Sean Penn, Cher, Susan Sarandon and other celebrities hope to tie Taiji to TPP

AP

A group of American celebrities and other activists want President Barack Obama to refuse to sign an international trade agreement until Japan bans the capture and slaughter of dolphins in the fishing town of Taiji.

Backing the effort are Oscar-winning performers Sean Penn, Cher, Susan Sarandon, Jennifer Hudson, Gwyneth Paltrow and Charlize Theron as well as TV stars Ellen DeGeneres and William Shatner, and many others.

The Oscar-winning 2009 documentary “The Cove” chronicled the dolphin roundup in Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture, and helped spark protests over the annual hunt and ensuing slaughter. Japanese law allows a hunting season for dolphins, and fishermen defend it as a tradition.

In a letter dated Wednesday that included dozens of names, hip-hop producer Russell Simmons asked Caroline Kennedy, the U.S. ambassador to Japan, to urge Obama not to sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership accord until Japan bans the hunt. Kennedy recently tweeted that she was deeply concerned about the dolphin hunt, which has drawn widespread news coverage.

Simmons’ letter said those signing don’t oppose the TPP but seek to make stopping the dolphin hunt a key factor in negotiations. The free trade agreement is being negotiated by 12 nations that account for about 40 percent of global gross domestic product.