Standing Guard at the Bloody Gates of Hell
The Cove Guardian Campaign
Commentary by Captain Paul Watson
Since September 1st, 2010 the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has maintained a physical on the daily ground presence in the Wakayama Prefecture town of Taiji, Japan. Sea Shepherd Brisbane coordinator Michael Dalton initiated the Cove Guardian campaign for the first week before turning over the responsibilities to Sea Shepherd Director of Investigations Scott West. For two months now, Scott and his 17-year-old daughter Elora West have stood their ground at Taiji, welcoming a continuing turnover of volunteer Cove Guardians from around the world. They have stood their ground in the face of death threats, angry rightwing demonstrators, intimidating police operations, and worst of all, they have been forced to witness the horrific slaughter of dozens of intelligent socially complex beautiful dolphins.
The Cove Guardians are daily standing upon the threshold of the gates of hell as the screams of slaughtered dolphins assault their ears and the Cove turns tragically crimson with the hottest of blood. The Guardians are there because never again will the serial killing thugs of Taiji murder dolphins out of sight and out of mind.
When Scott and Elora’s visas run out in early December, Michael Dalton will return with a small crew to relieve them. This daily monitoring and observation of the dolphin killers of Taiji has never been done before.
And there is nothing that the fishermen thugs of Taiji can do about it because Sea Shepherd activists have not broken a single law much to the frustration of the mayor and police of Taiji. Scott is a trained former U.S. Federal Agent (Customs and EPA) and he knows where to walk the line without crossing it.
Sea Shepherd has a track record of holding ground for extended campaigns and this is a six month campaign – September 1st, 2010 to March 1st 2011.
Taiji has been a Sea Shepherd campaign from the beginning. Although film maker Hardy Jones first exposed it, Sea Shepherd turned it into a campaign in 2003 by documenting the slaughter. Our photos and video were distributed by Associated Press and CNN around the world in October 2003. In November 2003, two Sea Shepherd agents (Allison Lance of the U.S. and Alex Cornelissen of the Netherlands) dove into the Cove, cut the nets and freed and saved 15 dolphins. They were arrested and held for four weeks before being released. Not once during their four-week interrogation did they say a word to implicate themselves or anyone else. They were found guilty of the “crime” of interfering with business and were fined USD $8,000 and released. Not a bad price to pay for 15 lives saved – $533 dollars per dolphin freed.
One of the original Sea Shepherd crewmembers in Taiji in November 2003 was Ric O’Barry, then a member of the Sea Shepherd Advisory Board.
Ric decided to go back in 2004 (and every year since) and resigned from the Sea Shepherd Board saying that he could not be associated with Sea Shepherd and monitor the killings of the dolphins in Taiji. We agreed with him and he reported that the very act of wearing a Sea Shepherd shirt was cause for arrest.
But because of the photographs and video taken by Sea Shepherd crewmember Brooke MacDonald and released to the international media in October 2003, the thugs of Taiji decided to cover up their atrocities by blocking off access to the Cove and hiding the slaughter under blue plastic tarps.
Enter Louie Psihoyos and his film crew from Ocean Protection Society (OPS) with an idea to make a film about the Taiji slaughter. They teamed up with Ric O’Barry and produced a film that shook the world awake to the tragedy of Taiji when this incredible movie The Cove captured the 2009 Academy Award for best documentary film.
The film includes footage of Sea Shepherd’s release of the dolphins in 2003 and interviews with me and Sea Shepherd Advisory Board Member and former Australian Environment Minister Ian Campbell.
Since the Academy Awards, the town of Taiji has become internationally notorious and a magnet for shame for the nation of Japan. Millions of people think Taiji when they think of Japan, and in doing so, they visualize the images of the slaughter of the dolphins. This film has planted a powerful meme in the minds of millions and my experience with communications strategy is that once an idea is planted and firmly rooted, it will not die, and Taiji is now firmly rooted in the psyches of the modern media’s collective consciousness. It is not going away.
And thus we simply need to keep the idea alive by observing, reporting, and exposing the horror of Taiji and if need be, we will transform the name Taiji into a symbol of environmental evil just as the town of Minamata did with mercury poisoning.
Michael Dalton and his crew wore Sea Shepherd shirts when they arrived in Taiji on September 1st and found that it was not a crime to be a Sea Shepherd crewmember in Taiji. Since then, Scott and Elora and every Sea Shepherd Cove Guardian that has come to the Cove has made no secret that they represent Sea Shepherd.
And Sea Shepherd’s presence caused the mayor of Taiji to call a town meeting on November 2nd to discuss the issues. This meeting brought Ric O’Barry back to Taiji along with other activists. Ric decided to boycott the meeting at the last moment, but Scott went to the meeting to say that Sea Shepherd would not negotiate with the lives of the dolphins and we will only accept a zero kill. The mayor’s demand that we respect their “food culture” fell on death ears. If Catalonia can ban the bullfight, if England can ban fox hunting, then Japan can ban the murder of dolphins.
Normally, I am opposed to protesting but with the case of Taiji, protest can be the most effective tool for change. Japanese consulates and embassies around the world need to be constantly reminded that the world is watching and not forgetting. Protests need to be mounted on a regular basis and phone calls, faxes, and e-mails need to be sent every day from all over the world. The call to terminate the terrorism at Taiji must be loud, unending and strong, and if it is, the cause to save the lives of these intelligent and beautiful sentient beings will be won. The screams of the dolphins in the Cove must cease. We cannot rest until we silence the horror and eradicate the brutality.
What you can do: If you’re inclined to take a vacation to Japan, join the Cove Guardians on the ground at Taiji. You can support the Sea Shepherd team there for a day, a week, or longer. The more people who journey to the Cove, the more impact the Cove Guardians will have.
Telephone, fax, or e-mail the Japanese embassies and consulates in your city and country. The message is simple. Japan needs to end the cruel horror of slaughter in Taiji. The killing of dolphins has no place in the civilized world of the 21st Century.
Do not buy Japanese cars, beer, cameras, electronics, or other products and make these companies aware of why you are doing so. We understand that is not always possible to boycott all Japanese products, but it helps to do it where you can practically do so.
Talk to your friends, your family and spread the word on social network sites.
Support the Cove Guardians in Taiji. It only costs about $200 a day to maintain our stand at Taiji. A daily or weekly donation of any amount will do this.