool.

After this meeting, everyone who was not there already headed to the cove, and that’s when it got really crazy.

Death threats were uttered, and the local police were out in force to protect Ric, who had earned the wrath of officials he had defied by refusing to participate in their jury-rigged meeting.

Later this evening, Ric got on a train out of here heading to Tokyo. We had a heavy police escort. There were some very VERY angry characters about, tons of media, and there were loud public threats made against Ric's life and Lincoln O’Barry’s life, too. Police everywhere--thankfully. There were some VERY scary moments!

With the different groups and individuals here, there are many different approaches to this issue. Nature shows us there is strength in diversity. Today was an event – a crazy event that threatened to get out of hand. But stopping the dolphin kills is a process that will take time. Despite the chaos, much good came of this by bringing the issues and opinions of those who value dolphins alive and free to so much Japanese media. Ric O’Barry and other representatives and volunteers present gave the Japanese people much to think about, and that can only be for the good.

The issues in Taiji are complex, to say the least. It is of course important to find ways for the dolphin hunters to work and feed their families, but not by killing dolphins.

For additional Taiji blogs by Leah:

Monday, November 1, 2010

To whom it may concern


Statement of Non-Participation




The reasons I will not participate are:


Mayor Sangen has broken his promise by trying to interfere with the Japanese and international media representative right to report to the Japanese public. He has ordered severe restrictions on the Japanese and international media representatives ability to freely cover this event



I want to make it absolutely clear that I do not support any organization which is calling for boycotting Japan to save the Taiji dolphins. I am opposed to any such boycott. My being here has been an “anti-boycott”.



The reason I came here to Taiji this time was that I was promised to be able to have an honest and freewheeling discussion with Mayor Sangen, with full, free, and unfettered accessibility for all interested Japanese and international media people. I was expecting and looking forward to a frank dialogue on how the dolphin hunt and the sale of toxic mercury-contaminated dolphin meat to the Japanese public can be terminated, while guaranteeing the financial livelihoods of the Taiji dolphin fishermen and their families.


Mayor Sagen tried to stop “The Cove” from being shown in Japanese movie theaters. He did everything possible to stop the Japanese people from having a chance to learn about what is happening in Taiji.


I just learned that Mayor Sangen has repeatedly met secretly with representatives of one of the organizations that tried to stop Japanese people from having a chance to see “The Cove” by threatening Japanese movie theater owners and the Japanese distributor of “The Cove”. These are the very same people who tried and are still trying to stifle free speech.


This “Conference” has turned out to be a total sham. I will not take part in it in any way. I will “boycott” this whole disgraceful set-up.


My statement speaks for itself.


I am now leaving this farce and going over to the place that brought me to Taiji in the first place, the Cove.



Earth Island Institute’s Position on Dolphin Killing In Japan.
Earth Island Institute

It is important that we state our views clearly and firmly.


Earth Island Institute (EII) and I do not believe in breaking the laws in Taiji and will not conduct illegal activities.

Earth Island Institute (EII) と私は、太地町の法律を破るようなことはしていないと認識しており、今後も違法な活動は断じて行いません。

EII and I do not support a boycott of Japan. We feel a boycott is counter-productive.


EII and I have always addressed and will continue to address these issues with respect for the people of Japan and will work with them to solve these problems.


The media and government have tried to link us with other organizations, a linkage which we reject as unfair and inaccurate. We speak for our organization and ourselves only.


From the beginning, I have sought to bring the truth to the people of Japan, truth which
cannot be denied or covered up anymore.


The Japanese people must be made aware of the killing of dolphins, which has been covered up by their government. The dolphin slaughter cannot be a Japanese “cultural” practice if the vast majority of the Japanese people don’t even know it is happening.


The Japanese people must not be subjected to poisoning by mercury contamination found in dolphin meat, which is unsafe for human consumption.


Westerners are not the original source of these concerns. Japanese researchers have done extensive testing on contamination of dolphin meat with mercury - in Japan, and Taiji specifically - proving that the mercury levels present a serious danger to the health of the public. Taiji City Council members have echoed these concerns as well. Mercury poisoning should concern all of us.


I am here not solely to express concerns for dolphins, but also for the health of the people of Japan and to see that the truth of what happens in Taiji is made public to the people of Japan.


There is a bright future for Taiji without the killing of dolphins. Earth Island Institute are willing to meet with Mayor Sangen in private or at a public meeting that is truly an open forum. ”


Thank you.


Additional resources:


For mercury contamination research results, go to:


Taiji officials’ statement warning about mercury poisoning:


Shortened version of The Cove:

The Cove