What is Japan’s controversial dolphin hunt?
Campaigners slam cruelty of annual hunt but locals say they depend on the trade
Japan has begun its annual dolphin hunt in the coastal town of Taiji. The controversial hunt sees dolphins driven into a cove and either slaughtered for their meat in the shallow waters, or sold to aquariums and marine parks.
Some of the mammals are speared repeatedly by fisherman whose propellers can slice the dolphins’ skin. Others are held underwater to drown.
Campaigners say dolphins can take up to 30 minutes to die by suffocation or drowning but local fisherman insist the community’s livelihood is dependent on the trade.
Dolphins are more lucrative when caught alive and sent to aquariums, but marine parks have come under pressure for dealing with the hunters.
In the wild, dolphins live for up to 60 or 70 years, but those captured in the hunt often die when they are as young as eight, say campaigners, who are calling for the hunt to be banned.
Up to 1,700 dolphins can legally be butchered or caught over the course of the six-month season, which runs until March.
The hunt first sparked global controversy when it was featured in the 2009 Oscar-winning documentary The Cover.
The new season began despite legal action launched by activists attempting to block the practice. Although 10 members of a Japanese animal rights group gathered at the port, they were unable to disrupt the start of the season.
The Daily Telegraph reports that the Japanese government has defended dolphin hunting in the past, with Yoshihide Suga, chief cabinet secretary, declaring five years ago that it is a “form of traditional fishing in our country”.