Taiji and Puckapunyal: Cruelty right under our noses

Social media seems to be buzzing with pictures and stories of the horrific dolphin massacre in Taiji, Japan. It seems like the whole world is watching on helplessly, as these beautiful, intelligent creatures are terrorised, tortured and butchered or kidnapped.

We find it hard to understand how the Japanese people could let this go on. Well, something I heard on a podcast a couple of days ago gave me an insight into how these kinds of atrocities can be kept hidden when the perpetrators know that what they’re doing can’t be justified.

In Japan

I only became aware of the Taiji massacre about a year ago, when I watched the 2009 movie, The Cove. Before then, I could never imagine that anyone would mistreat a beautiful dolphin. Like everyone else who has seen it, I was disgusted by what I saw and filled with admiration and gratitude for the brave people who have risked their own safety to alert the world about what is going on in the Cove.

Dolphin's face

Image courtesy of morgueFile.

This year, with the Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians being so prominent, we’ve seen reports about the massacre all over social media and even on mainstream TV. It seems like everyone’s talking about it, and all are justifiably outraged.

Amazingly, the Japanese people interviewed in The Cove didn’t seem to be aware that it was going on, and were horrified and disbelieving when they were told about it. Although there is some opposition, it seems that the word isn’t getting out within the country – and even if it does, perhaps there are cultural issues preventing strong opposition that are hard for us to understand in a country where tradition is not quite so important. We know what’s going on in our own country, and we wouldn’t stand for anything like this…or would we?

In Australia

The other night while I was cooking dinner, I was catching up on some of the podcasts I missed over the summer break. One of my favourites is 3CR’s Freedom of Species. The 23 December 2013 episode ‘Nikki Sutterby & Fiona Corke – Puckapunyal kangaroo kill’ episode featured a story that shocked me, and made me realise that it is very easy for the public to be kept in the dark about animal cruelty, especially when those in power are justifying it (to themselves, anyway).

This episode told the story of a ‘cull’ (actually more of a ‘kill’) of kangaroos on the Puckapunyal Army Base in central Victoria. It’s been happening away from public view, but the Australian Society for Kangaroos (ASK) has been watching, and are letting us in on the secret.

Mob of kangaroos in the bush

Image courtesy of morgueFile.

Here are some of the facts that I have only just learnt about this annual kill that has been happening in my own state since 2002:

  • it is frighteningly easy for a landowner to get a licence to kill kangaroos on their property.
  • there are no official counts of the numbers of kangaroos on each property, so they can’t be sure how they will be depleting the population of this native, protected, species in each area.
  • the killing of healthy kangaroos is not ‘culling’, it’s ‘killing’, and it affects the natural selection of the strongest animals, which will affect the survival of the species in the long term.
  • the killing is done at night, in a hurry, so badly injured animals often escape, joeys are orphaned and mobs are left depleted and vulnerable.
  • kangaroo populations will self regulate if left alone (i.e. numbers won’t just keep getting greater and greater)
  • there are several non-violent methods of managing kangaroos, without having to resort to killing them
  • there is no evidence that kangaroos compete with farmed animals for food, unless there is a severe drought.
  • kangaroos feed on, and help encourage growth of, native grasses, and also help reduce fire risk.
  • there is virtually no regulation of the kill numbers or the killing methods.
  • the current licence is for the killing of 6000 kangaroos, but ASK doubts that there are even that many kangaroos on the property now.

Listen to the podcast for more details.

A blind spot?

Innocent animals being cruelly and senselessly killed, while the public is kept in the dark – sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Of course, all this doesn’t make the Taiji massacre any less horrifying, but it does remind us that animal cruelty is everywhere. We have to remember that those behind the killing will try to hide it and to justify it, so we always need to be alert and ready to recognise it, raise awareness, and challenge cruelty in the name of ‘culture’ or ‘management’ or ‘progress’.

More information

The Taiji dolphin killings

Live video from the Cove. Watch live streaming video from the Cove Guardians.

Pictures: Scenes from Taiji dolphin roundup in Japan, National Geographic Daily News, 21 January 2014

Fishermen kills 30 more dolphins in Taiji, West Australian, 23 January 2014

What you can do

The Puckapunyal kangaroo ‘cull’

Follow Australian Society for Kangaroos on Facebook

How you can help save kangaroos

Puckapunyal kangaroo cull ‘our dirty little secret’: Activists, Age, 22 December 2013

Animal activists accuse Army personnel of inhumanely shooting kangaroos at base, ABC News, 11 December 2013


The movie, The Cove, claimed that the better-looking dolphins are taken from the sea and sold to dolphinariums all over the world. So remember that every time you visit one of these dolphinariums, there is a good chance that you are supporting the capture (and, quite likely, the slaughter) of the wild dolphins. It’s something to think about before you make a visit…


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