japan dolphins
The annual 'dolphin drive hunt' in the Japanese town of Taiji has been criticised in the past for its cruelty Reuters

The hacktivist collective Anonymous says it was responsible for the downing of the website of a Japanese airport over the weekend. The website of Narita International Airport near Tokyo went offline for several hours on 22 and 23 January, with the airport's operator confirming that the site was the victim of a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack.

DDoS attacks work by flooding a website or network with artificial traffic, eventually overwhelming it and knocking it out for hundreds of thousands of internet users.

Officials told the Japan Times newspaper that while passengers were unable to access flight information on the website over the weekend, flights operated normally.

A Twitter account linked to Anonymous said the group carried out the DDoS attack in revenge for the detainment of a leading US animal rights activist at the airport on 18 January.

Immigration authorities refused Ric O'Barry, 76, entry into Japan on a tourist visa after reportedly accusing him of planning to support a campaign against the slaughter of dolphins.

O'Barry was featured in the 2010 Academy Award-winning documentary, The Cove, which investigates the annual culling of dolphins in the southern Japanese town of Taiji.

International criticism

Activists say 20,000 dolphins, small whales and porpoises are killed for their meat by Japanese whalers and fishermen every year.

Anonymous supporters, Guatemala City
Anonymous supporters wear Guy Fawkes masks made popular by the film V For Vendetta Reuters

The annual culling at Taiji, where wild dolphins are herded from the open ocean into a shallow pen and then killed using metal poles, has been the subject of international criticism for its cruelty.

But defenders of the practice say it provides income for local residents and point to the fact that the animals being targeted are not endangered.

Anonymous ­– a loose coalition of hackers and activists – has targeted Japanese websites in the past in protest against the country's whaling practices, and recently took down the global website of automobile manufacturer Nissan.