Activist on a mission to save dolphins
Safety Bay resident Len Varley’s lifelong love of the ocean has spurred him to dedicate the past decade to saving dolphins from slaughter and captivity in Japanese waters.
For the past 12 years, Mr Varley has been involved in marine conservation and said he stepped up his involvement in the cause following the plight of dolphins and whales in the past three years.
In 2012, Mr Varley co-founded Freedom Blue with UK activist Linda Derosa to help end the mass slaughter of whales and dolphins, and to stop marine life being held in captivity.
He said the Japanese considered dolphins to be a pest because they were competition for fish stocks.
“The government issues permits to slaughter 22,000 dolphins each year,” Mr Varley said.
“With the advent of mass communication the younger generation is far more worldly and the old ways aren’t wanted.
“There is a whole bunch of old farts holding onto their traditions, but the younger generation don’t share it.”
Mr Varley said the movie The Cove — which he claimed broke unchartered territory in uncovering the dolphin fishing trade in Japan — motivated him to visit the country.
“I went in 2011 for three weeks and have been every year since,” he said.
Mr Varley said because of The Cove, Taiji was flooded by western activists.
He believed Australians’ love of the ocean meant they sympathised with the protection of marine life.
“Dolphins have this tremendous zest for life, they love socialising, playing and getting amongst it, which appeals to our ocker spirit,” he said.
“When you look at a dolphin in the wild it looks like freedom and, as Aussies, we are lovers of freedom.”
Mr Varley said the scenes at the cove spurred the name of his organisation.
“It’s a depressing site because the waters sometimes ran red with the mass slaughter,” he said.
“I was standing with other activists looking into the slaughter pool when the dolphin hunters returned without a pod and we commented on the beautiful aquamarine colour of the water.
“I said if it was on a colour chart it would be called freedom blue, which is where the name came from.”
Mr Varley believed tree-hugging hippie stereotypes were no longer applicable to activists, because the face of conservation was changing.
“It’s refreshing to see a broad scope of people getting involved now,” he said.
Mr Varley said one of the hardest parts of his work was returning from weeks of mediation with Japanese authorities to discover his own government had sanctioned kill orders on marine life.
“The shark cull is really upsetting, I lose my moral high ground when my own hometown is engaging in a primitive shark cull,” he said.
Mr Varley said he wanted to do more work in WA, educating children about international captivity issues and killing of marine life.
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