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.