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Dolphin killing in Japan leads to protest in L.A. and other cities [Updated]

October 14, 2010 |  3:15 pm


About 100 people demonstrated Thursday outside the Japanese Consulate in the 300 block of South Grand Avenue in Los Angeles as part of a worldwide protest against the annual slaughter of dolphins in that country.

Some waved blue plastic inflatable dolphins. One sign said: “These Dolphins Were Killed This Week.” On it, dolphins frolicked in two photos, while bloodied animals were pictured in two other pictures.

Security guards kept protesters outside the downtown high-rise housing the consulate.

[Updated at 6:16 p.m.: Consular officials responded late Thursday afternoon with a statement urging “that the most important thing is to recognize … national and cultural differences and to have a mutual understanding of each other.”

In Japan, dolphins “are regarded as naturally reproduced marine resources.” As such, “the Japanese government will continue to authorize the use of dolphins at a sustainable level.”]

The event, called International Save Japan Dolphins Day, also sought to call attention to unsafe levels of mercury found in dolphin meat.

Joy Cernac, 26, of Santa Monica faulted the Japanese government for allowing the killings and for permitting the sale of the meat, which she said was frequently mislabeled as another product.

[Updated at 6:16 p.m.: On this issue, the consulate responded that the government has advised “pregnant women to limit their consumption of certain seafood.” And false labeling of food would be investigated “when provided with evidence.”]

Briana Ahl, 33, held 8-month-old Jaxson in one arm and, in her free hand, a sign that read, “Don’t Murder Dolphins.”

The yearly killings were brought to widespread public attention by the award-winning documentary “The Cove” by Richard O'Barry, the former dolphin trainer for the 1960s "Flipper" TV show.

The film’s associate producer, Charles Hambleton, was among the local organizers on hand Thursday.

Hambleton said marine attractions in the U.S. contribute to the problem by creating a market for captive dolphins.

A 2009 Times article described how in the small village of Taiji, 2,300 dolphins are steered into a hidden cove, where the choicest specimens are selected for sale to dolphin parks for $150,000 each. The rest are speared by fishermen in a frenzy of blood and thrashing fins.

Officials of the isolated town on Japan's southeastern coast had long blocked outsiders from observing the kills.

A consulate representative fielded a reporter’s questions and said he would provide answers as soon as possible.

In the past, Japanese officials have defended the hunts as part of traditional fishing culture.

Some defenders of the practice have accused critical Americans of hypocrisy, saying they do not show similar concerns for other mammals that are killed here for food, such as pigs and cows.

-- Howard Blume at the Japanese Consulate

Photo: A protester holds up an inflatable dolphin, painted to look bloody, during a protest in front of the Japanese Consulate on Thursday. Credit: Michael Robinson-Chavez / Los Angeles Times