By Kirsten Massebeau
On February 14, 2014 (Japan time), Martyn Stewart dolphin and BBC wildlife photographer-filmmaker was held in custody at Osaka Airport where he was grilled by Japanese authorities, and eventually expelled from the country following a grueling interrogation. Martyn reached out to his many friends and followers from his detention cell at Osaka Airport, posting on Facebook:
Please share far and wide to bring awareness to this corrupt government and those that want to continue to brutally treat these amazing animals. The condition I’m in and the treatment I have received is nothing short of criminal”. — at Kansai Airport Line.
“Incredible feelings again in my stomach, I never thought i would come back here again so soon but things just happen like this in life, weird! It’s not the place you would want to keep coming back to, i mean you wouldn’t keep going back to a shitty restaurant, right! This place just has me tied up too much though, i hate the thought of abandoning these animals and i feel it every-time i leave. My promise to them was i would always come back until i knew it would stop. Whether it be because they want to stop (fishermen) or because they become extinct. We just have to be their voice”…. January 2013, in Wakayama-shi, Japan.(Martyn Stewart)
While Martyn Stewart of Nature’s Sound is known for his beautiful recordings of birds and wildlife for documentaries, his images and video documentation of the cruel dolphin drives in Taiji, Japan are legendary. His passion can be seen in his pictures and videos, of the terrible dolphin suffering he has witnessed over the years as he documented the dolphin drive in Taiji. His videos and images have compelled many activists to speak out, and take action, for the dolphins.
While many of the photographers coming to Taiji keep their lenses focused on the dolphin victims only, Martyn goes further. He took the lens of his camera beyond the dolphin suffering capturing images of the small group of people who are profiting from the sale of dolphins dead and alive. Above is an image of Mr. Myoshi owner of the Dolphin Resort, and a broker of dolphins. Each trained dolphin he sells to aquariums can bring him up to 200,000 while a dead dolphin brings the hunters the equivalent of hundreds of dollars for the butchered meat which is sold for human consumption, dog food, and fertilizer (bottlenose dolphins). The meat is Mercury laden and toxic yet the slaughter and consumption by a few continues.
While taking portrait images is frowned upon in Japan, Martyn’s pictures of those involved in the dolphin drives have sparked the global community in a profound way leading the viewers to question how Marine Parks have become so entwined the terrible capture and slaughter of these highly intelligent beings, dolphins and small whales. The dolphin trainers, many of whom are certified by the International Marine Animals Trainer Association (IMATA), work side by side with the hunters simultaneously selecting the young beautiful dolphins for captivity, while slaughtering the older dolphins their parents, and grandparents. One might think that IMATA would vehemently oppose dolphin drive fisheries claiming they love dolphins yet the opposite is true. IMATA welcomes trainers from dolphin drive fisheries:
“Any individual who believes in IMATA’s mission and who supports its goals is welcomed into the membership. This means that if an individual works for an organization that acquires dolphins from a drive fishery, up to and including participating in the selection and collection of live animals, s/he is welcomed by IMATA”.(source)
While the Taiji ISANA “Fisherman’s” Union claims the hunt is “tradition” history tells a very different story. It is no wonder the dolphin hunters go to such great lengths to hide the bodies of their dolphins victims who suffer and die so slowly under the tarps draped so skillfully over the blood filled shallows of the killing cove. In a recent article entitled, “Taiji Dolphin Drive Hunt Is Not A Tradition”, Mark Palmer of Earth Island Institute quotes star and co creator of academy award winning documentary, The Cove, Ric O’Barry who explains that in fact the Taiji, dolphin drives are not “tradition”:
“This claim of ‘Japanese tradition’ is nonsense,” stated Ric O’Barry, Director of Earth Island’s Dolphin Project. “The dolphin drive hunts, according to the town’s own written history, says a couple of drive hunts occurred in 1936 and 1944, but the current series of hunts only began in 1969(source).
The capture of dolphins for aquariums and marine parks is a multi-million dollar industry that the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), and their partners the Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums (JAZA) who sits on WAZA’s animal ethics board of directors do not want to see end. The dolphins born in captivity cannot fill the demand for display dolphins hence the need is filled with blood dolphins.
While Martyn will no longer be exposing, and reporting on the dolphin capture and slaughter in Taiji, Japan his time spent there was not in vain. Martyn Stewart showed us the faces and suffering behind the dolphin slaughter and capture. His pictures and video are timeless as is his is an example to us all practicing what he preaches. He is a strict vegan, and true animal lover, who will never be silenced in his quest to help all living creatures, and to expose animal suffering whenever and wherever it occurs.
Leaving the land that kill dolphins and small wales, leaving animals that I so much promised I would be with until this insanity stops, leaving with a sence of failure yet one of pride that I did what I could and I will never forget that. Leaving a country that so much needs our guidance and not interference, leaving Taiji in a far worse state than I found it in. Leaving behind many friends that I made and will probably never see again. Leaving a large piece of my heart on a beach in Taiji — at Kansai International Airport.(Martyn Stewart)