In a coastal village in Japan between September and March, dolphins and pilot whales are herded into a quiet cove. Fishermen hold large poles underwater and bang them with hammers to create a wall of sound that disorientates the animals and causes them to swim toward the shore. Here, mothers and babies are separated by ropes, some dolphins are tied to boats, some become injured or break their pectoral fins in the watery panic, some die from stress or exhaustion.
The bewildered animals are kept enclosed by nets overnight, and as the sun rises on the cove, the sea turns red as 'drive fishermen' pierce the dolphins and whales with long spears. Some fishermen use hooks to haul live dolphins into the boats where their throats are slashed.
This modern day atrocity has also been captured on film and is the subject of the Academy Award winning documentary 'The Cove'. Yet worldwide condemnation has yet to convince the Japanese government that this brutal butchering should end.
The reasons given by officials are varied. Some say the dolphins and whales are killed for their meat; meat tainted with high levels of mercury and served to Japanese school children. Others say the 'hunt' is a form of 'pest control' insisting the dolphins are competition for the fishing industry.
The killings have also been directly linked to the lucrative trade in dolphins for the marine park industry. Investigators have reported seeing dolphin trainers assisting fishermen in herding the dolphins in order to choose those deemed suitable for a life in an aquarium.
Whatever the reason, there is simply no excuse for such extreme cruelty. The beauty and culture of Japan is a major drawcard for tourists, and is only strengthened by its amazing wildlife. These incredible animals should be protected, not destroyed in a blood bath that causes caring people from all around the world to avoid Japan because of this cruel massacre.
Please send a polite message to tell the Japanese National Tourism Organisation and the Governor of Wakayama that ending the Taiji dolphin 'hunt' would be celebrated by the international community — and encourage more tourists to visit Japan.