Japan officials defend dolphin hunting at Taiji Cove

Japan officials defend dolphin hunting at Taiji Cove.

By Yoko Wakatsuki and Madison Park, CNN
January 22, 2014 -- Updated 1617 GMT (0017 HKT)

http://edition.cnn.com/2014/01/20/world/asia/japan-dolphin-hunt/

Tokyo, Japan (CNN) -- The slaughter of bottlenose dolphins in an infamous Japanese cove took place on Tuesday.
About 500 dolphins were driven into the cove this year, a larger number than usual, according to the local Taiji fishermen's union. A fisherman who is a union board member, and who did not want to be named, told CNN that the total number of dolphins to be captured or slaughtered was less than 100, and that the rest would be released.
The yearly event is a focal point of the Taiji community's dolphin hunting season, which many in the community in southwest Japan view as a long-held tradition. The annual hunting season begins in September and runs through March, according to animal rights activists.
But the hunt is heavily scrutinized by environmental activists, who have been monitoring activities and livestreaming and tweeting about the latest developments.
In recent days, environmentalist group the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has provided livestreams showing bottlenose dolphins splashing frantically as they tried to escape their human captors. Dolphins separated by nets into smaller partitions bobbed up and down, trying to reach other members of their pod. The group said that the dolphins appeared bloodied, and had had nothing to eat since their capture in Taiji Cove four days ago.
The union representative said that the fishermen had introduced what they considered a "more humane" method of slaughtering the dolphins, cutting their spines on the beach to kill the animals more swiftly and cause them less pain.

Defending tradition
Although the hunting of dolphins is widely condemned in the West, many in Japan defend the practice as a local custom -- and say it is no different to the slaughter of other animals for meat.
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."
He accused the Sea Shepherd of using the issue of dolphin hunting to raise funds and attract attention. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has been live-streaming video of events in the cove and posting frequent updates on Twitter.
The Wakayama Prefectural Government, where Taiji is located, gives an annual "catching quota." This year, the government allows for the hunting of 2,026 small porpoises and dolphins (557 are for bottlenose dolphins).
The dolphin hunt has seen some changes, Sangen said. The town wants to create a whale/porpoise study with the aim of bringing a marine park to the city. And the method of hunting has been changing, becoming less crude, he added.
On Monday, the fishermen focused on selecting dolphins to be sold into captivity at marine parks and aquariums in Japan and overseas, the conservation group said. Trainers marked the dolphins deemed unsuitable for captivity, which would be either killed or driven back out to the ocean, according to the Sea Shepherd group.
Kennedy's tweet met with criticism in Japan
Caroline Kennedy, the recently installed U.S. ambassador to Japan, tweeted that she is "deeply concerned by inhumaneness of drive hunt dolphin killing."

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Message from Akiko Yui, President and Founder of TNR Japan Animal Welfare Hospital
I believe that helping animals in need, existing in symbiosis with animals, and fostering a loving heart lead to an improvement in one’s character of kindness and generosity. The killing of animals due to decisions made by administration goes against my firm belief in preventing cruelty to animals. Animal Rescue Fund’s most important goal is to reduce the number of animals killed in Japan to zero by urging administration to change, reform, and improve the prevention of cruelty to animals. In order to reduce the number of animals in need, we work to raise awareness and support for the importance of sterilization operations. Each year, we spay and neuter more than 1000 stray cats. We are always putting animals up for adoption to help those lives already born in finding a loving home.

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We first opened our TNR Japan Animal Welfare Hospital in February of 2011 in an effort to make our dream a reality - to lower the number of dogs and cats killed in Japan to zero. At our hospital, we spay and neuter cats to reduce the number of unfortunate stray cats. Our hospital strives to help unfortunate animals in need of medical care.
The lives of numerous pets and livestock were lost as a result of the unprecedented earthquake and tsunami that occurred in Japan on March 11th 2011 and the radiation disaster caused by the stricken Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Animal Rescue Fund goes directly to the 20km evacuation zone around the stricken Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant to rescue animals.
Animal Rescue Fund is based in Kanagawa Prefecture’s TNR Japan Animal Welfare Hospital. Therefore, the animals that we rescue from Fukushima Prefecture are brought to TNR Japan Animal Welfare Hospital located in Kanagawa Prefecture. Here, the rescued animals receive medical care and are returned to their owners or are put up for adoption.
We also work in urging the government and administration of Japan to support the protection of animals in need.


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