On Friday 17th February, I joined my first ever protest.
Slightly nervous but extremely excited, I turned up to Cavendish Square, London, on my own but armed with my homemade banner and a heart full of passion.
As previously mentioned on this blog, the protest was the 6th annual march against the Taiji dolphin hunt and was timed to coincide with the end of the hunt season. The Taiji dolphin hunt sees hunters (I’ll no longer call them fishermen) head out to sea in banger boats, on which they create so much noise, the dolphins can no longer hear each other to communicate. Confused and distressed, they are easily driven into Taiji cove, from where there is no escape. The hunters have quotas to fill each season – one for live capture where infants are taken from their mothers and sold for a life in captivity, and the other for dolphin meat, where these incredible animals are horrifically slaughtered causing the blue water to turn red.
I’m not sure what’s worse – the killing of dolphins in ways that most slaughter houses wouldn’t even condemn, or the fact that there’s still so much demand for captive dolphins that this horrible practice can continue.
So, on this march, I got chatting to some really interesting people – campaigners who have protested in London for years and a member of the Sea Shepherd.
I found out some appalling facts:
- Bottlenose dolphins are more in demand than other types of dolphins – primarily because when you think of a dolphin, the image you conjure up is typically a bottlenose
- Because of this, a bottlenose dolphin has been known to sell for a minimum of £30,000 but the live dolphins taken from Taiji Cove for marine parks and aquariums can be worth in excess of £150,000 (and that’s an untrained, young dolphin)
- However, a hotel in the middle east recently paid a quarter of a million pounds for a young untrained dolphin…
- Risso dolphins are considered the least attractive dolphins – which is why they’re the poor ones who are slaughtered for the meat trade
Pretty staggering right?
Which is why, on Friday, a large group of people who passionately disagree with this practice, took to the streets of London.
We marched from Cavendish Square, through Oxford Street and Piccadilly, to the Japanese Embassy in Green Park.
As a ‘newbie’ to the march, I turned up on my own but quickly felt anything but. There was a real sense of belonging – we were all there for the same reason, and people were friendly, talkative and willing to make you feel at home.
Headed up by Dominic Dyer, policy advisor to the Born Free Foundation, we carried banners, chanted and made our way to the Embassy.
Once there, we set up on the other side of the road. We chanted, we handed out leaflets, we made noise, we received supportive honks from motorists passing by – we felt the support and interest from the public.
During the afternoon, there were speeches from Dominic Dyer, Born Free Patron and Actor Dan Richardson, and Wildlife presenter and patron to World Animal Day HQ, Anneka Svenska.
Dominic Dyer acknowledged the people who are out in Taiji now, reporting on the hunts and facing threats and intimidation in their efforts to do so. He thanked them, and made reference to the fact that ‘this year, over 600 have been killed so far because of ignorance, greed and corruption’. He pointed out that it’s ‘not culture, it’s cruelty’. Yet he also reiterated that while we must stop this, we must not make this a campaign against the Japanese people as a whole.
Anneka spoke about the importance of translating our campaign work – and educating the people in Japan about what is going on…
Dan Richardson pointed out (quite rightly) that we’re not just fighting for dolphins, we’re fighting for love, compassion and kindness. He also boosted our morale by making us realise that the majority of people are probably with us as opposed to against us – we’re the majority, not the minority.
By the end of the march, I was exhausted – but exhilarated. Needless to say, no one from the Embassy came out to talk to us.
But that wasn’t the point.
We got people talking, we got people who might not have known about the Taiji dolphin hunt to take a leaflet. In a small way, we helped.
And although one protest alone won’t shut the hunts down, they are one step towards change. And I for one, feel proud to have been a part in that.