Japan mayor protests dolphin hunt documentary Oscar

Mon Mar 8, 2010 10:54am EST
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TOKYO (Reuters) - The mayor of a Japanese town which conducts an annual dolphin hunt protested on Monday against the Academy Award given to "The Cove," a documentary film about the grisly slaughter.

The film, which picked up an Oscar for best documentary feature in addition to a series of other awards, follows a group of activists who struggle with Japanese police and fishermen to gain access to a secluded cove in Taiji, southern Japan, where dolphins are hunted.

It features shocking footage of the slaughter.

"I think it is regrettable that the film presents as fact material that is not backed up by scientific proof," Taiji mayor Kazutaka Sangen said in a faxed statement. He emphasized that the hunt was legal in Japan and urged respect for the tradition.

"There are a variety of customs relating to food, within this country and abroad," he said.

"An attitude of mutual respect is necessary, based on understanding of the years-old traditions arising from these customs and the circumstances surrounding them."

The film, directed by former National Geographic photographer Louie Psihoyos and featuring a former dolphin trainer from the "Flipper" television series, is little known in Japan, where the government says the hunting of dolphins and whales is an important cultural tradition.

Hans Peter Roth, co-author of the book version of the film, said the Oscar would help shed light on the subject in Japan, but lamented that the hunts may not stop in the near future.

"I strongly believe that this international upsurge really puts quite a bit of pressure on this town," he told Reuters from the area where much of the "The Cove" was filmed.   Continued...