Outrage as dolphin killing grows

26th Feb 2014

There has been mounting pressure on Japan over its annual cull of dolphins. Photographs and film footage of the slaughter, which began last month in the town of Taiji, have been circulated around the world. A growing number of high profile voices are now calling on the Japanese Government to stop the hunt.

Caroline Kennedy, US ambassador to Japan, has voiced her concern, tweeting “Deeply concerned by inhumaneness of drive hunt dolphin killing". In response to the criticism, Japanese officials have responded by saying the hunt is carried out in accordance with the law and is a traditional form of fishing.

Yoko Ono has also got involved, she has written an open letter to the Taiji fishermen in Japan. Her letter urges the fishermen and Japanese people to consider the impact this hunt has on the rest of the world’s opinion of her birth country.

Drive hunting in Taiji involves using loud metallic noises in the water to disrupt the dolphin’s sonar. The dolphins are chased and trapped in pens, then herded into a small cove for slaughter. Although hidden by tarpaulins from the outside world, reports say the animals are killed by having metal rods thrust into their spinal cords. The dolphins can take up to half an hour to die.

Campaigners argue that killing dolphins for meat makes no sense since demand is low and the meat would not pass World Health Organisation guidelines because it contains toxic levels of metallic elements. They say that the real reason for hunt has nothing to do with tradition, and more to do with making money. Some of the captured animals are sold on to perform in dolphinariums and in this entertainment industry hundreds of thousands of dollars can change hands for the right animal.

The dolphin cull was featured in the 2009 Oscar winning documentary The Cove. Since then a growing movement has gathered pace against the hunt. With celebrities and even several British MPs saying it is time to end this cruel practice.

Get involved:

• Understand more about the behaviour of wild whales and dolphins, help build a body of research by join ORCA as a volunteer
• Read Yoko Ono’s letter in full