Fishermen killed a whale off the Japanese port of Taiji early on Monday morning, 19 days after the juvenile minke whale had been penned into a cove with nets. Ren Yabuki, director of the animal rights organisation Life Investigation Agency, said two fishing boats from Taiji approached the whale – which has been weakened by not being able to feed since it was trapped as by-catch on Christmas Eve – at around 6.30am. “There were two ships that worked together to put a rope around the tail fin and force the whale’s head beneath the water”, Mr Yabuki told The Telegraph. “They kept it alongside the boat and it took about 20 minutes for the whale to drown. “That’s a really bad way for an animal to die and I’m shaking with sadness at what I have seen this morning.” His organisation and others around the world have been calling on the fishermen to release the whale and called on members of the public to message the governor of Wakayama Prefecture to demand that he intervene. Video footage obtained by a drone operated by Mr Yabuki showed the whale distressed and becoming visibly weaker The whale’s body was later hoisted onto the deck of one of the vessels, covered with a blue tarpaulin and the ship returned to the harbour. Mr Yabuki said he understands that the whale is being butchered within a building owned by the town’s fishing cooperative and that the meat will be sold at local supermarkets. Taiji has gained notoriety for its annual dolphin hunt, which was featured in the Oscar-winning 2009 documentary “The Cove”. The Australian branch of Humane Society International has also condemned the killing of the whale, with a spokesperson saying the organisation was “saddened by this dreadful outcome”. “It is soul-destroying to think that by merely lifting the net three weeks ago, this poor animal could have been swimming freed instead of being trapped in prolonged distress”. Angered at the international community’s refusal to permit Japan to resume commercial whaling, Tokyo resigned from the International Whaling Commission in 2019 and permits its fleet to harpoon 383 whales every year, including as by-catch in other fishing operations. “HSI believes that deliberately entrapping whales for prolonged periods under the guise of ‘by-catch’ is inhumane and we call on the people of Japan to speak out against this cruelty”, said Georgie Dolphin, head of the organisation’s Animal Welfare Programme.