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Japan Dolphin Day: a spotlight on large-scale suffering

Sep 1, 2008

A dolphin is herded to be slaughtered on the coast of Japan

On and around 3 September, WSPA staff and supporters in the Netherlands, UK and US will be joining peaceful protests outside Japanese embassies and consuls. Japan Dolphin Day aims to draw attention to the secretive and violent hunts that take place in Japanese waters and convince authorities that a change in policy is urgently needed.

More than 3,000 dolphins and porpoises are killed for meat in bloody ‘drive hunts’ every year. This horrifically cruel method of hunting sees dolphins chased by motor boats, herded into small coastal coves, and slaughtered in a brutal manner.

The alternative is no better: more than 17,000 dolphins, whales and porpoises are killed each year in Japanese waters with hand held harpoons. There is no doubt that both methods of slaughter result in prolonged distress and suffering for these intelligent and social animals.

This ongoing slaughter of around 20,000 dolphins, whales and porpoises in Japan each year is the largest scale hunt of these animals anywhere in the world.

Captivity: the demand for cruelty

Not all the dolphins rounded up during the drive hunts are slaughtered. Many are captured and sold for display in aquariums and marine parks in Japan and overseas. They are often injured and certainly traumatized in the process.

It is this demand for live dolphins – particularly young animals – that provides the main economic incentive for these cruel drive hunts to continue.

Claire Bass, WSPA Program Manager, explains: “Japan’s dolphin hunts are all about profit. The trade in dolphins for captive display is the economic backbone of these hunts – before visiting a dolphinarium people should seriously consider where their money may be going.”

A fate worse than death?

Dolphins are coerced to behave unnaturally in captive surroundings

Once in captivity, the needs of dolphins cannot be met. Studies suggest that mortality rates increase six-fold after capture and that life expectancy is severely reduced.

Those animals that survive capture are subjected to a lifetime of confinement, unable to express normal behaviors or interact socially and subject to diseases and illnesses brought on by their unnatural surroundings.

Life in a tank is no life for creatures that have evolved to exist in the vast and complex ocean.

Read more about why dolphins are inherently unsuited to captivity >>

A worldwide issue

While Japan is the focus on September 3, the capture of wild dolphins is an extremely violent, potentially lethal and inherently cruel practice wherever it occurs.

Marine parks and dolphinaria exist all over the world, many still seizing animals from the wild for captive display. For every wild dolphin taken alive, it is estimated that on average at least one other is injured or killed during the capture process.

Sadly, the 20,000 whales, dolphins and porpoises killed each year in Japanese waters are not alone; hunts and captures occur in many different parts of the world. The incentives for these hunts vary, but all involve suffering for the animals involved.

How you can help

Fight the demand for live dolphins by refusing to visit any aquarium or tourist attraction which includes live dolphins, porpoises or whales.

Make sure you tell your tour guide or the local tourist office why you will not support facilities holding captive dolphins. Read more about being an animal friendly traveller >>

You can also write to the Japanese embassy in your country, telling them how you feel about the cruelty of the hunts and the sale of live dolphins into a life of suffering.


Read more about Japan Dolphin Day on the Save Japan Dolphins website >>

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A pod of dolphins in the wild