WASHINGTON — Demonstrators protested outside of Japan's embassies around the world on Thursday to urge an end to its killing of dolphins, criticizing the bloody annual hunt as wantonly cruel.
In Washington, some two dozen people stood in front of the embassy holding signs to passing traffic including, "Dolphins Want to Live."
Activist Kerri Shaw attached to her body a screen showing footage from "The Cove," the Oscar-winning documentary that threw a spotlight on the hunt.
Katie Arth, an organizer with rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said that the dolphin hunt was motivated in part by a profit motive as animals are sold to perform in aquariums around the world.
"It's a huge push as to why they continue to do this, because it's so profitable. And people can do something about that by just not going anywhere where dolphins perform and by contacting the embassy," she said.
Fellow activist Taylor Mason said that most Japanese were unaware of the dolphin killing in the western town of Taiji, which generaly goes to pains to prevent media coverage of the hunt.
"The major way to break the cycle of silence is through events like this and through discussion, to get the word out not only in Japan but in the United States and other countries that it's not okay to see dolphins perform and to train them," Mason said.
Similar protests were being held across the United States and in world cities including London, Rome, Stockholm and Manila.
Every year the fishermen of Taiji corral some 2,000 dolphins into a secluded bay, select a few dozen for sale to aquariums and marine parks, and stab the rest to death for meat in a slaughter that turns the water red.
The town's fishermen defend the hunt as a cultural tradition and "The Cove" was met by protests from right-wing activists when it screened in Japan.
"The Cove" caught rare footage of the hunt in a narrative focused on Ric O'Barry, the dolphin trainer for the 1960s US television show "Flipper" who has since campaigned against keeping the intelligent creatures in captivity.
O'Barry called for a worldwide "Celebrate Japan Dolphins Day" on September 1, the usual start of the Taiji hunting season. But he urged activists to keep the message positive so as not to alienate the Japanese in the wake of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami tragedy.