Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Japan urged to put an end to annual dolphins' slaughter!

A US coalition of marine scientists and aquarium workers is demanding the Japanese Government end its country’s “inhumane” annual dolphin hunts, saying the custom targets an intelligent and self-aware species.

In a handful of Japanese villages, local fishermen hunt dolphins for their meat by herding them into shallow coves and then attacking them with knives, sometimes gutting them alive.

“They’re dying this sort of long, slow, painful, excruciating death,” said Dr Paul Boyle, a former director of the New York Aquarium and current chairman and chief executive of The Ocean Project, the coalition that is co-ordinating the effort.

The group is sponsoring an online petition that asks the Government to put an end to the hunting. It hopes to collect one million signatures.

The Japanese say the practice is a long-standing cultural and commercial tradition. Takumi Fukuda, fisheries attache for the Japanese

Embassy in Washington, said fishermen tried to kill the dolphins’ quickly to lessen their suffering and maintain meat quality, but that it was impossible to avoid some cruelty.

In promoting their Act for Dolphins campaign, the scientists highlight dolphins’ intelligence, selfawareness and cognitive functioning.

“They have the intellect to understand what is going on,” said Lori Marino, a lecturer in neuroscience and behavioural biology at Emory University in Atlanta. “We believe that means they undergo a great deal of suffering during this process.”

The practice survives in just a few outposts in Japan, though the hunt runs from autumn through to spring.

The scientists say fishermen corral large numbers of dolphins into nets by banging metal rods in the water, creating a sort of acoustic barrier. Then the dolphins are “dispatched in a brutal manner — speared, hooked, hoisted into the air by their tails, and finally eviscerated alive”.

Dr Marino said the dolphins were used as pet food and fertiliser, with their meat distributed across Asia.

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"