Animal Rights Activists Take Legal Action Against Japan's Annual Dolphin Hunt
Activist groups from London and Japan have recently filed a case against the yearly practice of hunting down dolphins in Japan, particularly in the town of Taiji. The whaling town is located in Higashimuro District of country's Wakayama Prefecture. The lawsuit filed by the animal rights activist groups challenges the yearly slaughter of dolphins by Japanese fishermen, claiming that it is against Japan's own animal welfare laws.
Action for Dolphins, an organization based in London, and the Japanese non-profit organization Life Investigation Agency, filed their lawsuit with the Wakayama district court along with evidence that the groups hope will convince authorities to put a stop to the slaughter. According to the filing, the groups point out that dolphins are biologically mammals and are therefore protected by Japan's own animal welfare laws. The groups also assert that the ways these dolphins are hunted down are tantamount to animal cruelty.
According to Sarah Lucas, the head of the Action for Dolphins organization, Japanese people have been wrongly viewing dolphins as "fish," and therefore most do not think that domestic animal welfare laws apply to them. The lawsuit also demands that the governor of Wakayama Prefecture, Yoshinobu Nisaka, should be held responsible for issuing fishing permits to residents that are against the city's catch quotas and animal welfare legislation.
The Taiji dolphin drive hunt initially caught the attention of worldwide media after the release of the documentary film titled "The Cove." The film showed the cruel methods used by fishermen to catch these dolphins in the small whaling town. The particular hunting method involves the trapping of hundreds of dolphins into a small bay where they are then killed. According to animal rights activists, some fishermen use a metal rod to wound the dolphin around their necks, which they then leave to suffer and die in the water.
Taiji is currently the only town in Japan where dolphin hunting is practiced on a large scale. Japan's government currently only allows 2,000 dolphins to be captured and killed to food. However, some estimates reveal that the Japanese fishermen slaughter around 22,000 dolphins per year. These hunts do provide local residents with a decent livelihood, but the methods they use have come under fire from various animal rights activist groups from around the world. Health experts have also advised residents against consuming dolphin meat due to its extremely high mercury content.
Most of the dolphins captured during these hunts are killed for food, but some of them do end up being sold to aquariums. Residents of the whaling town have expressed their intention of continuing the hunts as it is apparently part of their centuries-old whaling heritage and a vital source of livelihood for their families.