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Japan Proceeds With Largest Taiji Dolphin Massacre In Years

Watching yet another massacre of hundreds of dolphins -- and the capture and removal for aquarium display another hundred or more -- by Japanese captors in the town of Taiji is difficult to stomach. Those of us who have seen The Cove know what is going on behind their walled-off zone.

Watching yet another massacre of hundreds of dolphins -- and the capture and removal for aquarium display another hundred or more -- by Japanese captors in the town of Taiji is difficult to stomach. Those of us who have seen The Cove know what is going on behind their walled-off zone.

But they are by God intent on doing it anyway:

Japanese fishermen have finished killing some of the 250 dolphins trapped recently in what environmental activists claim was the biggest roundup they have witnessed in the last four years.

Sea Shepherd, best known for its anti-whaling activities, said the fishermen first selected 52 dolphins to keep alive for sale to aquariums and other customers. They included a rare albino calf and its mother.

Of the rest, about 40 were killed, one became stuck in a net and drowned, and the others were released, it said.

A video released on Tuesday by Sea Shepherd shows dozens of fishermen on boats surveying the dolphins after they were confined to a cove with nets. Divers can be seen holding the dolphins selected for sale and guiding them to nets hanging off the boats.

While other dolphins have been killed since the hunting season began in September, Sea Shepherd said the 250 herded into the cove last Friday represented the largest group it has seen since it began monitoring the hunt.

And their official excuses are disgusting and pitiful; utterly devoid of any ethical awareness:

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters at a news conference Monday that marine mammals including dolphins were "very important water resources."

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

Taiji mayor Kazutaka Sangen echoed the sentiments.

"We have fishermen in our community and they are exercising their fishing rights," he said. "We feel that we need to protect our residents against the criticisms."

Mostly, we have been hearing how these are just animals and not any different from, say, rounding up cows and pigs. That, of course, is baldfacedly untrue: We know that dolphins are highly sentient and intelligent animals, at least as intelligent as chimpanzees and gorillas.

And there's little doubt that if there were some benighted government somewhere in Africa that actively enabled people to hunt and slaughter chimpanzees and gorillas, they would be under pressure from animal ethicists around the world to end the practice.

Thank goodness that this year around, Caroline Kennedy was brave enough to stand up to the Japanese. They remained, predictably, defiant and unmoved, despite the growing stain on their national honor the hunt is coming to represent.

As Tim Zimmerman observes, there is at least the chance that economics will change these practices -- though the shift may move from slaughtering the dolphins to selling them live to aquariums around the world, including the United States:

In recent years, however, concern over mercury levels in dolphin meat has raised questions in Japan about the use of dolphin meat as a food source, especially in school lunches. And dolphin meat is no longer a primary source of food, reducing the practical value of the drive hunt as a food source.

At the same time, the sale of dolphins captured in the Taiji drive hunt for marine park display (via brokers such as the Taiji Whale Museum) appears to be a steadily growing profit source for the hunts. From 2000-2005, an average of 56 live dolphins annually were sold for captive display. From 2006-2012, the annual average has more than doubled to 137, with a total of 247 sold for captive display in 2012-2013, according to marine mammal advocacy groups.

Cross-posted at Orcinus.

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