Japanese fisherman have penned over 200 bottlenose dolphins in a cove as part of a traditional hunting practice which has left the marine mammals stressed, bloodied, and frantic to escape. For three nights, the dolphins have been penned in Taiji Cove without food or rest, waiting to be slaughtered for their meat on Monday. This information comes from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which is live-streaming video of the event and keeping supporters updated on Twitter.

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Image © Nico Kaiser

Not all of the captured animals will be killed; 37 dolphins were taken from the group this weekend and sold off to marine parks and aquariums where they can expect to live the rest of their lives in captivity. Two dolphins were killed during the process. The dolphins which will be slaughtered for their meat tend to have nicks or markings which make them less attractive to potential buyers. This brutal hunt was made famous in the 2009 Oscar-nominated documentary, “The Cove.”

Taiji is a small town of only about 3,000 people, who claim that the hunt is a cultural institution. Local officials have angrily responded to Western criticism of the practice, condemning the documentary as distorted, biased, and unfair. They claim their fishery has been a target of harassment by foreign organizations and that there is nothing wrong with a perfectly legal dolphin hunt, even though data has emerged that shows Japan’s laws may be allowing overfishing which threatens the species. In 2012, the town invited even further controversy by announcing that it was planning to open a dolphin park — without any plans to end the annual slaughter.

While the hunt may be legal in Japan, many animal welfare groups believe that keeping highly intelligent creatures like dolphins in captivity is both cruel and psychologically damaging to the animals. Deprived of their natural social group and environment, the animals may become antisocial, aggressive, or show signs of depression. World governments are increasingly growing critical of holding dolphins in captivity, with India going so far as to ban it entirely on moral grounds.


Lead image © lowjumpingfrog