Video obtained by the Cove Guardians shows nationalists chased and threw objects at the Cove Guardians’ moving car, endangering the lives of Sea Shepherd’s volunteers as they drove to safety.

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s volunteer Cove Guardians of Dolphin Defense Campaign Operation Henkaku have captured video of their team being harassed and chased by Japanese nationalists present in Taiji this past weekend to support the brutal capture and slaughter of dolphins in the infamous cove.

Last week, Sea Shepherd received a warning from a credible source that Japanese nationalists were planning to intimidate and harass Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians in Taiji, staying in close proximity to the volunteer crew and attempting to outnumber them. Though reportedly they numbered far fewer than the initially anticipated 100 demonstrators, the nationalists held a rally on Saturday, Oct. 31 (Japan time) in support of Taiji’s cetacean drive hunt and attended the town’s annual Whale Festival on Nov. 1 (Japan time). Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians, who are present in Taiji daily throughout the six-month drive-hunt season each year, did not approach or incite the nationalists in any way, and continued to monitor and document the local hunt, as per usual procedures, within the boundaries of Taiji and Japanese law.

At approximately 10:00am on the morning of Nov. 1 (Japan time), when the Cove Guardians returned to Taiji Harbor to confirm that the hunting boats had remained in port due to the Whale Festival celebration, Sea Shepherd volunteers were ordered by local police to leave the area immediately due to the potential danger posed by the nationalists, who began to yell loudly at the Cove Guardians. Complying with police, the Cove Guardians got into their vehicle, but the hunt supporters continued their harassment, banging on the car windows and then hurling objects at and chasing the car down the road on foot as the Cove Guardians drove to safety.

The police escorted the Cove Guardians out of Taiji and back to their hotel, where they were told to remain until 6:00pm, at which time the nationalists would be departing the area. Police vehicles also remained in the hotel parking lot to ensure that no further incidents took place. Though the Cove Guardians were thankfully not harmed, the nationalists who chased and threw objects at the moving vehicle put the driver and passengers, as well as people in any other cars on the road, in significant danger. Though local police helped to ensure the safety of Sea Shepherd’s crew, Taiji and Japanese authorities should swiftly take the appropriate actions against the individuals who recklessly endangered these non-violent volunteers and possibly locals.

“Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians were threatened and harassed by individuals in support of Taiji’s brutal drive hunt. It is no surprise that those who want this horrific massacre of cetaceans to continue would also be willing to endanger human lives,” said Sea Shepherd Campaign Coordinator, David Hance. “These violent nationalists do not represent all of Japan, as they claim. Though they say that Taiji’s drive hunt is a part of Japanese ‘food culture’ and ‘tradition,’ the truth is that demand for dolphin and whale meat has sunk to an all-time low and many Japanese people are opposed to the killing of highly intelligent and socially complex cetaceans.”

For six months of each year, from Sept. 1 until March, entire family units, or pods, of dolphins and small whales are driven into the cove. Banger poles are struck against the side of the hunting boats to create a “wall of sound,” disorienting the sound-sensitive marine mammals and making it nearly impossible for them to escape the drive. The members of these frightened pods will face either a lifetime of imprisonment in captivity or brutal slaughter before the eyes of their families. Killers and trainers work side-by-side to select the “prettiest” dolphins and whales for captivity, those without visible scars. The others are mercilessly stabbed with a metal spike inserted into their backs, just behind the blowhole, to sever their spine. The dolphins slowly and painfully bleed to death or drown in the blood of their family members – others may die slowly as they are tethered and dragged to the butcherhouse, where the once-living and free cetaceans are butchered and processed into meat. These inhumane killings are a blemish upon Japan, whose government refuses to sign on to many protection efforts and regulations for marine mammals, despite most of the world recognizing the need to protect these highly intelligent, self-aware and beloved animals.

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