‘Let the dolphin games begin’: Gruesome Japanese cove hunt spills first blood

ARCHIVE Fishermen kill dolphin pods using spikes which sever the spinal cord, Taiji, Japan © wikipedia.org
Controversial annual dolphin hunt has begun in Taiji, Japan despite protests of animal rights activists. Hundreds of dolphins are going to be killed in the bloodied waters of the town’s infamous cove.

“We finally caught them. I’m relieved,” Yoshifumi Kai, senior officer of the local fishermen  association, told Kyodo News agency.

Hunters in diving costumes brawl with dolphins to select the best ones for aquariums. According to Dolphin Project, the best-looking and rarest live dolphins can cost up to hefty $300,000.

The star of The Cove documentary, Ric O’Barry, was detained earlier this year for three weeks after being denied entry to Japan. Japan has deported him and prohibited entry for next five years.

His group, however, continues the work and closely monitors the hunt. They livestream the event to bring public attention to the problem. Local authorities have tightened the security in Taiji in order to prevent possible clashes between the activists and the locals.

Defenders of the hunt say it is a tradition and point out that dolphins are not listed as endangered species. This position is backed by Japan’s government. Environmental campaigners and animal rights activists say that the hunt is an outright slaughter. According to them, this ‘Japanese tradition’ is not that ancient as the fishermen present it.

“This claim of ‘Japanese tradition’ is nonsense,” Ric O’Barry stated in a press release in 2014. “The dolphin drive hunts, according to the town’s own written history, says a couple of drive hunts occurred in 1936 and 1944, but the current series of hunts only began in 1969.”

Dolphins have demonstrated sophisticated cognitive abilities, including self and social awareness, and activists believe these mammals are entitled to some rights – a right to live at least.