Japan’s dolphin hunt, an annual event in which fisherman corral the marine mammals into the shallow Taiji Cove in southwest Japan and slaughter them, was shielded from watchful eyes and cameras.
More than 500 bottlenose dolphins were trapped in the cove on Tuesday, but less than 100 were killed or captured, an unnamed member of the local Taiji fishermen's union told CNN
The practice is largely condemned in the West, particularly among animal-rights and environmental groups which consider it a cruel, unnecessary act of violence against what are considered by many to be the second most intelligent mammals after humans. The dolphin hunt was the topic of the Oscar-winning documentary "The Cove."
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In contrast to Western sentiments, Japanese officials defended the practice this year, with Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga telling reporters at a Monday news conference that marine mammals such as dolphins were "very important water resources," and saying it is no different to the slaughter of other animals for meat, CNN reported.
"Dolphin fishing is one of traditional fishing forms of our country and is carried out appropriately in accordance with the law," Suga said. "Dolphin is not covered by the International Whaling Commission control and it's controlled under responsibility of each country."
"We have fishermen in our community and they are exercising their fishing rights," Taiji Mayor Kazutaka Sangen added. "We feel that we need to protect our residents against the criticisms."
The defensive language was accompanied by the local government’s decision to shield fisherman from the cameras of Western journalists and environmentalists, such as the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society that has in the past videotaped the slaughter.
This year the environmental group was only able to capture the bottlenose dolphins splashing frantically as they tried to escape their human captors before the slaughter began on a nearby beach that was walled off by tarp.
Though the government was able to prevent cameras from capturing the slaughtering itself, they were apparently not able to contain the blood that reportedly seeped under the tarp and spread across the cove, CNN noted.
According to local fisherman, the dolphins were dragged up on the beach where their spines are cut and they bleed out.
"After a traumatic four days held captive in the killing cove, they experienced violent captive selection, being separated from their family, and then eventually were killed today," Sea Shepherd Conservation Society activist Melissa Sehgal told Reuters
Those that are not killed are released or sold to local aquariums to live out their days inside a tank.
On Friday, U.S. ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy expressed her deep concern with the dolphin hunt
through a Tweet.
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