As I mentioned in my previous blog, on Saturday 17th January 2015 I attended a march against the annual slaughter of Dolphins in Taiji. Transcribed below is my speech from the end of the march in Trafalgar Square. I’d like to share it with you.
Good afternoon everyone.
Great to see so many people here in Trafalgar Square.
I am not going to talk about dolphin behaviour or even that much about Taiji. Dominic will be setting out the details of the campaign so I am going to focus on hope.
I won’t detain you for long but I want us to appreciate for a moment the fact that we are here in the UK, we are expressing our views without fear or favour, that we are the beneficiaries of free speech.
So for a moment, join me in a few moments silence in solidarity with the people of France and in support of Free Speech. Je Suis Charlie.
And now I want to ask you to stand in silent respect as we remember together the thousands of dolphins that have been brutalised, injured, killed and murdered in Taiji.
I am not going to talk more specifically about Taiji. We know what goes on. Instead I want to talk of triumph over adversity, of David and Goliath, of how good people, working together, can change the world.
Thirty years ago, together with my mum and Dad, Virginia and Bill, I started Born Free. How hopeful and enthusiastic and NAIVE we were. We believed that the absurdity of locking wild animals away in zoos and circuses would end within a few years. After all, who seriously thinks we are going to address the crisis facing wildlife and biodiversity across the world by breeding a few hundred species in captivity, releasing a handful and claiming that seeing animals locked up for life will educate, inspire and motivate the public.
Well we were right AND wrong. The notion that captive exploitation of wild animals is an effective conservation tool is as preposterous today as it was then… But the prospect of seeing zoos and circuses quickly slide into oblivion has proved to be over-optimistic.
There are still 10,000 zoos worldwide. They are still the final resting place of millions of wild animals. They are still consumers of wildlife sucking in and wasting billions of pounds each and every year.
But there is hope and the story of captive dolphins in the UK is what gives me that hope. There are no dolphinaria in the UK. Not one. I, together with my Born Free colleagues, Care For The Wild, British Divers Marine Life Rescue, and many others, helped three of the last captives return to the wild over 20 years ago. I was privileged enough to travel with them to the Turks & Caicos Island where the Into the Blue project was based and, after six months of rehabilitation, see them swim free. It was one of the highlights of my life’s work.
The UK is, officially, a captive dolphin free zone.
Again, naively, I thought that the battle was won. I was wrong. Like any business where there are large amounts of money to be made and where, if you lose an asset it can easily be replaced, the dolphin industry moved on. It may have written off the UK as a bad debt but it has gone on to build new empires in Europe, America and in the Far East.
So today there are new challenges to overcome. Increasingly wealthy Chinese customers seduced by the dolphin’s smile, US citizens and international visitors who continue to swallow the captive industry’s spin and pay good money to perpetuate the commercial exploitation of dolphins and whales – commercial exploitation that is fed by and which sustains the current Taiji slaughter.
But the game is changing.
The relentless efforts of anti-captivity champions, of so many people (too many to mention) but including Ric O’Barry, Naomi Rose, the Garrets, Paul Spong and Helena Symmonds, John Crowe, Alan Knight, Ingrid Visser, Sam Berg, Courtnay Vail, Jeffery Ventre and many more. The courageous film-makers who brought us the daring Cove and the incredible Blackfish.
It takes time to bring about lasting change. But be assured of one thing. Change will come. It is inevitable. I believe we will look back on this time as a tipping point, a moment in history when people of compassion delivered a new vision of what our relationship with the natural world should be about. I may not see it in my lifetime but I have no doubt, no doubt at all, that we can make this a better world – for people and for the non-human animals that share our tiny, spinning, used and abused planet.
To conclude: I recall the words of two famous people:
Dr Martin Luther King Junior said: “Never, never be afraid to do what’s right especially when the well-being of a person in an animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.” We will not look the other way.
And Audrey Hepburn, in wonderful, simple and brilliant language said: “As you grow older you realise why you have two hands. One for helping yourself and one for helping others” Our hands are outstretched and ready to help the dolphins of Taiji and dolphins and all other abused wildlife around the world.
Finally, there is another reason why you have two hands. To give yourselves a round of applause. You deserve it for making the effort to turn out to show your fundamental opposition to the Taiji slaughter and the captive industry that pays for it.
So put your hands together – well done. Thank you.
Will Travers OBE
President Born Free Foundation
17th January 2015 – London