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Activists claim Japan dolphin hunts cruel
( 2003-10-30 10:39) (Agencies)

An environmental group claimed Wednesday that Japanese fishermen use unnecessarily brutal methods to hunt dolphins, releasing a videotape that shows the mammals being forced into a cove to be killed, with the water turning red from the blood.

The killing of dolphins is not banned by international law, but the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which seeks to ban the practice, have denounced the method used in the western Japanese town of Taiji.

Fishermen work on a boat filled with freshly caught dolphins while a diver prepares to submerge in the blood-filled water near the fishing town of Taiji in Wakayama Prefecutre in this photo taken Oct. 6, 2003 by American anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.  [AP]
"It's a wholesale slaughter, which results in immense suffering for these animals," said Nik Hensey, an activist with the California-based group. "It's a sight that one just can't imagine."

Town officials declined comment, but an official with the local fishermen's union, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the hunts are conducted as humanely as possible, and noted that dolphin hunts have been part of local culture for 400 years.

In the videotape, fishermen pound on the water, causing waves that confuse the animals' sense of direction, then corral the dolphins into small coves, where they can be easily killed.

Sea Shepherd made the videotape and provided a copy to Associated Press Television News.

Though subject to government-set quotas, the hunts are not banned under Japanese law and are not subject to international regulations because they are done near the shore.

Fishermen in Taiji hunt dolphins from October to April. They've caught more than 60 striped dolphins so far this year under the government quota system. The meat is usually canned and sold in supermarkets.

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