Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Dolphin Defender Trial Update Day 6

By Steven Thompson
Picture Provided by Pilar Posada

 On Wednesday, February 1st...the trial continues with a star witness for the defense having arrived safely today. This person went to great lengths and debate to be here, but shines through, true to dolphins and true to a friend in need. The meeting with the lawyer in Osaka went well and the trip back to Taiji safe. The trial continues at 13:30 (14 hours from now) in Wakayama City District Court. Please keep the witness and Erwin in your prayers.

 A note to the mother of this witness, especially to the spouse of the witness and the families of all here at TDAG who believe the hunt will end and worry about us here. Thank-you for understanding our passion for the dolphins. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

Dolphin Defender Trial Update Day 2

By Steven Thompson

Taiji Update: Erwin Trial Day 2
Waiting for what the lawyers accept to be released.

News is out on Reuters...I too have confirmation that Erwin Vermeulen will be in jail at least until judgment day, I heard February 22nd. Sea Shepherd will post when they choose. I too heard closing arguments will be on the 16th and a witness will be called next Wed. 

Reports are that Erwin spoke well and that there were inconsistencies in the story of the accuser from the Dolphin Slave Resort

My conclusions of the day: 
1. Erwin gets another month in jail eating white rice 
2. Activists are invited to stop by at the front desk, call or fax the Dolphin Resort Hotel to share there thoughts on the trial. From 7:00AM-10:00pm Japan time. Please be respectful as always.

Email: info@dolphinresort.jp. Phone 81-73-559-3514. Fax: 81-73-559-2810.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Dolphin Defenders Trial Update Day One

By Steven Thompson
There are literally millions of people looking for information on Erwin's trial. This time, the stars have aligned over Wakayama City. The large media presence in Wakayama Court today was at it too, digging for news and feedback from lawyers who are trying to keep as tight a lid on information and spin as Sea Shepherd is.

Why? Because Erwin's future is at stake--two years in prison. And then there is the whole precedent making side--a slight brush up costs two months in jail.

Shallow news has been out since about 18:00, on TV and in print. Now just past midnight, everybody now realizes that this story is BIG--big international interest, big implications, big conclusions either way the case settles. It probably has Erwin in knots now knowing that the trial will go on next week too. And the dolphin hunt begins in Taiji in another six hours, depending on the weather.

My heroes, besides the accused, are those standing by Erwin in court. Those with the toughest job are in Taiji everyday, never letting up as the killers leave Battleship Row at Ford Island.

If you show up to support Erwin, you probably get on some Police Watch-List. Japanese know this. I know this. They...whoever they is...kept calling my workplace after I got involved last year. The stakes are high for everybody--but mostly for the dolphins and perhaps that is where we have already won.

Nobody who loves dolphins will ever let Taiji out of their sights. That's it. Alex and Allison went first, now Erwin. Today, Erwin is the only person in the world in jail for supporting dolphins. I think he'll be lucky to get out of jail by the end of February. They may wait that long to make a decision. I hope I'm wrong.

Sea Shepherds are sure to release a report on their website when they choose. Japanese and international media will report as they will. Tomorrow is the day of details that I predict will be combed through by the next group of lawyers for the next man or woman or child to stand up against the dolphin slavers and dolphin killers in Taiji. The key point is the judge making sense out of a multi-lingual trial.

Taiji citizens: the people who decided to send Erwin to jail for pushing have decided the fate of your town. You are now at the forefront for Civil and Dolphin Disobedience for environmental and animal rights activists. This will never change until the hunt ends.

Dolphin lovers: we are at the beginning of the end of the hunt.

I can report on Mr. Nakahira, local right wing representative of Nihon Yonaoshikai, in Taiji yesterday clarifying what those who love Sea Shepherd know: that the fact that Shepherds are in Taiji to end the hunt. They apply the pressure that gets people talking. They force a high-cost police presence and tax waste when the money is badly needed after the destructive typhoon last year. Sea Shepherds make children question why things are as they are. Why do dolphins have to die? Mr. Nakahira says he wants Sea Shepherd to leave.

Mr. Nakahira's comments about children were translated by the reporter from ABC Australia. This has even the local children wondering why their parents accept the murder of dolphins. Why are the questions always there?

What the heck is wrong with Taiji? Why are we killing these dolphins. They don't kill dolphins in Tokyo or Osaka, Nagoya or Hiroshima, and they say we kill baby dolphin and pregnant females too. How can we make it all go away?

Will it go away if we arrest them?

I don't think so.

The second day of Erwin Vermeulen's trial starts at 13:40 on Friday, January 27th.

Monday, January 23, 2012

I'm home, though much of my heart and soul is still in Taiji.

What a difference a year makes. When I returned home from Taiji this exact time last year I felt traumatised. I would even say I had  degree of post traumatic stress disorder which involved nightmares and depression, I just went to bed for a days literally from exhaustion and trauma. Then a whale stranding happened and I was asked to go and assist. We saved most of the 90 whales and that was hugely healing for me. I was OK again.
On my return home this year it has been quite different. No post traumatic stress, though there has been another whale stranding  down the other end of the country only this time all is in hand and I am not needed at this stage. I have just done a calculation and don't want to publish exact figures as some vary by a few, but this time last year more Dolphins, roughly 55  more were slaughtered. This may be for many different reasons including the demand for Dolphin meat lately seems to be reduced. I spent some time in the local supermarket that sold the days latest Dolphin catch. I saw only one elderly lady buy a small amount over an hour. As the days went by the meat was marked down in price. Hopefully this is now the new trend, and perhaps people are realizing Dolphin meat is contaminated with mercury or are maybe seeing Dolphins differently. Whatever the reason , I am grateful.
I was also grateful to see that the way Dolphins were shepherded into the cove was far less chaotic. There is nothing happy about Dolphins being driven into the cove, it is heartbreaking. However last year I witnessed several drives that ended in much suffering with Dolphins stranding themselves on rocks and panicking , many getting caught up in nets in a bid to flee entrapment.This year, much covering and guarding was over rocks and Dolphins such as the dear, wee energetic  Striped ones were driven in much more slowly..a small blessing indeed for those of us watching. Our presence at least has stopped that chaos. We could still sadly hear the slapping of stressed and dying dolphins tails and panic once they were being killed. That dreadful process still takes several minutes at least.
Another change was the presence of the special police. I was dreading meeting up with them. I was pleasantly surprised to meet very polite, non-confrontational professional men who made it very clear they were here for us as well as the fishermen, no prejudice. My personal experience was to find at all times they were extremely polite, courteous and concerned for my well being. We even shared a joke or two. How could I feel threatened by a young man in uniform who apologised for shaking my hand with his glove on. To be frank, I found them to be utterly charming, but never took my position as an activist for granted, I had no intention of breaking Japanese law.
The landscape in places also had changed due to Typhoon Talas last June. Many had been killed and there was a lot of property and environmental damage. I also felt the people locally seemed more friendly . Somehow there were not the tensions I had experienced last year. I ask myself if that is because I myself was more at ease being in this quaint and beautiful place, which was full of charming, helpful and polite people.
I only know for sure that when I left Taiji my heart was breaking for several reasons. I did not want to leave the Dolphins, it is a strange feeling most of us there seem to experience, I felt like I was running out on them, somehow letting them down. When leaving the captive ones in the Whale Museum it was definitely that kind of wrench. When my friends and I left  after playing with them we waited until their attention went elsewhere then snuck out like I would do leaving young children so they wouldn't notice. Sadly the Whale Museum had not changed, in fact was even more heartbreaking with the dreadful and cruel display of the two remaining Pantropical Dolphins. I seemed to connect spiritually with the captive Dolphins more this time and my friend Len said the same. They made more eye contact and even blew Dolphin rings , which was just magical and unusual for captive Dolphins to do. I will continue to work for and remember them always.
In the 12 days I was in Taiji we had 4 days of Dolphins slaughter and the rest Dolphins swam free. Last year it was eight days Dolphins were slaughtered in the same time period, same dates.  My absolute saving grace was being privileged to stand with Tia and Leah of save Japan Dolphins and Len Varley. It was an absolute highlight to meet dear Ric O'Barry as well. All are dear friends , all have a similar view to mine when it comes to positive outlook and believing that Dolphins do  truly swim free. It was a far more spiritual experience this time which brought me great comfort. It is also a privilege to work for, and stand with the Dolphins, be it for freedom or to bear witness at end of their lives.
I truly believe the winds of change are blowing in Taiji. Some I can explain, other reasons I can't quite put my finger on., other than to say, I just know. Always in my heart, the beloved Dolphins.
Kerry O'Brien.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Interview: Prison life in Japan for non-Japanese

Erwin Vermeulen from Holland is the only man in jail today fighting for the rights of dolphins to live. Erwin faces trial next week in Wakayama, Japan. On January 26, 2012, the Japanese government will put our friend on trial for allegedly pushing a dolphin trainer in Taiji, Japan.

He has already served 36 days in a Japanese jail, and faces up to two years. Some say more people will come to Taiji to accept being jailed for dolphins--a sort of Dolphin Disobedience. I compare Erwin to a modern Henry David Thoreau.

What is life like? Erwin has not been allowed any visitors besides a very competent team of three lawyers. To understand what Erwin faces, we have interviewed a man who spent two years in a Japanese jail. We will call him Jay. He claims he was innocent. I believe him and his friends and family believe him, but he still had to spend two years of his life in prison in Japan. This is an introduction to Jay's story. We hope that it will help you to better understand what Erwin faces.

An Interview with Jay: Prison Life in Japan for non-Japanese
Outside help and support came via letters or any money or reading materials I needed. There's not much else friends can do other than those three.
Daily life in jail is usually spent writing letters, reading and talking to others in your room (if he is not in a solitary cell). It's quite a monotonous routine every day. They have a tight schedule of serving 3 meals a day, delivering mail everyday and supplies once a week that you can buy if you have money. You are allowed to keep your supplies and books in the room with you. In jail you wash your own clothes in the sink with soap at designated times of the day. This is all done at the big prefecture jail though not at the small city jails but I'm assuming that big and more accommodating jail was where he was moved to.
Pre-trial can be stressful because of the language barrier and also because frequently the translator can easily make mistakes (SO IT IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT TO MAKE SURE YOUR TRANSLATOR UNDERSTANDS YOU AND WHAT YOU WANT).
Immediate post-trial involves being swiftly moved to your next destination (immigration or prison)
Doing time involves working everyday at some monotonous job standing all day with one 10 minute break and a lunch break eating in a cafeteria. Unless you get a solitary room you will be sleeping with a roomful of others (up to 13) on a futon. Personal item are kept in the room and television is turned on a few hours a night. Any medicine (this also applies to jail) needs to be specifically requested to the guards and if a serious illness arises then you will be taken to the doctor onsite. All taken in though Japanese prisons are quite safe compared to other countries. Rarely are there fights (stabbings are unheard of) and illicit drugs are never seen. It's basically like high school with a lot of psychological mind games and talking behind your back because your a foreigner (what the Japanese call ijime).
All I have is some resentment that comes back once in a while at the times I choose to hold my tongue when other inmates talked shit. I did learn how to be more patient though.
Please ask if you want to know any more specifics. One place to ask is the Facebook site: Taiji Dolphin Action Group.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Whale heroes return to Australia tomorrow

Cetacean activists--Geoffrey Tuxworth, Simon Peterffy, and Glen Pendlebury are expected to return to a hero's welcome by mid-day tomorrow. Monday, Jan. 16th in Albany Australia will end their nine-day protest, engaging the dolphin loving world, frustrating the Japanese taxpayer supported whale killers, and expanding awareness of the international issue.

On Jan. 7th, in a daring pre-dawn action, these men successfully boarded the Japanese Cetacean slaughterhouse, the Shonen Maru 2, to protest the illegal Japanese whale killings and corrupt whale meat trade, banned by the International Whaling Commission in 1986.

Forest Rescue representative, Roland Davidson, confirmed by telephone that the three Forest Rescue activists are scheduled to be returned safely on the Australian customs vessel, Ocean Protector, tomorrow.

Davidson and Forest Rescue representatives--Michael Montgomery and Amy Flee, encourage Taiji dolphin activists to continue to oppose the dolphin hunt. Davidson questioned how the Japanese fishing industry could have the power over the Japanese police to jail non-violent dolphin activist, Erwin Vermeulen, for more than a month, without trial.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Erwin Vermeulen

41 DAYS AND COUNTING! Please share, use as your profile and tag yourself and others as this will change each day he is in custody!
On Dec. 16, Sea Shepherd volunteer Erwin Vermeulen, a member of the Cove Guardians project to monitor and document the capture of dolphins in Taiji, Japan, was arrested by Japanese police and charged with assault

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Monday, January 9, 2012

Day 2 Kerry O'Brien in Taiji: Risso's Dolphins.

Taiji. 9/1/2012. Risso's Dolphins.

Scanning the horizon, a large pod trapped by banger boats
Eleven Banger boats left the Taiji  bay on this cold January morning. I stood with friends, hoping and praying Dolphins would swim free today. As we waited, anxiously searching the horizon, it wasn't long before we saw the dreaded formation of the banger boats. As they drew closer to us , I could just see Dolphins between the boats. It looked like about 20 to me, this is an educated guess. The boats were starting and stopping quite a bit, these Dolphins were not being coersed along easily. Several times the banger boats changed direction and for a while it seemed as though the pod had escaped. We soon realised some of them had but tragically seven did not. The dolphins put up a valient fight, all the way. Len and I could see that these dolphins were bigger than yesterdays and spent some time trying to figure out what type they were. We knew they were larger and were thinking Pilot or Risso's because they were diving deep and disappearing for several minutes at a time , up to 10 mins at times. Also their movement in the water was slower and more graceful, not so much the leap of life the Striped Dolphins dance. As the 7 were driven through the harbour we confirmed 7 Risso's dolphins, one a juvenile.

Trapped Rissos

I started to shake and feel inconsolably cold as I always do, feeling their panic and despair. All I could do now was stand , document, record and hold them all in the light, praying all the while for their precious souls. The nets finally had them trapped in the cove.The Dolphin trainers appeared from across the cove to choose who they wanted to keep...as if they have the right! We stood my dear friends and I in respectful silence  as they were slaughtered, we could hear the usual fishermen shouting and tails flapping followed by the dreadful thuds of bodies being thrown into the skiff. We waited, then we saw what seemed to be an empty skiff come out from under the tarps and oh my goodness was that they young one in a sling at the side of the boat? Yes , it was. I watched , heartbroken to see one little wee fin sticking up out of the sling. I was  struck by the horror that this little one had witnessed her entire family being mercilessly slaughtered. Tears flowed freely now from me and my friends, we wept for lost beautiful lives and the tragic sight of a little one sitting alone in the cruel , lonely sling on the side of the boat. Through my tears I managed to sing a few lines of Amazing Grace but could not finish , my throat full of emotion and tears.
No matter how heartbreaking it is to be here,  for as long as I have to I will stand with others to say to the world, this is not acceptable, you must stop the captive dolphin trade and slavery market, and stop slaughtering our Angels of the sea. In the arms of the Angels dear Rissos I leave you today, though you be forever in my heart; always. xxx

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Day One of Kerry O'Brien's 2012 Visit to Taiji

Len Varley, Ric O'Barry and Kerry O'Brien

Bearing witness for Dolphins.

Day one in Taiji. We met a beautiful cold dawn this morning with the familiar knot in tummy..so it was hot tea only for a quick breakfast. 6am we drove to Taiji, 10 mins away from where we are staying. We were met by a slow driving all lights flashing police car, who didn't stop us, but were observed. The familiar drive for both Len and I took us past the fisherman’s union where they all were standing around their morning fire smoking and talking. We drove on to the Taiji lookout point, keen not to hang around. I climbed the familiar steps to a higher lookout to pray and send healing energy to the oceans and the beloved Dolphins.. As dawn broke, out through the harbor filed 11 banger boats. It was a good clear day for hunters and fishermen. At the same time 3 well-polished and extremely polite policemen arrived to check our passports and ask questions. This year we have to fill in a form as well. Why are you here in Taiji? A direct question. that I answered truthfully. To observe, document and pray for the Dolphins who swim past Taiji. The head of the police was at great pains to make clear they were here to keep the law of Japan and to at all times remain impartial.  Three very well mannered , respectful young men. They left after checking us out and in a flourish Pica Dilly, Masako and Ric O'Barry arrived. Joyful greetings took place then we turned to our business of the morning, the hunt.

All too soon the boats lined in formation and it was clear they had a pod. It took about an hour for them to drive them in. We all watched anxiously, I was begging the universe, sea Gods, higher beings to let the dolphins escape. This was not to be. Ric was ustreaming live from where we were explaining what was happening. Maybe it was jetlag and the shock of being thrown into the raw cold, cruel Taiji morning that had me confused, but I didn't realise at the time the ustream was live. I heard Ric talking away to the screen in the distance, as I watched the boats drive the dolphins closer and closer. I stared to grow very cold and to shake. This is what happens to me when I witness this horror. I can sense and see the dolphin’s confusion and terror and my own body reacts to it. Last season, I would stay cold for so long that only a long hot bath and copious amounts of hot tea would warm me again. And here I was day one, reliving the experience. Ric came to talk with me and ask me questions about my whale stranding experience and how it felt to be here in Taiji now. It was so lovely to meet Ric this morning. He is even more kind and gentle a man that I had imagined. His presence and wisdom I found reassuring.
Dolphin bodies leaving The Cove

The pod of around 12-14 Striped Dolphins was now being driven into the cove. I watched in horror as the dreaded nets drew them in and the first of the dolphins were dragged by divers under the tarps. The remainder of the pod waiting their turn, panicking and getting tangled in the nets. The fishermen casually tried to untangle them but not fast enough for my liking. Meanwhile a Dolphin was up against the rocks injured and bleeding. A skiff attempted to drive over the dolphin and hold it up between the rocks and the boat so that we couldn’t see. However, we could see the drowning, suffering dolphin flaying around. The attempts to hide this cruel and wicked deed failed miserably. Soon the blood from the Dolphin colouring the water gave his horrible deed away.
We had been looking out for calves and hadn't seen any, until as the nets were being drawn in towards the killing place, a baby flipped over the net in a desperate attempt to escape. Sadly, the young one had flipped over to the tarps side of the net and quickly disappeared, dragged under the tarps. Other Dolphins were grabbed by their beautiful tails, tied up with rope and degradingly and heartbreakingly dragged under as well.
We waiting in respectful silence and heard the terrible thud, thud of bodies being carelessly tossed into the skiffs, which then appeared from under the tarps and drove out of the cove to the butcher’s house. Pic a Dilly said to me we need a wailing song at this point. I may just sing one myself the next time. Sadly there will be a next time. And for the next two weeks, I will be here, with my friends, standing, documenting praying, bearing witness and telling the world about the fate of Dolphins of Taiji.

Kerry O'Brien.