At least 1,900 dolphins could be killed in the next six months, as the controversial hunting season begins in Japan. Protests against the annual tradition have taken place worldwide, including dozens of animal rights campaigners gathering outside the Japanese Consulate in Florida to demand an end to the practice. The first day of the catch, which sees fishermen in the town of Taiji butcher dolphins in an isolated bay, was cancelled because of bad weather. Supporters of the cull, including the Japanese government, have pointed out that the animals targeted are not endangered. Defenders also insist their tradition is no different to the larger numbers of cows, pigs and sheep killed in the West.
Demand for dolphin meat has fallen steeply in recent years, in part because it often contains unsafe levels of mercury. But even though the issue was raised in an Oscar-winning documentary, The Cove, the meat hasn’t been labelled or banned in Japan. The new hunting season began as 14 activists from the radical Sea Shepherd group were arrested in the Faroe Islands trying to stop another dolphin cull from taking place. The protesters were trying to stop pilot whales – members of the dolphin family – from being taken towards shore to be slaughtered, but were unsuccessful.