Conservationists are making waves on Valentine's Day with demonstrations in seven U.S. cities, including Washington, to protest the ritual killing of dolphins in Taiji, Japan.
The "World Love for Dolphins Day" events are organized by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which first exposed Japanese fishermen corralling and slaughtering dolphins in 2003. The group, based in Washington state's Puget Sound, has been monitoring and protesting the annual dolphin roundups ever since, including sending out live streams of the hunt in a cove at Taiji last month.
The U.S. protests, all starting at noon local time, are planned in Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington. (D.C.'s will be outside the Japanese Embassy on Massachusetts Avenue.)
Japanese officials defend dolphin hunting as a long-held tradition in Taiji, on the Pacific coast southwest of Tokyo. "Dolphin is not covered by the International Whaling Commission control, and it's controlled under responsibility of each country," Japan's chief Cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, said at a Jan. 22 news conference.
Sea Shepherd activists monitoring the seven-month hunting season starting in September say they have documented the deaths of hundreds of dolphins, which are sold for food in Japanese coastal communities. Some dolphins are captured alive and sold to aquariums around the world.
The group's Melissa Sehgal, who witnessed the hunt in January, told reporters that fishermen try to hide what they are doing, but "you can hear the dolphins splashing below" while their spinal cords are being stabbed.