Fisherman ignored protests by animal activists on Monday and Tuesday and slaughtered a pod of dolphins in the Japanese town made famous for their annual dolphin hunt in the Oscar-winning film, “The Cove.”
All, but the youngest animals were butchered.
Japanese television announced the start of the dolphin hunt in the town of Taiji, but did not release any details.
The gruesome facts about how the herd of dolphins was coaxed into the cove and then stabbed to death by fisherman came from the Sea Shepherd conservation group and other animal rights groups protesting the attacks.
Scott West of the Sea Shepherd told The Associated Press that 14 dolphins were killed in the first hunt, but two of the best-looking ones were pulled from the water with plans to be sold to an aquarium.
Another six young animals were released back into the ocean.
West said the babies seemed confused and searched for their parents. He is worried they will not be able to survive on their own.
Leilani Hunter, an activist from North Carolina told the AP, “There is nothing to prepare you for seeing it in person. I saw these beautiful dolphins being driven into the cove, and they came out dead bodies.”
The Taiji dolphin hunt begins in late September and runs through March. The government permits 20,000 dolphins to be killed each year and although most Japanese do not eat dolphin meat and find it repugnant, officials say it is no different that raising cows or pigs for slaughter.
They defend the practice because dolphins are not banned under any international treaty and because they are not an endangered species. The Japanese government believes thinning out the dolphin herds protects fishing areas for people.
In addition, the town of Taiji sees dolphin hunting as a way for residents to make a living because the terrain of the town isn’t good for farming.
All of these explanations and rationalizations have the same familiar ring that hunters throughout the world use.
But growing attention and international pressure about the hunts may be having an effect on Taiji. This year the fishermen are doing something they have never done before.
They are differentiating between the type of dolphin that gets killed and who gets spared.
They have chosen to save the lives of the friendly looking bottlenose dolphins. These are the same dolphins seen in the “Flipper” television show and movie. This familiar face, that is popular around the world, may be what is saving their lives.
Instead fishermen are slaughtering Risso dolphins and Pilot whales, which are a species of dolphin.
Animal activists are organizing a global protest on October 14 at Japanese embassies worldwide to protest and stop dolphin hunts.
CALL TO ACTION:
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