The dolphin hunt that takes place in Taiji, Wakayama, Japan every year is a shocking slaughter that has environmentalists and animal rights groups up in arms, but all efforts have so far failed to end the brutal practice.

As the eyes of the world once again fall on Taiji, many organisations are petitioning to enforce legislation to try and put an end to the slaughter. However, the hunt still continues.

Here are five reasons why you should care about it:

The rarest of dolphins are being wiped out at an alarming rate

The dophins are either slaughtered for meat or ripped from their families to be forced to perform in front of crowds. Taiji has become a major source of captive dolphins for aquariums worldwide, and instead of just a trickle of dolphins being sold, now Taiji is one of the prime hotspots for this morally dubious trade, selling hundreds of dolphins every year. As a trained dolphin can be bought on the world market for as much as USD150,000 or more, the importance of the captivity trade to the Taiji dolphin hunters is obvious.

Those animals that are slaughtered die slow, painful deaths

The hunters chase the dolphins from open water toward Taiji Harbour until they have been forced into shallow waters, sticking to the coastline to draw them into the cove. Once successfully driven into the cove, the dolphins are netted into the small, shallow area. Hunters approach in small hand motor-powered skiffs and follow the advice of the dolphin trainers to select the animals to be spared for a life in captivity. The skiffs are then used to force the dolphins out of the water and onto the rocky shore of the cove. They then segregate the family pods, like sorting through ripe apples at a supermarket, selecting the younger, more agile ones for captivity and separating the others for slaughter.

Entire families are destroyed this way. Often forced to watch their surrounding family members being mutilated and dragged out of sight, turning the tranquil blue cove into a hellish blood red. Tragically, it has been documented that some dolphins and small whales have taken more than 30 minutes to die, slowly suffocating in a pool of their own, and their family’s, blood.

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There are health risks for humans eating dolphin meat

Unfortunately, many ordinary Japanese are unaware of the treatment of the mammals, and further unaware of the health risks that eating the meat poses. Since 2000, researchers have found high concentrations of mercury in the whale and dolphin meat sold in Japan. In their studies, Taiji residents who eat dolphin meat had a high level of mercury in their hair. In 2003, the Japanese Ministry of Health started issuing warnings on the consumption of some species of fish, whale, and dolphin.

It is not tradition, nor is it in the interest of the Japanese people

Supporters of the practice are quick to defend it as a “cultural tradition”, but the practice of en-masse dolphin killing only truly started when the motorboat engine was invented and adopted into the mainstream. Before that, hunters could go out in large 20-man canoes and slaughter perhaps one whale, but never kill hundreds of dolphins like they are able to now.

It’s also not in the best interest of the majority of Japanese. Only a small number are informed of the practice, and aside from a small group that profits immensely from the practice, most Japanese people don’t benefit from it at all. This has led some locals to join the protests that take place in and around the cove each year.

Because you can help change…

From signing petitions to sharing facts on social media and bringing awareness, there is a lot that you can do to help change the current status quo.

For a deeper insight, we recommend watching The Cove, directed by Louie Psihoyos, who’s most recent work, Racing Extinction is being shown at this year’s ADEX Singapore.