About 23,000 dolphins, porpoises and other small whales are killed in Japan every year, making it the largest scale slaughter of cetaceans in the world. About 2,500 dolphins and other small whales are killed in the so-called dolphin drive hunt that takes place six months out of the year. The rest are killed with handheld harpoons out at sea. In the small fishing village of Taiji, Wakayama prefecture, the dolphin drive hunt is carried out by about 26 fishermen from September 1st though March.
Terrorizing the dolphins with underwater sound, the fishermen herd the dolphins into a secret killing cove close to Taiji Town. Often times, dolphins die during the chase that can last eight hours or more. The Taiji fishermen claim that dolphins eat too much fish and therefore must be exterminated. Operating with a permit from their government, the Taiji fishermen have referred to the dolphin hunt as "pest control."
The majority of people in Japan have no knowledge about the annual dolphin blood bath.
The fishermen kill the dolphins with spears, fishermen's hooks and knives. Trashing about in their own blood, the dolphins emit high-pitched screams during the massacre. The slaughtered dolphins are processed into meat and distributed to supermarkets throughout Japan for human consumption. Dolphin meat from drive hunts in Taiji proved to be highly contaminated with toxic chemicals such as mercury, methyl mercury and PCBs. Repeated chemical analyses have shown that the level of mercury in dolphin meat is much higher than the maximum allowable level set by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare of Japan. Some of the dolphin meat is given to children as part of their school lunch program.
Some members of the international aquarium and zoo industry are strongly connected to the Japanese dolphin slaughter, in that they pay top dollar for dolphins deemed suitable for commercial exploitation in dolphin shows and captive dolphin swim programs.
The Japanese dolphin hunt will continue for as long as members of the international dolphinarium industry continue to reward the hunters for show quality dolphins, thereby making the hunt tremendously profitable.
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