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Actress Hayden Panettiere led hundreds of people in a rally to form a giant human pilot whale beside the message “VOTE” in front of the U.S. Capitol building yesterday, October 26.

The event commemorated the one-year anniversary of the actress’ protest in Taiji, Japan, where she joined Australian actress Isabel Lucas and other activists in a peaceful protest to raise awareness of the 25,000 dolphins slaughtered by the nation every year. The group narrowly avoided arrest over the incident, but succeeded in diverting international media to the abhorrent and barbaric practices used to butcher the animals.

“I turned 18 last year and I’m going to make my first vote count,” she said. “I am looking forward to my visit to Washington to talk to those who will be voting in the upcoming election, to stress the importance of knowing where the candidates stand on the issues that are most important to them, and to be sure that come November 4th, they will actually go out and vote to ensure that their voices are heard.”

Although the US has always been at the forefront of anti-whaling campaigns, its leadership on whale issues has significantly declined in recent years. The American appointed to be chairman of the International Whaling Commission – William Hogarth – has recently announced he is negotiating a deal that could allow for an IWC-sanctioned resumption of commercial whaling.

“The fact the U.S. is leading this process is outrageous!” said Jeff Pantukhoff, president and founder of The Whaleman Foundation and executive director of the Save The Whales Again campaign. “Recent polls show that over 75 percent of registered voters oppose whaling, and over two-thirds want our government to do something about it; yet to this point, the Bush administration has done little to stop the increasing slaughter and is now actively leading efforts that could result in a legalized return to commercial whaling.”

Yesterday’s event followed Panettiere’s appearance at American University on Saturday evening to talk with students at an event sponsored by the university’s Women and Politics Institute.

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