A controversial dolphin hunt in Japan is once again facing international condemnation after U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy said on Twitter she was deeply concerned about the practice.
Deeply concerned by inhumaneness of drive hunt dolphin killing. USG opposes drive hunt fisheries.— キャロライン・ケネディ駐日米国大使 (@CarolineKennedy) January 18, 2014
The “drive” refers to a practice of herding the dolphins into a cove, where they are trapped and later killed.
The yearly hunt, which takes place in the western Japanese village of Taiji and lasts several months, first faced widespread criticism when it was the subject of the 2009 Academy Awards winning documentary “The Cove.”
Footage from the film showeddolphins rounded up en masse, and then slaughtered by fisherman as the cove’s water turned blood red.
While many of the dolphins are killed for their meat, some are sent to aquariums.
Paul Watson, a Canadian activist who started the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, said live dolphins can sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“If it wasn’t for the aquarium industry’s demand for these dolphins, there wouldn’t be a dolphin drive or a dolphin slaughter,” Watson told CBS on Monday.
Watson’s organization has been one of the most vocal critics of the hunt.
The fishermen in Taiji say the hunt is part of their village tradition and call foreign critics who eat other kinds of meat hypocritical.
Kennedy’s tweet even forced the Japanese government to wade in on the issue, with a spokesperson saying that "Dolphin fishing is a form of traditional fishing in our country,” adding that the Japanese government will explain the practice to American diplomats.
The SSCS says more than 200 dolphins have been rounded up for slaughter and capture this year.
The organization has been extremely active on Twitter, constantly providing updates about the hunt in an attempt to garner support for the cause.
Remaining 200+ Bottlenose that remain in the cove will be held for a 4th night without food & slaughtered tomorrow. 1:23p #tweet4taiji— Cove Guardians (@CoveGuardians) January 20, 2014
Others Twitter users have also been trying to increase awareness, using the hasthtag #tweet4taiji.
Even funny man Ricky Gervais got serious on Twitter, calling for a ban on the hunt.
URGENT: 250 bottle nose dolphins in Taiji cove now. #tweet4taiji please stop the slaughter. RT. Thank You.— Ricky Gervais (@rickygervais) January 17, 2014
The SSCS is live streaming the hunt on its website. It says the hunt can last upwards of six months, often starting in September and stretching into March of the next year.