Both the U.S. and British ambassadors to Japan have strongly
criticized the "drive killings" of dolphins citing the "terrible
suffering" inflicted on the marine mammals.
Every year the fishermen of Taiji, in western Wakayama prefecture,
drive hundreds of dolphins into a cove, select some for sale to
marine parks, release some and kill the rest for meat.
On Tuesday, at least 30 dolphins out of the group of more than 200
held in the cove since Friday were herded by boat engines and nets
into a killing area of the Taiji cove.
Fishermen waiting in the shallow waters by the shore, some in wet
suits with snorkeling masks on their faces, wrestled the dolphins
into submission and tied their tails with ropes to stop them from
Before the killing began, fishermen pulled a tarpaulin in front of
the cove to prevent activists and reporters from seeing the killing.
A large pool of blood seeped under the tarpaulin and spread across
"A metal rod was stabbed into their spinal cord, where they were
left to bleed out, suffocate and die. After a traumatic four days
held captive in the killing cove, they experienced violent captive
selection, being separated from their family, and then eventually
were killed today," Sea Shepherd Conservation Society activist
Melissa Sehgal told Reuters.
The annual hunt has long been a source of controversy and was the
topic of "The Cove", an Oscar-winning documentary that brought Taiji
into the international spotlight.
Activists say that out of this year's group more than 50 dolphins
were driven away to be sold to aquariums. Those not killed on
Tuesday were released, they said.
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"UK opposes all forms of dolphin and porpoise drives; they cause
terrible suffering. We regularly raise (the issue) with Japan," said
the British Ambassador to Japan, Timothy Hitchens, in a tweet on
Monday. Caroline Kennedy, the U.S. envoy to Tokyo, has also said she
was "deeply concerned" about the hunt.
Japan maintains that killing dolphins is not banned under any
international treaty and that the animals are not endangered.
Yoshinobu Nisaka, the governor of Wakayama prefecture where Taiji is
located, rejected Kennedy's concerns.
"Dietary culture varies and it is the wisdom of civilization to
mutually respect other standpoints unless the world faces a lack of
resources," Nisaka was quoted by Kyodo news agency as telling
The Taiji fishing union rejected Reuters requests for comment.
The dolphin hunting season runs yearly from September to March. Sea
Shepherd said around 600 marine mammals had been killed this season
before Tuesday's slaughter.
Monitoring is difficult, with fishermen erecting tarpaulins over
their killing area and blocking access to the cove.
(Writing and additional reporting by Antoni Slodkowski;
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