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September 01, 2019 - The Vegan Authority

Japan: Cruel dolphin hunt begins again

Japan: Cruel dolphin hunt begins again
Credit: Action for Dolphins

Today marks the beginning of the six month Japanese annual hunting season for dolphins using the "exceptionally cruel" drive-hunting.

This is the method in which fishermen boats herd or drive dolphins and small whales into a cove with noise, blocking them with nets where they are kept several days without food.

Hundreds of dolphins are trapped and slaughtered in the town of Taiji every year. Efforts of animal rights activists and the documentary The Cove, a call to action to halt mass dolphin kills and challenge dolphin hunting practices in Japan, brought the practice to international attention. Action for Dolphins has described the drive hunts as being "exceptionally cruel". The animals die a slow, painful death.

Dolphin hunting occurs in several locations in Japan. What makes Taiji "special" is that it's the only location where they at hunted both for meat and for being sold to aquariums.

According to the activists, a big problem with fighting and protesting against this, is that it is legally allowed. In Japan, dolphin hunting falls under the jurisdiction of the fishing ministry. Therefore domestic laws for wildlife protection and welfare do not apply to dolphins. Even the word "dolphin hunt" in Japanese is written with the Kanji for fishing and not the one for "hunting (mammals)".

But there is landmark case underway by Action for Dolphins and Life Investigation Agency, a Japanese NGO, challenging the dolphin hunts. It asserts that dolphins are mammals and the cruelty inflicted on them is in fact illegal under Japan's own laws.

Angie Plummer, a spokeswoman for Actions for Dolphins said, "If the legal challenge against dolphin hunting succeeds, catch permits issued by the local government will be declared invalid and hunts will not be allowed to continue.

"We have high hopes for the legal action, and given the compelling evidence, we think it has every chance of success.

“Japanese people are front and centre of the lawsuit, proving there is a strong movement to end dolphin hunting in this country. The hunts are becoming increasingly unpopular in Japan, and at the same time consumption of dolphin meat is steadily decreasing.”

Another hurdle in the fight for dolphin rights, is the fact that hunting dolphins and other small cetaceans in waters near Taiji is not subject to controls by the International Whaling Commission (IWC). "The IWC facilitates and funds a number of small cetacean conservation programmes but it does not regulate hunting of small cetaceans."

Even when they were part of the IWC, Japan continued to hunt whales for 'research' purposes, "a practice criticized internationally as a cover for commercial whaling."

The country's withdrawal from the IWC and its 89 member governments, in June 2019, signified the official resumption of commercial whaling of species considered abundant, such as minke whales.

For the first time in more than 30 years, Japan has openly resumed commercial whale hunting. On July 1, a fleet of five ships set sail in the morning and returned in the afternoon with two minke whales.

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