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Humpback whale underwater

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WDC joins supporters around the globe for Japan Dolphin Day

There are no more powerful words than the many images captured over the course of the past few days as nearly 100 demonstrations were launched around the world from places like San Francisco, Paris, Melbourne, Mallorca and even Mumbai , to mark the beginning of the dolphin drive hunt season in Taiji, Japan. Pictures from these Japan Dolphin Day events reveal the magnitude of the global condemnation of the dolphin drive hunts. 

Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) joined local activists in Tempe (Arizona), Buenos Aires, and London for these international days of awareness to denounce Japan’s dolphin slaughter.

Japan’s annual dolphin “drive” hunts occur from September 1st through April primarily in the coastal town of Taiji. Last year, over 850 dolphins were killed in the drive hunts. An additional 150 individuals were selected alive from the hunts for captivity. The quota for the number of dolphins that can be killed in the Taiji drive hunt for the 2014-15 season is 1, 938 individuals.

WDC has repeatedly reached out to the Japanese consulates and embassies seeking an end to the dolphin drive hunts which received international attention last January when diplomats and other high-level government officials from around the world decried the cruelty of these hunts. Earlier this year, US Ambassador Caroline Kennedy issued a statement through social media that the US Government opposes the dolphin drive hunts, referring to them as “inhumane.” Other governments then followed suit in what turned into an international show of diplomatic solidarity against these hunts.

 The cruelty endured by dolphins and small whales caught in drive hunts is immense. Fishermen herd and drive the animals toward shore where they are trapped in nets and brutally killed. Dolphins are also captured alive and sold to aquaria and marine parks worldwide. The award-winning documentary, The Cove, has raised worldwide consciousness to this practice since its release in 2009.

Having witnessed these hunts, I can attest that every aspect, from the chasing of the dolphins from the open ocean, to confinement in a netted cove and slaughter behind tarpaulins, is exceptionally cruel and is enough to bring even a seasoned campaigner to her knees. Now, anyone can watch and bear witness to these hunts as the day unfolds in Taiji and livestreaming video is broadcasted from the killing cove. 

Dolphins are highly intelligent and socially-complex animals. Scientific studies have shown that the bottlenose dolphin, one of the main species targeted in the hunts, is capable of recognizing herself in a mirror, a trait only shared by humans and the great apes. Sentient and aware, these individuals exhibit signs of great distress during their capture, round-up, and subsequent slaughter.

WDC has been active in confronting the hunts in Japan on a number of levels, including raising awareness of the hunts, documenting and monitoring the hunts in Taiji, engaging with US and Japanese authorities, exposing the continuing involvement of the aquarium industry in these hunts, supporting Japanese activists and organizations, and taking part in peaceful demonstrations. This brutal practice has no place in civilized society, and we call upon the Japanese government to end the drive hunts immediately.

The global community has spoken once again, and as the drive hunt season unfolds, we are encouraged by the activists in Japan who joined protests in Tokyo and Taiji, revealing that it is not just the global community that seeks an end to the killing of dolphins, but the people of Japan, too. We commend the commitment and concern of all of the local activists that rallied in cities all across the world to show their love for whales and dolphins, and brave sometimes harsh weather conditions to share a clarion call with embassies, consulates, and the general public for an end to these brutal hunts.