Japan defends dolphin hunt amid mounting criticism

Tokyo, Jan 21 (EFE).- Local officials and the Japanese government itself have defended the dolphin hunt carried out by the town of Taiji following the international criticism it has received, coinciding with the annual catch that ended Tuesday.

"The gastronomic culture of each country varies and the greatness of civilization is respecting the positions of all as long as they do not endanger a species," Wakayama Gov. Yoshinobu Nisaka said.

Taiji, considered the home of cetacean hunting in Japan, has been catching dolphins for decades, some of which are sold to zoos and aquariums around the world before the rest are harpooned for human consumption.

This year's campaign, during which some 250 dolphins were expected to be caught, has been the target of controversy since U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy described the tradition last weekend as "inhumane" on her Twitter account and recalled that Washington does not support this practice.

Ministry spokesman Yoshihide Suga, for his part, said that this "traditional" activity is perfectly legal in Japan and that Tokyo "will explain its position to the Americans."

Japanese artist Yoko Ono also decided to side with the critics and posted a message Tuesday on her Web site asking the fishermen and people of Taiji to abandon their unpopular annual dolphin hunt, since she believes the practice feeds "hatred" toward Japan in other countries.

The U.S. film "The Cove," winner in 2009 of the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature, helped make this practice known, since when it has been sharply criticized worldwide for its cruelty.