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Fishermen in Taiji, Japan, slaughter adult members of dolphin pod, release young

October 12, 2010 |  4:40 pm

Taiji Dolphins

The Japanese village notorious for the dolphin hunt documented in the film "The Cove" has slaughtered a pod of dolphins but spared the youngest animals, activists said Tuesday.

Most of the dolphins caught by residents of the seaside village of Taiji on Monday were butchered Tuesday, except for two that will be sold to aquariums and six young animals that were released into the ocean, said Scott West, a member of the Sea Shepherd conservation group who is in Taiji as part of a campaign to protect the marine mammals.

Leilani Munter, an environmental activist visiting Taiji from Charlotte, N.C., also witnessed the hunt and saw the dolphins being cut up in the slaughterhouse.

"There is nothing to prepare you for seeing it in person. I saw these beautiful dolphins being driven into the cove, and they came out dead bodies," she told the Associated Press.

For years, Taiji has held an annual dolphin hunt which begins in September and continues through March. It has traditionally sold the best-looking animals to aquariums and killed the rest.

But the Oscar-winning documentary, which showed how herded dolphins were stabbed in a cove that turned red with blood, has intensified international opposition to the slaughter.

Activists are organizing a protest Thursday at Japanese embassies around the world against the killings.

Unlike previous years, Taiji has been setting some of the captured dolphins free, probably because of the growing pressure, West said.

The village also has not killed any bottlenose dolphins, the same species as "Flipper" in the 1960s U.S. TV show. Instead, the victims have been risso dolphins and pilot whales, which are also dolphins but don't have the distinctive pointed noses of bottlenoses, West said.

No bottlenose dolphins were caught Monday, he said.

Last month, Taiji fishermen captured about a dozen bottlenose dolphins, which are still swimming in a netted area in a harbor separate from the cove.

A European conservationist group, Black Fish, said it cut nets in that harbor last month but the dolphins did not escape.

The young dolphins released Tuesday appeared confused, perhaps looking for their parents, and it was unclear how well they will survive, West said.

The Taiji fishing spokesman was not available for comment.

Town officials have repeatedly defended the slaughter as a way to make a living in an area where the rocky landscape makes farming and raising livestock difficult.

The town has also been trying to draw tourists to see its aquariums, where visitors can play with captive dolphins.

The Japanese government allows about 20,000 dolphins to be caught each year and defends the hunts as traditional and argues that killing dolphins and whales is no different from raising cows or pigs for slaughter.

Most Japanese have never eaten dolphin meat and would find the idea unappetizing.

In addition to opposing the Taiji hunt, Sea Shepherd has also harassed Japanese whaling ships.

West said Sea Shepherd offered to buy the captured dolphins from Taiji fishermen, raising money through global donations, but that offer was rejected.

RELATED MARINE MAMMAL NEWS:
Mayor of Taiji, Japanese village featured in 'The Cove,' defends practice of dolphin hunting
'Cove' star Ric O'Barry says footage of false killer whale leaping out of tank demonstrates cruelty

-- Yuri Kageyama, Associated Press

Photo: Local fishermen trap a group of dolphins in a holding cove after a large capture of dolphins in Taiji, Japan, in 2007. Credit: Lars Nicolaysen / European Pressphoto Agency

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