Issues > Dolphin Slaughter in Taiji
The little town with a really big secret
Each year from September to May over 20,000 dolphins are slaughtered in Japan. Fishermen round them up by the hundreds using sound barriers to disorient and herd the frantic pods out of their normal migrations into hidden lagoons like the one featured in The Cove. Bottlenose dolphins, especially ones that look like Flipper, are pre-selected by trainers and sold off for upwards of $200,000 to marine mammal parks around the world, where they will remain in captivity performing as circus acts. After the trainers and spectators have left, the rest of the dolphins are inhumanely killed in what can only be described as a massacre.
The butchered dolphins are later used for food, but the Japanese government has intentionally sheltered people from the dangers of eating them. Consumers of dolphin meat run the risk of mercury poisoning due to high levels of the toxin within the animals. Adding to the danger, much of the pricier whale meat they purchase is actually mislabeled toxic dolphin meat. While the Japanese government defends dolphin hunting as part of their cultural heritage, this tradition has serious health effects on its own people.
The more lucrative captive dolphin industry is the driving economic force behind the dolphin slaughter in Taiji. In the U.S. alone, dolphinariums represent an $8.4 billion industry, while a dead dolphin fetches a mere $600. International law provides no protections against the killing of dolphins, and other slaughters occur in places outside of Japan. The International Whaling Commission (IWC) affords no protections for 71 (out of 80, known) cetacean species, including all dolphins and porpoises, which is why Japan and other countries can legally kill them by the tens of thousands.
Will the slaughter continue?Small cetaceans, namely dolphins are not protected by the International Whaling Commission (IWC). In fact, the IWC affords no protections for 71 (out of 80, known) cetacean species, including all dolphins and porpoises, which is why Japan can legally kill them by the tens of thousands.
The Japanese people have been intentionally sheltered from the slaughter, and the large majority are still unaware that much of the meat they purchase is actually mislabeled dolphin meat.
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