More than 250 dolphins have been herded into Japan's famous Taiji Cove, where they are waiting to be slaughtered or sold into captivity. According to CNN, the animals have been 72 hours without food, and many have become injured as they attempt to reach other members of their pods.
"Some of them die from injuries incurred during the manhandling or simply the stress," the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society said in a statement.
But those in the Taiji community, who organize the annual hunt, maintain that it is no different than the slaughtering of other animals.
"We have fishermen in our community, and they are exercising their fishing rights," says Kazutaka Sangen, the mayor of Taiji. "We feel that we need to protect our residents against the criticisms."
What's worse: According to new research from the University of Kyoto, dolphins see the world in a "fundamentally similar way" to humans. Using a series of geometrical tests during six years, researchers found that despite different environments, dolphins, chimpanzees and humans perceive the visual world comparably.
Now imagine being herded and killed in a cove—according to this study, dolphins would feel similarly.
Update: January 21, 2014
Today the annual dolphin slaughter in Taiji Cove ended in the deaths of roughly 500 dolphins—about 250 more than originally predicted by news sources.
Yesterday, fishermen selected some dolphins to sell to marine parks and aquariums. Those unworthy of living in captivity were killed or put back to sea.
"Dolphin fishing is one of traditional fishing forms of our country and is carried out appropriately in accordance with the law," Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference. "Dolphin is not covered by the International Whaling Commission control, and it's controlled under responsibility of each country."