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Ric O'Barry: Taiji dolphin drive hunts are not a tradition

By Elizabeth Batt     Jan 20, 2014 in Environment
Taiji - Ric O'Barry, star of The Cove movie, is refuting the Japanese Government's allegations that dolphin drive hunts are a part of Japanese tradition.
O'Barry, who has been spreading awareness for decades over the annual dolphin drives in Taiji, Japan, spoke out as worldwide condemnation continues to grow over Taiji's role in capturing dolphins.
Last Friday, local fishermen rounded up an estimated 250 bottlenose dolphins, including one extremely rare albino juvenile. The dolphins have been netted off in the cove without food for several days now as fishermen sort through the superpod of dolphins and select specimens for captivity.
The inhumane treatment of the animals, has earned condemnation from several prominent public and government figures both in the US, and abroad. Caroline Kennedy, the US ambassador to Japan, tweeted her concern over the weekend:
"(I am) deeply concerned by inhumaneness of drive hunt dolphin killing. The USG opposes drive hunt fishing," she said.
Forced to defend it actions, the Japanese government is brushing off criticism by claiming the drives are a part of Japan's "traditional culture."
"This claim of 'Japanese tradition' is nonsense," stated Ric O’Barry, Director of Earth Island's Dolphin Project in a press release to Digital Journal. "The dolphin drive hunts, according to the town's own written history, says a couple of drive hunts occurred in 1936 and 1944," he added, "but the current series of hunts only began in 1969."
This history of the drives was also confirmed yesterday by three Japanese conservation groups who have collectively submitted an open letter to WAZA executive director Dr. Gerald Dick, asking for action.
In 2004, a WAZA statement said that its members should not, "accept animals obtained by the use of methods which are inherently cruel. An example of such a practice," they said, "is the catching of dolphins by the use of a method known as drive fishing."
Yet according to the international group: Whale and Dolphin Conservation, "JAZA is a member institution of WAZA," and "over 55% of JAZA-members continue to buy dolphins from these hunts."
These hunts, "are being used by the captivity industry to supply wild dolphins to aquariums in Japan, China, Dubai, and other aquariums all around the world," O'Barry said, although he explained that "imports of dolphins from Taiji to the US were finally blocked by the efforts of Earth Island Institute and other organizations in 1993."
Meanwhile, ELSA Nature Conservancy, one of the longest standing of the three Japanese organizations, is currently petitioning WAZA, to ask them to expel JAZA if they refuse to abide by WAZA's code of ethics.
O'Barry too, is calling for the same action. "What kind of ethics condemns the dolphin hunts while taking advantage of them to help the Taiji dolphin hunters round up and slaughter hundreds of dolphins every year?" he asked. "WAZA and ALL its members should be condemning the dolphin hunts in no uncertain terms."
As international outrage continues to intensify, back in Taiji, the slaughter of the dolphins has begun. With more than 50 dolphins selected for captivity, a further 200 could be killed today.
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