A Valentine's Day Gift for Dolphins

Last month, United States Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy condemned the slaughter of dolphins in Japan by tweeting, "Deeply concerned by the inhumanness of the drive hunt dolphin killing. USG (United States Government) opposes drive hunt fisheries." We should applaud her courageous action. For too long our ambassadors have turned a blind eye to controversial events in the countries where they are posted.

Of course, the Japanese government was apoplectic over Ambassador Kennedy's criticism. But the State Department backed her. We need more diplomats like Ambassador Kennedy who are not afraid to call attention to cruel and inhumane practices against animals.

The slaughter of dolphins by the Japanese received worldwide attention with the Oscar-winning 2009 documentary The Cove. Every year in Japan's Bay at Taiji hundreds of dolphins are herded into a small cove. Some are killed; others are sold to aquariums and marine parks. While the Taiji hunt may be the best known, it is just one of the dolphin and small whale kills conducted in Japan each year. Japanese drive and harpoon hunts take some 20,000 animals annually. The Japanese defend the practice as a traditional and legal fishing method essential to supporting the local economy.

Dolphins are highly social creatures and travel in mutually supportive communities. Driving the dolphins into small coves, killing some and capturing others, destroys these cooperative groups. To date, the current hunt has resulted in more than 200 dolphins being corralled, killed or captured, possibly obliterating the delicate balance of nature. The trapped dolphins are killed by driving metal spikes into their spinal columns. The Japanese insist this is a humane way to kill the dolphins. It takes at least 20 minutes for the mammal to die.

This Valentine's Day, Sea Shepherd, an organization that has brought attention to Japan's inhumane treatment of both dolphins and whales, is arranging protests in front of the Japanese Embassy in Washington, D.C. and consulates in Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver, Houston and New York, to draw attention to the treatment of dolphins in Japan. The protesters want to send a message to the Japanese government that dolphins are loved and revered by millions.

Raising public awareness about the plight of Japanese dolphins is an important first step in rallying support from the American public to stop this practice. The diplomatic community around the world should put pressure on Japan. There are many things we as a country can do through diplomatic channels to protect Japanese dolphins. Now that Ambassador Kennedy has voiced her concerns, the Japanese need to respond by ending the killing of dolphins or their sale to aquariums.