The Dolphin Project of California-based Earth Island Institute, led by former Flipper trainer Ric O’Barry, andAustraliafor Dolphins charge the Taiji Whale Museum bars access based on race to live dolphins kept on public display. The suit was filed in the Wakayama District Court against the government of Taiji, which owns the museum and organizes the dolphin cull, the groups said. The museum couldn’t be reached for comment today.
“If I tried to get in, they would hold up a sign saying no Westerners allowed,” O’Barry said in a telephone interview before a Tokyo press conference to announce the suit. “We have proof of this. It’s illegal. It’s racist and it’s illegal.”
Taiji’s dolphin hunt, when fisherman herd the animals into a cove where most are slaughtered for their meat, was depicted in the Academy Award-winning documentary“The Cove,’’ which features O’Barry, who trained the five dolphins used in the Flipper television program. This year’s hunt prompted a diplomatic spat with the U.S. after ambassador Caroline Kennedy denounced the killing on Twitter in January.
The suit was brought on behalf of a rarealbino dolphinknown as Angel on display at the Taiji museum. Angel was captured and her mother killed in this year’s hunt and is being kept in “appallingly inadequate” conditions, according to a statement from the groups today.
The Taiji government earns millions of dollars each year from the hunt by selling dolphin meat and offering captive animals to aquariums around the world.
Japan’s government has defended the Taiji hunt and says the cull is done in accordance with Japanese law. Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga on Jan. 20 called dolphins “important marine resources” that should be used sustainably.
“Hunting dolphins is one of our country’s traditional forms of fishing, and it is carried out appropriately in accordance with regulations,” Suga said.
O’Barry, who had captured more than 100 dolphins in his career in the captivity business, turned against the practice after the death of one of the main dolphins used in the Flipper program, which first aired in 1964. O’Barry has said he feels responsible for spurring the captivity industry because of the success of the Flipper program and has spent the past 40 years fighting dolphin captivity.