On Tuesday, dozens of dolphins were slaughtered by Japanese fishermen. The fishermen hid the captured dolphins from journalists and activists under a large sailcloth to proceed with the final killing phase. Once a year in Japan, fishermen will herd bottlenose dolphins into Taiji Cove and prepare most of them for slaughtering. This tradition started Friday, which gained national attention in the U.S. Animal activists and others were outraged after learning about the dolphin bloodshed. Most fishermen will kill dolphins for the meat while other dolphins are captured and taken to a marine park. If there are dolphins remaining, the fishermen will release them back into the ocean.
According to the activists with Sea Shepherd, 41 dolphins were slaughtered by fishermen on Tuesday, and 52 were taken captive. Before the dolphins were slaughtered, fishermen deprived them of food so they would be too exhausted to escape. Afterwards, fishermen wrestled the dolphins into submission, grabbed them by the tails with ropes, and slaughtered them. U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy stated she is deeply concerned about the practice, and acknowledged that the U.S. does not approve of the practice. Reports say the remaining dolphins were released, but it is unclear how many were freed.
Despite criticism from animal activists and prominent global figures, Japan defends the dolphin hunting practice, stating it is a tradition and the animals are not endangered. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga stated in a news conference Monday the dolphins are an important water resources, adding that dolphin hunting is a popular tradition in Japan and is carried out justly and according to the law. Suga added that dolphin hunting is not covered by the International Whaling Commission. Taiji Mayor Kazutaka Sangen also chimed in on the discussion, saying fishermen are exercising their right to hunt dolphins and feels the residents should be protected from criticism.
In addition to Kennedy, British Ambassador to Japan Tim Hitchens and Australia’s Environment Minister Greg Hunt also chastised Japan for the dolphin hunt. For years, conservationists have denounced the tradition as inhumane and cruel to animals. An observer reported that about 250 bottlenose dolphins, including youngsters and calves, were herded into Taiji Cove awaiting an uncertain outcome. The Japanese fishermen’s first choice are females with few noticeable scars, and they are then sent to marine amusement parks.
In stressful events, and especially in captivity, dolphins can commit suicide if a pod is killed or a calf is taken away by fishermen. Former dolphin trainer Ric O’ Barry stated that Kathy, one of the dolphins from the TV show Flipper, committed suicide from the stress of captivity. One dolphin committed suicide when her calf Angel was separated from her by fishermen. O’ Barry says dolphins are conscious breathers and can easily decide to stop breathing. When the stress of captivity and loss of family members become too much to bear, dolphins can take their own lives.
The dolphin hunt, which started on Friday, ended in bloodshed on Tuesday. About 41 dolphins were slaughtered by fishermen while 52 bottlenose dolphins were taken captive.
By Bridget Cunningham