Dolphins Gathered with a Death Curtain Before Taiji Slaughter

The dolphins are rounded up with a “noise curtain” so they can be captured for meat and aquariums during the annual Taiji dolphin hunt in Japan.

The hunt takes place every year from September 1 to March 1 in the small village of Taiji, nicknamed “the cove”, in the Higashimuro district. Hunters herd large numbers of dolphins near the shore, where they are caught in nets. Dolphins are either slaughtered for meat or taken to sea aquariums.

Danny Groves, communications manager at Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), a wildlife charity, said Newsweek“Driven hunts in Japan are inherently cruel. Once a pod is spotted, anglers bang on metal poles, creating an underwater curtain of noise, which confuses and disorients dolphins.

“They are then herded or herded together to shore. Some of them, usually juveniles and calves, may be allowed back into the ocean alone, scared and stressed. Most are not so lucky and are slaughtered for meat, which few people eat,” Groves said.

Dolphin hunting underway in Japan
A pod of dolphins are rounded up on a hunt in Japan.
Project Dolphin / Life Investigation Agency

The Dolphin Project, in conjunction with the Life Investigation Agency, is documenting this year’s hunt and posting updates from its Facebook page. On Monday, the organization reported that 58 melon-headed whales, including claves, had been driven into the cove. A total of 21 people were killed and 37 were chased away. But since the hunt began in September 2022, many more have been killed.

The Dolphin Project also reported that hunters killed an entire pod of 12 Risso’s dolphins.

He said on Facebook: “Even though Risso’s dolphin can dive 1,000 feet and hold its breath for over 30 minutes, Taiji hunters have developed techniques to confuse and panic dolphins, causing them to stay on their toes. surface to breathe faster. This year the Rissos have been a constant target of these hunters, making this the 11th time they have downed Rissos this season. 108 Rissos have been downed so far this season.

The six-month-old dolphin hunt is authorized by the Japanese Fisheries Agency, but many animal welfare groups say it is cruel and unnecessary and are calling for it to be banned. The agency, which regulates hunting, sets an annual quota for certain species. The quota for the 2022/2023 season is 1,849.

Last year, the Taiji year hunts resulted in the death or capture of more than 550 whales and dolphins, WDC reported.

The hunting controversy escalated with the 2009 release of the documentary The cove, which details how dolphins are chased and killed. In 2017, a senior official of the local fishermen’s association, Yoshifumi Kai, said The Guardian that hunting is necessary for the subsistence of local populations.

Those who participate in the hunt say the practice helps meet the demand for meat. Additionally, capturing dolphins for marine parks can bring hunters thousands.

“In recent years, the driving force behind these hunts appears to be the demand for live individuals to fuel the entertainment industry, both in Japan and overseas,” Groves said. “There is an increasing focus on capturing beautiful and healthy individuals, usually young females, to sell to theme parks… A dead dolphin fetches a few hundred US dollars, but a live dolphin trained could earn over $100,000.”

He continued: “More and more information is surfacing about the high levels of pollution in dolphins and small whales and the implications for human health associated with the consumption of contaminated meat. Thus, the link between these hunts in car and the captive industry is getting stronger, with millions of dollars deals between Taiji fishermen and Chinese aquariums.”

Their life in captivity is miserable, according to Groves.

“Whales and dolphins are not meant to be kept in small tanks,” he said. “Separated from their families, they cannot cover the huge distances they could cover every day in the wild and therefore suffer from stress, swimming in small circles, living shorter lives performing unnatural tricks to just feed themselves. to entertain us. And that’s if they’re lucky.”

WDC has worked to expose the cruelty involved in hunting dolphins. An independent analysis of the hunt revealed “worrying levels of physical trauma and extreme cruelty that are well below international animal welfare standards”.

Animal welfare groups believe this practice is cruel and should also be banned for the good of the ecosystem.

“This practice remains all the more baffling when we are battling climate breakdown,” Groves said. “A healthy planet needs a healthy ocean, and whales and dolphins help maintain a healthy ocean. Butchering them in such brutal ways and pulling them out of the ocean and putting them in tanks no sense.”

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