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Caroline Kennedy Calls Killing Of Dolphins Inhumane -- Japan On The Defensive

<p>Sea Guardians Cove Guardians</p>

After U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy called out the annual dolphin slaughter at Taiji for its "inhumaneness," Japanese officials have been forced to publicly defend the practice.

- キャロライン・ケネディ駐日米国大使 (@CarolineKennedy) January 18, 2014

Deeply concerned by inhumaneness of drive hunt dolphin killing. USG opposes drive hunt fisheries.

- キャロライン・ケネディ駐日米国大使 (@CarolineKennedy) January 18, 2014

The New York Times reports that on Tuesday Japan's chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, defended the practice:

"Dolphin fishing is a form of traditional fishing in our country," he said, responding to a question about Ms. Kennedy's criticism. "We will explain Japan's position to the American side."

Opponents have called the hunt, which took over four days to complete, inhumane and barbaric. Previously the subject of the Oscar-winning 2009 documentary "The Cove," this year's hunt involved the roundup of over 250 bottlenose dolphins, 51 of which were captured into captivity, a lucrative business. A baby albino dolphin -- nicknamed "Angel" by activists -- was predicted to bring in up to $300,000. ("The Cove" creators wrote an exclusive analysis of the hunt for The Dodo here.)

While many in Japan argue that the hunt is a national tradition, Capt. Paul Watson, founder of the conservation group Sea Shepherd, maintains that the hunt is driven by "demand from marine aquariums."

In another NY Times piece last year, columnist Andy Revkin explained a scientific report that found the killing method used at Taiji to be inhumane. The researchers concluded:

This killing method does not conform to the recognized requirement for "immediate insensibility" [some background is here] and would not be tolerated or permitted in any regulated slaughterhouse process in the developed world.