'Torture': Ric O'Barry, head of the Save Japan Dolphins Coalition, looks at dolphins in a tank in Taiji. He has witnessed the slaughter of dolphins first hand.
Wholesale slaughter: Japanese fisherman haul slaughtered dolphins from the bloodied water in Taiji Cove.
By Danny Penman
05th September 2009
At the heart of a Japanese nature reserve, a horror story is unfolding.
Over the coming months, thousands of dolphins - some only a few days old - will be hacked to death. Hundreds more will be sold into captivity, where they will die lingering deaths from stress and disease.
The dolphins are captured and slaughtered just off the southern Japanese fishing village of Taiji.
Every autumn, tens of thousands of the creatures gather there to feast on the abundant fish. And once they have eaten their fill, one of the world's greatest wildlife spectacles unfolds as the dolphins socialise and play.
Thousands of the creatures can be seen leaping through the air playing the dolphin equivalent of tag. As far as the eye can see, dolphins race this way and that, blowing huge plumes of seawater into the air - just for the fun of it. If you are lucky enough to be on a boat, the creatures will ride your bow wave or even leap straight over the top of you.
But Japanese fishermen see this event rather differently. For them, the dolphins are a source of cheap meat - and pests to be exterminated. And they kill them with a ferocity seen nowhere else on earth.
As soon as the fishermen see a pod of dolphins, they launch an armada of small boats to capture the creatures. The fishermen first confuse and terrify the animals by banging steel pipes suspended in the sea.
This disrupts the dolphins' delicate sonar, which they use to 'see' their watery world. This wall of sound acts as an acoustic net - and once ensnared in this invisible trap, the dolphins find it virtually impossible to escape.
The fishermen then drive the hapless creatures towards a rocky cove. Once inside, nets are strung across the entrance to prevent their escape.