The Japanese widow of John Lennon on Monday added her voice to pleas to dolphin fishermen that they stop their hunt, days after the U.S. ambassador to Tokyo waded into the row.
Yoko Ono published an open letter to the men of Taiji, the small town made famous by the Oscar-winning film "The Cove" which depicts the annual bloodbath, in which she urged them to halt the cull for the "future of Japan".
Ono said the hunt, in which scores of animals are corralled into a cove, with the prettiest selected for sale to aquariums and the rest butchered for meat, was damaging the reputation of Japan.
It "will give an excuse for big countries and their children in China, India and Russia to speak ill of Japan," she wrote.
"I am sure that it is not easy, but please consider the safety of the future of Japan, surrounded by many powerful countries which are always looking for the chance to weaken the power of our country.
"At this very politically sensitive time, the hunt will make the children of the world hate the Japanese.
"For many, many years and decades we have worked hard to receive true understanding of the Japanese from the world," she said.
"But what we enjoy now, can be destroyed literally in one day. I beg of you to consider our precarious situation after the nuclear disaster (which could very well affect the rest of the world, as well)."
The reference was to the 2011 triple meltdowns at Fukushima after their reactors were swamped by a huge tsunami.
The letter, which was posted on her "Imagine Peace" website and addressed to "Japanese fishermen of Taiji", bore her signature and was dated 20 January, 2014. At the foot, it said: "cc Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe".
Ono's intervention came just days after U.S. ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy tweeted her disapproval.
"Deeply concerned by inhumaneness of drive hunt dolphin killing. USG (US Government) opposes drive hunt fisheries," wrote Kennedy, the only surviving child of assassinated US President John F Kennedy, on January 17.
Her comments were welcomed on Monday by fugitive eco-activist Paul Watson, who said he hoped it would help convince Tokyo to put a halt to the practice.
"Hopefully this would put additional pressure to convince the Japanese government that this really has no place in the 21st century," he said.
Watson, who is the founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, is now in the United States where he arrived last year saying he wanted to challenge a court injunction.
Japanese authorities are seeking his extradition and describe methods used by Watson's Sea Shepherd group against whaling ships -- for example blocking the boats' propellers -- as "terrorist" acts.
Watson was arrested in May last year in Frankfurt on a warrant from Costa Rica, where he is wanted on charges stemming from a high-seas confrontation over shark finning in 2002.
The Canadian-born activist fled from Germany but arrived in California on October 28, more than a year later.
Sea Shepherd says around 250 dolphins have been corralled in the cove so far, and that some have been removed, but it is not clear how many have been killed.© (c) 2014 AFP