The Formal Letter is the Beginning of Legal Action by Sea Shepherd to Protect the Rights of Volunteers on the Ground in Taiji to Document the Capture and Slaughter of Dolphins and Small Whales

news-141216-1-cove-guardian-logo-black-400wA Japanese attorney based in Tokyo has sent a formal letter, on behalf of his client Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, to the Shingu and Wakayama City Police, countering accusations from the police departments that Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardian volunteers violated Japanese law by following a truck on public roads and taking photographs to document the transportation of dolphins for captivity. The formal letter is the beginning of legal action to protect the basic constitutional rights of Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardian volunteers on the ground in Japan.

On November 21 (Japan time), Cove Guardian volunteers followed a truck holding dolphins in crates, as the cetaceans captured in Taiji’s brutal drive hunt were being transferred for captivity at an aquarium or marine park. As they have always done before, the Cove Guardians complied with Japanese law to ensure the safety of all involved. However, police approached the volunteers on November 22 and told them that following the truck is an offense under “Minor Offense Law,” Act 1, Item 28. On the morning of December 9, police also told the Cove Guardians that photographs taken December 8 outside a location that purchases dolphin meat were taken in violation of Wakayama city ordinance, Article 11, Item 1. The police warned the Sea Shepherd volunteers that if they attempt these activities again, they will face arrest.

Sea Shepherd’s attorney has notified the police departments that the Cove Guardians acted within the basic rights guaranteed by Japan’s constitution. The formal letter states (translated into English), “These activities are to investigate the truth and to record it, as it is guaranteed by our constitution article 21-1 ‘Freedom of Expression’ and it is not at all ‘illegal.’ Therefore we demand that you notify us, which actions would apply to which law, the number of articles, etc. in a precise manner within two weeks after receiving this letter. If we do not receive your reply, then we will conclude that you have admitted that you did an illegal action of impeding their freedom of expression.”

Each year since the beginning of Sea Shepherd’s Operation Infinite Patience campaign in 2010, the Cove Guardians have been on the ground in Taiji throughout the entire six-month annual hunt season, documenting the capture and slaughter of dolphins and small whales, and live streaming these atrocities for the world to see. In keeping with a promise made to Japanese authorities, the Cove Guardians and Sea Shepherd have abided by Japanese laws while on campaign in Taiji.

Sea Shepherd Senior Cove Guardian Campaign Leader, Melissa Sehgal was denied entry into Japan this month to document the slaughter, despite never violating the law during her four seasons in Taiji. Coincidentally, she was denied entry and sent home on December 8 — the same day the Cove Guardians were being monitored by police for their perfectly legal activities — after nine hours of interrogation and an overnight stay in a holding cell on December 7.

“Sea Shepherd promised that our Cove Guardian volunteers will always act in accordance with Japanese law, and we have continued to honor that promise. We want to ensure that the Cove Guardians are able to return to Taiji until the slaughter ends,” said Sehgal. “I am hopeful that this beginning of legal action will not only protect the rights of our volunteers on the ground, but also help us to be even more effective in our efforts for the dolphins and whales.”

Since the beginning of the 2014-2015 hunt season on September 1, the dolphin hunters have driven in a total of 21 family units, or pods, of cetaceans. The majority of the season’s victims have been Risso’s dolphins, with a total of 18 Risso’s pods slaughtered thus far. The remainder of the pods driven in have been one bottlenose dolphin pod, one pilot whale pod and two pods of striped dolphins.

For six months of each year – day in and day out, from September until March – entire pods of dolphins and small whales are driven into Taiji’s killing cove. Banger poles are hit against the side of the hunting boats to create a “wall of sound,” disorienting the sound-sensitive marine mammals and making it nearly impossible for them to escape the drive. Once netted into the cove, the dolphins and whales face brutal slaughter or a lifetime in captivity. In a drive just as stressful as the drive into the cove, remaining pod members — usually juveniles and infants — are driven back out to sea with little hope of survival on their own.

Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians are the only group on the ground in Taiji every day throughout the entire six-month hunting season, documenting and live streaming every capture and every slaughter for the world to see. The 2014-2015 season marks the fifth year of Operation Infinite Patience, and the Cove Guardians will not stop shining a spotlight on this atrocity until the slaughter ends.

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