I left Taiji yesterday, and my heart was broken as I boarded my plane to come home. At 5:00am we went to the cove, where the pilot whales who had been driven in on Wednesday were quietly awaiting their fate. As soon as there was enough light, the hunters appeared in the cove and the violent slaughter process began. It was horrific to witness the terrified pilot whales thrash about as they unsuccessfully tried to escape. Several tried to flee and swam straight into the nets, where they became tangled and even more frantic. One brave young pilot whale got over two sets of nets and swam toward the beach and tried to beach himself on the rocks. A sweet big boy that we'd admired the night before was so hard to push under the tarps that divers in the water had to tie him up with ropes to push him under and kill him.
Once it was all over, they opened the nets and instead of swimming out to sea, the remainder of the pod swam straight into the killing cove on their own...to be with their dead family. The nets were wide open but they wouldn't leave. One lone baby who had witnessed his family get slaughtered swam alone in their blood for quite some time. He must have been so disoriented and probably injured because he slowly swam around by himself and finally disappeared around the point. His odds of surviving on his own, tired, weak and without his family, are not good.
At the harbor, Vickie and I watched a banger boat bring the last of the dead pilot whales in and unload them at the Fishermen's Union. Keeping their shameful actions out of our view has become a science for the hunters - they have tarps to cover their every move, and the Coast Guard quickly moves into place to cover any holes where we might be able to see in.
We drove to one of the butcher houses, followed by the police, and just as we approached the intersection, we were cut off by an unmarked police car. We now had police in front of us and behind us, and as soon as we approached the building, I saw all of the dead pilot whale meat, and a panicked older woman wearing a blood-stained apron quickly closed the sliding doors before we could pull our cameras out. They argue that this is tradition, that this is culture, but I've never seen anyone go to such lengths to hide a tradition.
As we walked back to the car, exhausted and in shock, I could hear the dolphin show in process at the whale museum. It was surreal and infuriating.
I heard someone refer to Taiji as a very hard place to be and an even harder place to leave. That's exactly how I feel about this beautiful, eery, shameful place. I'm grateful to be home, but my heart will remain in Taiji until this ends.
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