In an effort to put a stop to Japan's annual roundup and slaughter of bottlenose dolphins, a tradition that has provoked increasing outrage from the West, a group of celebrities are urging President Obama to make ending the practice a condition of his signing on to an international trade agreement.
Sean Penn, Cher, Susan Sarandon, Jennifer Hudson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Charlize Theron, Ellen DeGeneres and William Shatner "and many others" have signed the letter, which was written by hip-hop producer Russell Simmons and addressed to Caroline Kennedy, the U.S. ambassador to Japan. Kennedy made her own opinions about the hunt known last month, when she tweeted that she was "deeply concerned" by its "inhumaneness."
The Associated Press has more on the letter's contents:
The letter said that corporations have spent the past two years crafting language in the TPP "to serve their interests."
"Should human compassion not be afforded the same privilege as business interests?" the letter stated. It added: "The world is looking to you, Ambassador Kennedy, and to our government to send a clear message to Japan that this atrocity must be banned now."
After Kennedy's tweet, a State Department spokeswoman told reporters that the U.S. was "concerned with both the sustainability and the humaneness of the Japanese dolphin hunts."
Simmons said more than 600 dolphins have been slaughtered since the hunting season began Sept. 1. Anti-hunt activists reported that dozens of fishermen helped to herd about 250 dolphins into a cove one day last month. Of those, about 40 were eventually killed for their meat. At least 50 others were kept alive for sale to aquariums and others, and the remaining dolphins were released.
The Obama administration has already been criticized for allegedly allowing key environmental protections to slide in the interest of fast-tracking an agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a sweeping trade deal between the U.S. and 11 other Pacific Rim nations.