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Captive Taiji Dolphins Corralled in Japan Cove

Jul 23, 2014 01:08 PM EDT

Hundreds of captive dolphins, part of Japan's annual dolphin hunt, are corralled into Taiji's Hatajiri Bay and forced into a cruel lifestyle that serves as a tourist attraction for visitors.

Commonly known as "the cove," Taiji is infamous for rounding up and slaughtering hundreds of dolphins for their meat, as well as capturing others to sell them into a lifetime of captivity. Taiji Whale Museum is one of many marine parks that exploit these dolphins and force them into a stressful environment filled with close human contact.

According to The Asahi Shimbun, the museum recently released two female Risso's dolphins into cove, though they are far from being free.

Rather than swimming the open ocean, Cosmo and Satuski are held back by nets and must endure more stressful interaction with humans, serving as nothing more than playthings.

"This is the first time I got to swim with dolphins," a 6-year-old boy swimming at the cove told The Asahi Shimbun. "They came close to me. They were so cute."

While they may be cute, the Sea Shepard Conservation Society notes that dolphins are highly emotionally intelligent animals, and suffer when torn apart from their family pods by the aquarium industry, Nature World News reported.

Just at the beginning of this year, 250 dolphins - including babies and a rare albino calf - were captured, but some expected 20,000 dolphins, porpoises and small whales will be slaughtered this year. Starting on September 1st and usually continuing through March of the next year, fishermen herd whole families of small cetaceans into a shallow bay and mercilessly stab and drown them to death.

This vicious practice was even caught on film in the Academy Award-winning 2009 documentary "The Cove."

The town of Taiji defends the practice, saying it is a long and legal tradition, and that fishermen there have the utmost respect for dolphins and whales. However, organizations such as Australia for Dolphins who are working to end the unspeakably cruel hunts, argue that regular dolphin drive hunts capturing thousands of dolphins are not tradition and only began in 1969 to fuel the captive dolphin trade.

Japan is also notorious for its annual whaling program, involving the killing of hundreds of whales in the name of "scientific research," a practice it continues to defend. Despite an International Court of Justice ruling banning these annual hunts (a decision Japan found a loophole in), the country says it will continue their "research" in 2015.

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