The Famous Dolphin Smile: Nature’s Biggest Deception

12 Sep

For this week’s post, I really want to bring light on a global topic I feel very strongly about. It’s about Dolphin slaughters in Taiji and I first found out about them two years after watching a a really great documentary called “The Cove.” (<– Great Trailer!)

The Cove in Taiji, Japan

Just for a little background, ‘The Cove follows Ric O’Barry and his group to uncover the dolphin hunt that happens every September in a small town called Taiji in Japan. Hunters use scare tactics to bring dolphins into  a secret cove where the most attractive dolphins are picked to be sold to theme parks and swim-with-dolphin programs. The rest, about 20,000 a year, are killed and usually sold and given as “free lunch” to the local school system, usually under the pretense of being “whale meat.”

There are a lot of issues with this cultural practice. First off, the multi-billion dollar industry of dolphins being captured and put in tanks in places like Sea World has been under a lot of scrutiny lately. Dolphins are highly intelligent and social creatures, and when put in a tank with only one or two dolphins, they become lonely and depressed. They are acoustic creatures and rely on very sensitive echolocation the way we rely on eyesight. Used to swimming hundreds of miles a day, when a dolphin is put into a tank where its sonar waves bounce off cement walls and filtration systems sounds, it becomes disoriented, stressed and often suffers from physical harm. As well, the dimensions of the usual dolphin tank is the equivalent of confining a human to a bathtub for the rest of their life. A dolphin’s lifespan is 50-75 years, but in captivity only half survive the first 90 days and the rest usually live up to just 15 years. (http://whalecity.com/news/silent-suffering-while-marine-mammals-can-not-be-kept-captivity)

Japan defends the practice as part of its culinary culture, but very few Japanese have ever eaten dolphin. Dolphin meat also carries strong traces of mercury (video) and could be really dangerous to consume.

In response to this yearly hunt, Save Japan Dolphins has asked people around the world to participate in “Celebrate Japan Dolphins Day” on September 1st. The event was global and included countries like Italy, Caracas, Lithuania and the U.S. The countries celebrated in various Japanese embassies and consulates.  More than 50 events were held in 25 different countries. The events encouraged people to celebrate dolphins and make a promise not to visit theme parks with captive dolphins and swim-with-dolphin programs.

I think it’s important to see how even though this is a local issue in a small coastal town, it has global effects. If parks all over the world stopped buying dolphins for entertainment, the dolphin hunt would no longer be profitable and 20,000 dolphins would escape death as a result. Ever since The Cove won an Oscar, people all over the world are listening to Ric O’ Barry’s message that dolphins in captivity just don’t work. The cause has gained even more momentum after a recent death in Sea World Orlando, in which an orca whale killed a trainer . I recommend everyone watch The Cove and learn about this important environmental issue. Plus the documentary is really, really cool.

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