Lawsuit Filed To End Practice Of Drive Hunting Dolphins In Taiji

Posted on April 14th 2019

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Activists have taken the unprecedented step of filing a lawsuit in an attempt to stop the drive hunting of dolphins in Taiji Wakayama Prefecture made famous in the documentary “The Cove.” Environmentalists are arguing that the practice is both cruel and illegal. Drive hunting is the process of forcing dolphins into a cove by disorienting and panicking them, and then tangling them in nets resulting in their suffocation and drowning.

First legal challenge

Some campaigners claim dolphins end up crashing into rocks, dying from the injuries they sustain. Some fisherman pierces the dolphins with long metal rods just behind their blowhole, damaging their spinal cord in the process. The lawsuit is demanding that Wakayama Prefecture governor revoke the three-year permit issued to the fisherman to drive hunt in the port town of Taiji. This is the first time the Taiji hunt has faced a legal challenge according to a lawyer for the plaintiffs.

Global attention

The practice first captured global attention in the 2009 Oscar winning documentary which sparked controversy. Many Japanese think the town’s fishing community were unfairly targeted whilst others in the country expressed horror. Drive hunting takes place for six months every year in Taiji beginning in September. According to local police 600 protestors who oppose the practice have visited Taiji since 2013.

Violation of the law

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit claim the hunting technique is a violation of Japan’s animal welfare act which states that animals must neither be abused nor killed unnecessarily. When an animal is killed it must be done so in a manner where their pain is minimised. Activists says many in Japan consider dolphins as fish rather than mammals and therefore mistakenly believe that the animal welfare act does not apply to the species.

Defenders claim the practice is important local culture

Activists claim they have seen half dead dolphins carried away on small boats thrashing about in pain, with their death taking longer than 20 minutes. The lawsuit is challenging the way the hunt is carried out rather than the practice of hunting dolphins. It also argues that the fisherman are hunting more dolphins than is legally allowed. Wakayama prefecture officials have not made any comment yet, but defenders of the practice say dolphins are hunted for their meat which is an important part of local culture and the species is not endangered.

Dolphins now being captured live

These days however an increasing number of dolphins are being captured live for sale to aquariums instead of being killed. Japan aggressively defends the practice of hunting whales and dolphins, which is a rare diplomatic posture for a country which has generally pursued an uncontroversial foreign policy since its defeat in World Word II. At the end of last year its decision to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission and being commercial whaling again sparked global outrage.


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