Despite criticism from conservationists and some prominent global figures, Japan carried out its annual capture and killing of bottlenose dolphins Tuesday after trapping about 250 of the engaging mammals in a small and infamous south-central cove.
Critics of the dolphin hunt and drive this year included Japanese music legend Yoko Ono and U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy.
“Deeply concerned by inhumaneness of drive hunt dolphin killing,” Kennedy, the recently arrived U.S. envoy and daughter of John F. Kennedy, tweeted last week, adding that the U.S. government opposes such forms of fishery.
British Ambassador to Japan Tim Hitchens and Australia’s Environment Minister Greg Hunt also criticized the hunt.
Ono, the widow of Beatle John Lennon, posted a letter on her Imagine Peace website addressed to the fishermen of Taiji cove and appealing for them to consider the damage to Japan’s international stature inflicted by images of bloodied, suffering dolphins.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society for years has targeted the annual Japanese dolphin capture and kill for criticism of what it considers inhumane treatment of sentient beings.
“Five separate pods of bottlenose dolphins totaling more than 250 individuals including juveniles and babies were driven into Taiji’s infamous killing cove on Thursday, where they have endured four days of a bloody and traumatizing captive selection process,” Sea Shepherd said in a statement that accused the fishermen of depriving their captives of food while they awaited slaughter.
Fifty-two of the dolphins were selected for sale to marine parks and aquariums, while about 40 were taken onshore to a tent where they were slaughtered and prepared for delivery to butchers to be sold for human consumption, Sea Shepherd activist Melissa Sehgal said in a live-streamed report from Taiji.
Some of the dolphins were to have been freed after the vetting. But Sehgal said it was unclear how many of the captive pool were allowed to escape.
Japanese officials said the annual dolphin hunt was completed Tuesday and defended the practice as carried out legally and in deference to Japanese culture.