Dolphins

Reporter: Mark Gibson

"I think it's absolutely disgusting, I think it's abhorrent and the sooner we distance ourselves from it the better".

The sounds you can hear are the last desperate screams for help from a pod of dolphins about to be butchered.

The dolphins will be stabbed to death, cut up and sold as meat. And right now, Australia is complicit in this shameful act.

Welcome to Taiji, a fishing village south of Tokyo, Japan. A town which on the surface has a love affair with dolphins, one of the most intelligent creatures found in the world's oceans.

Tourists flock to Taiji's Oceanarium to watch clever dolphins perform stunning tricks but there's even a giant Orca, or killer whale.

Unbelievably, just three hundred metres from where these impressive creatures are adored, something unimaginable is happening.

Every year from October to March, thousands of dolphins are captured and killed in the name of culture and tradition.

WA newspaper journalist Gary Adshead has just returned from filming this brutal custom in Taiji, a town in Japan's Wakayama region six hours from Tokyo.

Many of his pictures are too gruesome to show.

"To be honest, when you hear the dolphins screeching and when you see that blood come into the water and you watch their tails thrashing around violently, you cant help but feel sick" says Gary.

Gary's day started with a 4am drive to what's become known as the Killing Cove.

He trekked to the top of a cliff, sat camouflaged among the trees, quietly filming the bloodshed.

The green tarpaulin is used to shield what's happening inside and so is the white foam the fishermen tip into the water to disguise the blood.

These exclusive pictures are from a new documentary called The Cove. Images covertly captured over a year. Cameras hidden in rocks and trees.

"They take them into the Killing Cove, a man with white gloves and a wetsuit jumps into the water, lassos the tails of the dolphins, takes them under cover and then starts spiking them in the back of the head and starts cutting their throats".

Leading the campaign against the dolphin hunt is Ric O'Barry, who knows a thing or two about dolphins.

In the 1960s, he trained the world's most famous dolphin, Flipper. Since then, O'Barry has dedicated his life to freeing dolphins in captivity like Flipper and stopping the annual slaughter in Taiji.

"These dolphins were swimming off shore yesterday, families going by, complete and perfect after 65 million years of evolution and within an hour they will be reduced to small chunks of meat on a cold concrete floor" says Ric.

They end up here on supermarket shelves, sold as whale meat for less than $10 Australian dollars.

But no-one in Taiji wanted to discuss why a town that pretends to love dolphins, continues to kill them.

It's not just the killing that has the activists up in arms. In Taiji, live dolphins are herded into pens, held there for months and sold around the world for entertainment.

"The live dolphins will fetch about $150,000 US per animal so its huge money for these fishermen".

This is Australia's link to the shame. The tropical paradise of Broome in WA's north. For 27 years, Broome and Taiji have been sister cities, sharing political visits, even street names.

Broome's crocodile hunter and environmentalist, Malcolm Douglas, is horrified.

"Every person in Australia should now start emailing and writing to the Shire of Broome and putting pressure on them" says Malcolm.

Shire President Graham Campbell says Broome's links to Taiji go back to the pearling days of the eighteen eighties.

"There's a very big Japanese connection with Broome and particularly with Taiji and I believe that transcends the practice. Ultimately that practice I think will come to an end but is it the role of local government to interfere in the cultural practices of another country? I don't think so" says Graham.

Ric O'Barry says if Broome spoke out, Taiji would listen because the Japanese are proud people whose reputation means a lot.

"Broome can stop this by getting involved and severing their relationship temporarily until they stop the slaughter".

The world knows about Japan's whale hunting in the Antarctic. What we're just finding out about is Taiji's dark secret.

"I would guarantee 99.9% of people in Broome have no idea that we have an association with people of Japan that drive dolphins up the bay onto the beach and club them to death" says Malcolm.

For more information visit The West Australian Website at www.thewest.com.au