Wednesday 30 March 2016

Taiji legal battle: court backs activist over baby dolphin kept in aquarium

Victory for animal rights after Japanese court awards Australian activist 110,000 yen after museum refused her entry to check on captive bottlenose

Justin McCurry in Osaka
Saturday 26 March 2016 01.04 GMTLast modified on Saturday 26 March 201601.12 GMT

Animal rights activists have claimed a significant victory in its battle to end Japan’sdolphin slaughter after a court ruled that an aquarium in Taiji – where hundreds of dolphins are killed every year – acted illegally when it refused entry to an Australian campaigner.

The court in Wakayama, western Japan, on Friday awarded 110,000 yen (£690) to Sarah Lucas, head of Australia for Dolphins, who had attempted to enter the Taiji whale museum in 2014 but was turned away and shown a cardboard sign saying “anti-whalers” were not welcome.

Lucas had intended to check on the welfare of a baby albino bottlenose that had been kept at the museum since being separated from its pod and captured earlier in the year. The museum reportedly paid $500,0000 (£354,000) for the animal.

Lucas said the rare dolphin, called Angel, was being kept in a tiny crowded tank full of chlorine, and was being bullied by other dolphins.

“The legal battle to save Angel is much bigger than a rescue mission to save one albino dolphin calf,” Lucas said after the verdict.

“This win proves the Taiji whale museum, the institution at the heart of the dolphin hunting trade, behaved illegally. It also shows the Taiji dolphin hunts are not above the law, which means the Japanese legal system can be used to end the cruel dolphin hunts for good.”

Tetsuo Kirihata, deputy chief of the Taiji museum, said he was satisfied with the verdict because the initial demand for damages had been for about 3m yen.

“We feel much of our case was taken into account by the court,” he told Associated Press. Kirihata said the dolphin was eating well and getting along with other dolphins, with regular blood tests showing it was healthy. What to some might look like bullying was, in fact, “part of regular activity in nature,” he added.

The museum is owned by the town government in Taiji, the setting for the Oscar-winning 2009 documentary The Cove, which showed fishermen driving pods of dolphins into shallow water before killing them with knives.

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