Animal Law Review

First Page



This article sets out to explore the international legal status of those dolphins targeted by the Japanese drive hunts. It is estimated that over two thousand five hundred small cetaceans—dolphins, porpoises and small whales—will be killed as a result, out of a total of over twenty thousand killed annually in Japan by direct catch. It is argued that since we have literally pushed them to the brink of extinction, we have an ethical duty towards dolphins, to stop the cruelty perpetrated against them by man and to ensure the survival of their species. And our ethical duty towards them should be turned into an international legal duty together with a correlated legal right for their international protection. Inseparable from and interwoven with the absolute and devastating cruelty of these hunts and the excruciating suffering of the dolphins, are the implications from a conservationist perspective on the targeted dolphin populations. For like biodiversity worldwide, we are losing cetacean diversity it at a rapid and increasing rate. Writing this article is accompanied by a sense of futility, but also by a great sense of urgency, that if it will be too late this year to stop the carnage and the irreplaceable loss of sentient, intelligent beings who make up an irreplaceable component of Earth’s global biodiversity, action must be finally be taken by international environmental institutions to bring an end to these inhumane practices.



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