Japanese village kills dolphin pod in annual hunt

TOKYO — The Japanese village notorious for the dolphin hunt documented in the film The Cove has slaughtered a pod of dolphins but spared the youngest animals, a US-based activist group said Tuesday.
Most of the dolphins caught by residents of the seaside village of Taiji on Monday were butchered Tuesday, except for two that will be sold to aquariums and six young animals that were released into the ocean, said Scott West, a member of the Sea Shepherd conservation group who is in Taiji as part of a campaign to protect the marine mammals.
For years, Taiji has held an annual dolphin hunt which begins in September and continues through March. It has traditionally sold the best-looking ones to aquariums and killed the rest.
But the Oscar-winning documentary — which showed how herded dolphins were stabbed in a cove that turned red with blood — has intensified international opposition to the slaughter.
Activists are organizing a protest Thursday at Japanese embassies around the world against the killings.
Unlike previous years, Taiji has been setting some of the captured dolphins free, probably because of the growing pressure, West said.
The village also has not killed any bottlenose dolphins, the same species as "Flipper" in the 1960s US TV show. Instead, the victims have been risso dolphins and pilot whales, which are also dolphins but don't have the distinctive pointed noses of bottlenoses, West said.
No bottlenose dolphins were caught Monday, he said.
Town officials have repeatedly defended the slaughter as a way to make a living in an area where the rocky landscape makes farming and livestock-raising difficult.
The Japanese government allows about 20,000 dolphins to be caught each year, and defends the hunts as traditional and argues that killing dolphins and whales is no different from raising cows or pigs for slaughter.