The annual dolphin hunt in Taiji began today.
Japanese fishermen have begun slaughtering bottlenose dolphins, while ignoring protesters’ calls to spare the animals, including a rare public show of concern by the US government.
The annual hunt in Taiji, in a picturesque whaling town on the Pacific coast, began early Tuesday morning according to activists from the Sea Shepherd marine conservation group who are monitoring the fishermen.
US Ambassador Caroline Kennedy tweeted her dismay over the 'inhumaneness' of 'drive hunt killing,' which is drawing a quick response from Japanese officials.
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
— Jane Velez-Mitchell (@jvelezmitchell) January 21, 2014
Japanese representatives told CNN that fishermen were using a "more humane" method to kill the dolphins, involving cutting their spines on the beach to kill them more swiftly and with less pain.
"Dolphin fishing is one of traditional fishing forms of our country and is carried out appropriately in accordance with the law," added Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga.
Activists from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society claim the animals have not been fed since their capture.
— Captain Paul Watson (@CaptPaulWatson) January 18, 2014
Hundreds of dolphins were herded into a secluded cove late last week, many were sold to aquariums and marine parks, and many slaughtered in the hunt, which is mostly hidden beneath tarpaulin covers.
The hunt has been in the spotlight since the 2009 release of "The Cove," an Oscar-winning documentary about the town’s dolphin-hunting tradition, including activists attempts at stopping what has been called an unfair and brutal hunt.
Dolphins are now believed to be the world's second most intelligent animals, with only humans displaying greater brainpower.
MRI scans indicate that these marine mammals are self-aware and researchers think dolphins are especially vulnerable to suffering and trauma.
It is not just their extraordinary intelligence level that entitles them to protection from trauma and killing, but the fact that they frequently save human lives should grant them immunity from this unfair slaughter.
Image via Wikimedia Commons