Japan’s cruel dolphin slaughter back in the news
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Japan’s cruel dolphin slaughter back in the news

The anti-whaling activities of Sea Shepherd have had an effect on Japan’s whaling practices this year. According to the country’s Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, 2013 has seen the smallest haul of whales since the practice began in 1987 under the banner of “scientific research”.

Still, 103 minke whales must be more than sufficient for one year’s research, right? Wrong. The minister is deeply upset.

And what about Japan’s mass slaughter and capture of dolphins in Taiji? I’ll wager that anyone who has seen The Cove wants it to end. Unfortunately it has barely been shown in Japan, where people most need to see it. Japanese press coverage of the film and what goes on in Taiji has also been minimal. Compare 103 minke whales with the estimated 23,000 dolphins and porpoises killed each year in dolphin drive hunting, in which the cetaceans are herded into a cove and butchered.

New killing methods supposedly designed to be more humane, but probably motivated more by the fact that they cause less unsightly blood flow into the water, have been criticized by international researchers and conservation groups.

From a press release by Whale and Dolphin Conservation regarding a newly-published scientific paper on the slaughter:

WDC continues its call for an immediate end to the dolphin drive hunts on welfare grounds alone.  This scientific analysis underscores the fact that the killing methods used in the drive hunts are unacceptable by any country’s standards, including even Japan’s own humane slaughter guidelines. WDC believes that such suffering is intolerable in any civilized society, and the methods currently employed at Taiji are breathtakingly and exceptionally cruel and should solicit worldwide condemnation.

Andrew Revkin of the New York Times discusses the Taiji dolphin slaughter in his Dot Earth blog and includes questions he posed to one of the authors of the paper, psychology professor and expert on dolphin behavior and cognition Dr. Diana Reiss. Here is an excerpt from one of Reiss’ answers:

Dolphins are a cognitively and socially complex species that exist in their own societies in the seas. To see any animal treated in this way is shocking. Given what we know scientifically about the awareness, sensitively, cognitive and social prowess of dolphins, this treatment is unjustifiable and unacceptable and needs to be stopped immediately. In the larger context of human and non-human animal relations, the methods used to herd dolphins and then kill them is off-the chart in terms of any concern for animal welfare.

Apparently what happens in Taiji occurs somewhat in secret and is not well known inside Japan. Both dolphin and whale hunts continue to be sources of shock and bafflement for countless people around the globe. Yet they are at the same time unapologetically and vigorously defended by the Japanese government.

See this press release from the dolphin activist group AtlanticBlue for more on the Taiji slaughter.

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Still from 2011 footage of Taiji dolphin slaughter, pic: www.atlanticblue.de