Activists Deliver to White House 1 Million Signatures Calling for End to Japan’s Dolphin Slaughter

At an event reflecting on the heightened awareness of mass killings of dolphins, one activist was in for a big surprise.

From left: Ric O'Barry, Leilani Munter, and Louie Psihoyos. (Photo: Catherine Manzanares)

Apr 18, 2015· 2 MIN READ
Samantha Cowan is an associate editor for culture.

After The Cove revealed the horrific practice of dolphin slaughter in Taiji, Japan, in 2009—winning best documentary at the Academy Awards and other accolades—the film’s leading activist, Ric O’Barry, was certain the hunt would be stopped. Despite the heightened awareness, six years later, the annual culling continues.

That’s because the film is largely unavailable to the 127 million people living in Japan. Interested consumers can buy it, but the rights are owned by a local Japanese distributor. It’s not widely available and has been kept off the Internet.

“Only the Japanese people can stop this dolphin slaughter,” O’Barry told TakePart on Saturday. Son, the power to do just that could be placed in their hands.

The film’s director, Louie Psihoyos, announced on Friday that the filmmakers are in negotiations with the Japanese distributor to regain the film’s rights and intend to release The Cove for free in Japan—finally letting locals know what’s happening right under their noses.

Ric O'Barry. (Photo: Zach Wood)

“It’s a big deal for me,” O’Barry told TakePart. “There’s no better tool in the world than The Cove to educate people about this issue.”

Once the film is available online in Japan, the next step is letting people know it’s out there. “The biggest part is an advertisement campaign to let the Japanese people know that it’s here and it’s downloadable for free,” O’Barry said.

Psihoyos’ reveal of this new development left O’Barry pleasantly shocked at the Friday event in Washington, D.C. More than 100 people gathered—along with several hundred more watching online—to celebrate the 1 million signatures O’Barry’s Dolphin Project petition has gathered. The petition was delivered to President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. American officials have already asked Japan to reconsider the hunt: U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy publicly called the practice inhumane last year.

(Photo: Zach Wood)

The film follows O’Barry and other ecological advocates as they document the hunt in a secluded cove where 20,000 dolphins and porpoises are trapped and killed each year. While the more attractive dolphins are kept and sold into captivity, the others are killed for their meat. It’s often packaged as whale meat in Japan and other Asian countries, so most Japanese do not know what they’re eating and are unaware of the unsafe levels of mercury dolphin meat contains.

O’Barry is confident that even if the Japanese population isn’t swayed by the mass killing, the thought of consuming contaminated meat will do the trick. “The more time I spend on the ground in Taiji talking with local police and concerned citizens, the only thing, really, I find that’s going to stop the hunt is if people realize they’re eating poison,” he said.

With good news opening the event in D.C., O’Barry, Psihoyos, and a happy group of activists enjoyed their evening under the stars, more determined than ever to put an end to dolphin slaughter.

(Photo: Catherine Manzanares)

TakePart’s Catherine Manzanares shows her support.

(Photo: Catherine Manzanares)

Activists take a stand to protect dolphins.