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Japan Defends Dolphin Hunt as Annual Slaughter Ends in Infamous Taiji Cove

The Japanese government on Monday defended the island nation’s highly controversial yearly dolphin slaughter as “traditional,” “appropriate” and “a right” as the annual corralling, killing and capturing of hundreds of bottlenose dolphins came to an end.

CNN reports Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters at a Monday news conference in the capital Tokyo that marine mammals, including dolphins, are “very important water resources.”

“Dolphin fishing is one of the traditional forms of our country and is carried out appropriately in accordance with the law,” Suga claimed. “Dolphin is not covered by the International Whaling Commission control and it’s controlled under responsibility of each country.”

Kazutaka Sangen, mayor of Taiji, site of an annual dolphin slaughter made internationally famous by the Oscar-winning 2009 documentary film “The Cove,” also defended the hunting and killing of the highly intelligent cetaceans as a “right.”

“We have fishermen in our community and they are exercising their fishing rights,” asserted Sangen. “We feel that we need to protect our residents against the criticisms.”

The criticisms were pouring in from all corners of the globe as Taiji fishermen finished their bloody work for the year. The Guardian reports some 250 dolphins were trapped in what activists claimed was the biggest roundup they’ve seen in recent years. CNN reported a total of 500 dolphins driven into Taiji cove this year.

Sea Shepherd activists, who each year intercept and harass Japanese whaling vessels and dispatch Cove Guardians to Taiji in hopes of saving as many cetacean lives as possible, claim 52 dolphins were selected for captivity. Those animals were kept alive, destined for aquariums and other forms of confinement. The ‘lucky’ dolphins included a rare albino calf and its mother.

Of the remaining dolphins, some 40 were killed, one got caught in a net and drowned and others were released.

The union representing Taiji fishermen told reporters that a “more humane” method of killing dolphins was introduced this year. Their spines were sliced open on the beach in what fishermen said was an attempt to kill them more quickly and less painfully.

But a Sea Shepherd video showing dolphins splashing in desperate terror as they attempted to escape captivity and locate lost relatives and pod members appeared to belie claims of a more ‘humane’ hunt.

Condemnation of the Taiji slaughter came not only from the usual environmental and animal rights activists but also from the recently-appointed US Ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy, who tweeted her objection to the killing.

“Deeply concerned by inhumaneness of drive hunt dolphin killing. USG (United States government) opposes drive hunt fisheries,” Kennedy tweeted, referring to the method of hunting dolphins by driving them together with boats and herding them toward coves or beaches for slaughter.

Caroline Kennedy dolphins

Mayor Sangen responded to Kennedy’s criticism by defending the hunt and inviting her to visit Taiji to “understand how we make a living from it.”

“I understand her statement as an expression of concern on this debate,” said Sangen. “There are always the people who say it’s wrong and it’s right, but what we have to see is if fishermen are hunting endangered species or not. They don’t. We are fishing under permission just like the US does.”

Other Japanese were more pointed in their criticism of the critics.

“[Kennedy] refers to humanitarian treatment of animals,” tweeted @simaya. “What about the atomic bombing, Agent Orange and missiles falling on civilians in the Middle East?”

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