Slaughter of dolphins begins in Japan’s Taiji cove despite criticism

Video: Animal rights activists say the annual dolphin slaughter in Japan’s Taiji cove is the largest cull they’ve witnessed. Japan defends the hunt as a part of its culture, saying it’s no different than other customs such as Canada’s seal hunt. Robin Gill reports.

TORONTO – Fishermen in Japan's infamous Taiji cove began the slaughter of hundreds of bottlenose dolphins Tuesday morning amid public outcry from around the world over the annual hunt.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society said the fishermen first selected 52 dolphins to keep alive for sale to aquariums and other customers, including a rare albino calf and its mother.

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Of the rest, about 40 were killed, one became stuck in a net and drowned, and the others—roughly 130 to 140—were released, said the group in a Facebook post Tuesday.

The environmentalist group at least five separate pods with over 250 dolphins were driven into Taiji’s cove last week and that the mammals have had “nothing to eat for more than four days.”

READ MORE: 250 dolphins held in Japan’s infamous Taiji cove

A video released Tuesday by Sea Shepherd shows dozens of fishermen on boats surveying the dolphins after they were confined to a cove with nets. Divers can be seen holding the dolphins selected for sale and guiding them to nets hanging off the boats.

U.S. conservationists said some of the dolphins would be held in permanent captivity while others would be killed for meat.

World outrage continues

Using the hashtag #tweet4taiji , critics turned to social media to protest the annual hunt.

Several celebrities, including actress Kirstie Alleycomedian Ricky Gervais, and singer Bryan Adams,  turned to Twitter to express their views.

On Monday, the wife of the late legendary Beatles frontman John Lennon, Yoko Ono published an open letter to the small town of Taiji.

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“I understand how you must feel about the one-sided-ness of the West to be angry at your traditional capture and slaughter of Dolphins,” she wrote. “But that tradition was made only when the world, and Japanese Fishermen did not know what it meant to do harm to the Dolphins. I’m sure you have heard so many speeches in which all of these things have been discussed. So I will not bore you with it. But I think you should think of this situation from the point-of-view of the big picture.

Japan has gone through such hard times lately. And we need the sympathy and help of the rest of the world. It will give an excuse for big countries and their children in China, India and Russia to speak ill of Japan when we should be communicating our strong love for peace, not violence.”

(You can read the rest of Ono’s letter here)

Last September, former Guns N’ Roses drummer Matt Sorum was in the remote Japanese fishing village protesting against the annual dolphin hunt.

READ MORE: Fight to stop Japanese dolphin hunt gets help from former Guns N’ Roses drummer

The ongoing global campaign to stop the dolphin kill in Taiji garnered worldwide attention after the 2009 Academy Award-winning film about the hunt called The Cove.

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Defending local tradition

On Monday, a Japanese government spokesman defended the dolphin hunt after U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy said she was “deeply concerned” by the inhumanity of the practice.

READ MORE: Japan defends annual dolphin hunt in Taiji cove

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said dolphin fishing in Taiji cove is carried out appropriately in accordance with the law.

The comment came after Kennedy—daughter of the late President John Kennedy—said Friday the U.S. government opposes such fishing and tweeted the following:

Deeply concerned by inhumaneness of drive hunt dolphin killing. USG opposes drive hunt fisheries.

— キャロライン・ケネディ駐日米国大使 (@CarolineKennedy)January 18, 2014

Local fishermen say the hunt, which begins in September, is part of their village’s tradition and call Western critics who eat other kinds of meat hypocritical.

Video: Raw video of dolphin hunt. WARNING – Images may be too disturbing for some viewers

In an interview with CNN, the mayor of Taiji said fishermen in the community are simply exercising their fishing rights.

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“We feel that we need to protect our residents against the criticisms,” said Kazutaka Sangen.

Sangen said the hunting method have also become “less crude.”

– With files from The Associated Press

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