Caroline Kennedy, the recently appointed U.S. Ambassador to Japan, took to social media to condemn an annual dolphin hunt that was the subject of a 2009 Academy Award-winning documentary titled The Cove.
The ambassador, who is the last surviving child of former president John F. Kennedy, tweeted her disapproval of the controversial hunt on Friday – adding that her sentiments were shared by the U.S. government at large.
Deeply concerned by inhumaneness of drive hunt dolphin killing. USG opposes drive hunt fisheries.
Each year, fishermen in the Japanese village of Taiji, Wakayama prefecture, corral hundreds of dolphins into a secluded cove using a technique called “drive hunting.”
Once a pod of dolphins or pilot whales is located, the fishermen lower steel poles into the water. By banging on the poles with hammers, the hunters can take advantage of the cetacean’s primary sense – echolocation – and create an underwater wall of sound.
“The dolphins find themselves suddenly trapped between the shore and an encroaching wall,” explained Australia for Dolphins (AFD). “Panicked and disoriented, they swim away from the wall, towards the dangerous shallows … An essential element of the drive hunt technique is to drive the dolphins towards the shore at high speed, such that they are exhausted (indeed some drown or have cardiac failure during the process) and can be maneuvered easily into the cove.”
Of the hundreds of dolphins that are rounded up, a few dozen of the most attractive specimens will be sold to aquariums and marine parks for upwards of $80,000 each. Those remaining are systematically stabbed to death – a process that literally turns the water red with blood.
“The treatment of dolphins and whales that takes place in Taiji would not be tolerated in any regulated slaughterhouse in the developed world,” added AFD.
This year’s hunt kicked off on Saturday, with CNN reporting that five separate pods containing more than 250 bottlenose dolphins had been driven into the infamous Taiji cove.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, a polarizing figure in the fight against Japanese whaling, said that 49 dolphins had been removed from the group and taken to holding pens since Saturday morning. The first selected for a life of captivity was a rare albino calf, according to the group’s “Cove Guardians.” Another dolphin allegedly died during the transportation process.
Officials in Wakayama prefecture have accused foreign environmentalists, including the Cove Guardians, of “psychological harassment” – insisting that the hunt is both legal and a part of local tradition. Japanese nationalists have staged counter protests in the past, reacting violently and dispersing protesters with the assistance of local police.
“We’ve got our lives. We can’t simply nod [to protests] and end centuries of our tradition,” an anonymous Taiji fishing industry official told AFP. “If you want to talk about cruelty, you couldn’t eat cows, pigs or any other living creatures.”