by Elizabeth Frisk
Many people adore dolphins and enjoy going to see them at aquariums like Sea World. They are incredibly intelligent creatures that seem to always be happy with smiles on their faces. However what most people don’t know is that thousands of dolphins are hunted and killed each year to make a profit. Even worse, many of the dolphins that we see at aquariums are purchased from these hunters, and the ones not chosen to become show dolphins are brutally killed, and secretly sold, labeled as different whale and fish meat. To protect dolphins, people should stop supporting aquariums that put on dolphin shows.
Every year from September to May fisherman kill thousands of dolphins, and can do it legally because the International Whaling Commission (IWC) does not protect dolphins and porpoises. The fisherman go out on boats and herd pods of dolphins in to shore by creating a wall of sound, which puts the dolphins in a state of panic. Once they have the dolphins trapped close to shore they brutally stab and drown the dolphins. You might be surprised to know that dolphins have to consciously take each breath. The fishermen stab the dolphins repeatedly and cut off their tails while they are still alive, so they are not able to swim to the surface to breath and end up drowning (“The Little Town”).
In Japan, where much of the slaughter takes place, most people are unaware of it, and the ones that are do not support it. However it is difficult for them to speak out against it because speaking out about an issue is not a social norm in Japan as it is here in the United States. The Japanese government frowns upon speaking about whaling in general, and the anti-whaling activists in Japan, because of this, do little to stop whaling. The first protest against it was not until 2012 and was frowned upon by some locals (O’Barry and Coulbourn 9).
There are only a handful of animals that are self-aware like humans, and dolphins happen to be one of them. These are creatures that have emotion, communicate with each other, and with us. Dolphins communicate with a whistling notice called echolocation. They can tell how far away something is, how big it is and the shape of something. With echolocation they can see through animals and humans. They can even tell if you’re pregnant. Dolphins are known for saving humans from shark attacks and even coming to the aid of other injured dolphins. When you look at most animals they are thinking about what to eat and how to stay alive, but dolphins are much more sophisticated mammals. Dolphins’ echolocation is so accurate that they are able to tell the difference between silver and gold while blindfolded. (“Information and Facts”) The behavior of dolphins shows us how intelligent they are, and how wrong it is to inhumanely slaughter them.
There are several organizations that set out to stop whaling and take care of the whales around the world. The main organization is the International Whaling Commission. But what people don’t understand is that dolphins are whales, just small whales, and because they are small they are forgotten and not added to the list of whales that the IWC says you are not allowed to hunt. So the slaughter of these highly intelligent creatures continues. Japan has been able to slip through the cracks of this anti-whaling system by demanding that they need to collect whales for research (The Cove).
Maybe the most unethical thing about all of this is that the aquariums and trainers around the world are basically subsidizing the whole thing. By purchasing show dolphins from the fishermen at $100,000 to $200,000 a dolphin, it makes the whole slaughter worth it for the fishermen. Something needs to be done to send a message to not only the fishermen, but the aquariums as well, that dolphins should be free in the ocean. We also need to help to educate people about dolphins so that they will understand why they are such remarkable creatures. Once people become aware of what if going on they can help to stop it. If everyone who learned about the slaughter of dolphins and the aquariums that buy the dolphins would write into the aquariums, they could tell them how outraged they are by this news. The other thing that people can do to help is just boycott the aquariums, like Sea World, altogether; it could send a big message to the aquariums and would help to stop the slaughter (The Cove).
Another problem that comes with slaughtering dolphins is mercury poisoning. There are extremely high levels of mercury in dolphins, and you’re in danger of mercury poisoning when you consume dolphin meat. There is an amount of mercury that you can consume until it becomes dangerous. Dolphin meat is ten times more toxic then the highest level of mercury that is safe for humans to eat. Many people in Japan do not even know that this is going on and don’t know that they are consuming dolphin meat. The fisherman sell the extremely toxic meat to grocery stores, food venders, and even school lunches for kids, all falsely labeled as different meat. The people who are really at risk are pregnant women. When they consume dolphin meat while pregnant their babies are born with deformities and disabilities. Other side effects of mercury poisoning are loss of memory, sight, hearing, and damage to the central nervous system. The fishermen who hunt and slaughter these dolphins do it for money. They can make a hundred thousand dollars for the show dolphins they sell, and they get six hundred dollars for every dead dolphin they sell. The irony of all of this is that they are poisoning themselves and their community in the process (Jirage).
This slaughter takes place in a few places around the world. The Solomon Islands, the Faroe Islands, Peru and Japan are the main places it happens, with it happening the most in Japan. This practice has been going on for years but was only recently brought to the attention of the public by the film The Cove. In this film Ric O’Barry, the original dolphin trainer from Flipper, has devoted his life to freeing and saving dolphins. He and his crew go to Taiji, a small town on the coast of Japan where the slaughter takes place every year. They set up cameras and exposed to the world what horror takes place in a small cove that is hidden to the public. There have been many acts to try and stop this slaughter but it still happens every year. The Japanese government argues that they are doing it because of tradition, and that they do not understand what is so special about this species. They believe that the dolphins are eating too much fish and are calling this slaughter “pest control” (O’Barry).
The history of whaling dates back all the way to the 12th century, and is considered a part of their culture and seen as a tradition by many Japanese. The meat is a staple in traditional meals, and their bones are used at religious events and festivals across the nation. Dolphin hunting also brings in a large amount of money each year with show dolphins going for up to $200,000 and a dead dolphin sold for its meat goes for $600. In small towns, like Taiji, this source of income it plays a large role in the economy (O’Barry and Coulbourn 8). Japan believes that it is cultural imperialism to deny them the right to hunt whales and dolphins. Fish is another staple in the Japanese diet. The Japanese fishermen believe by hunting dolphins each year they are able to control the levels of fish off the coasts of their country. Whales are also hunted for scientific research in Japan. Once they are done using the animal for research they can sell the meat to local stores and make a profit from it as well (Hays).
The slaughter of dolphins each year in Japan and other countries around the world is shocking to everyone who learns about it. Even though more people are aware of it today, thanks to the movie The Cove, it still goes on every year. The dolphin industry is a billion dollar industry, and is what drives the slaughter to continue. Dolphins are extraordinary animals that deserve to be respected and protected from this massacre. The consumption of dolphin meat also has to come to an end. Mercury is one of the most toxic elements on earth, and dolphins have exceptionally high levels of it in their meat. The consumption of it can and will lead to deformities and disabilities in babies. The dolphin slaughter needs to stop. By boycotting Sea World and other large aquariums with dolphin shows, it will help to stop the slaughter. When people no longer see it as in attraction there will be no reason to buy dolphins. Once there is no need to buy show dolphins the slaughters that take place around the world will not bring in enough money, and will be forced to end. We cannot take for granted how important our seas are and how we are all intertwined. We need to put more effort into protecting this incredible species, rather than thinking only about how much money they can bring us.
The Cove. Dir. Louie Psihoyos. Perf. Richard O’Barry, Louie Psihoyos, Hardy Jones. Madman, 2009. DVD.
“Cove Guardians.” Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2013. <http://www.seashepherd.org/cove-guardians/>.
Hays, Jeffrey. “Whales, Whale Meat, Scientific Whaling, Whale Hunts and Japan.” Facts and Details. N.p., 2009. Web. 10 Mar. 2013. <http://factsanddetails.com/japan.php?itemid=879>.
“Information and Facts about Dolphins.” Facts about Dolphins. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2013. <http://www.dolphins-world.com>.
Jirage, Reshma. “Causes and Effects of Mercury Poisoning.” Buzzle. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Mar. 2013. <http://www.buzzle.com/articles/causes-and-effects-of-mercury-poisoning.html>.
“The Little Town with a Really Big Secret.” Oceanic Preservation Society. OPS, n.d. Web. 4 Mar. 2013. <http://www.opsociety.org/issues/dolphin-slaughter-in-taiji>.
O’Barry, Ric. “A First: Japanese Protest the Dolphin Hunts!” Save Japan Dolphins. Save Japan Dolphins.org, 26 Nov. 2012. Web. 10 Mar. 2013.< http://savejapandolphins.org/blog/post/japan-protest-against-research-whaling>.
O’Barry, Richard, and Keith Coulbourn. Behind the Dolphin Smile: One Man’s Campaign to Protect the World’s Dolphins. San Rafael, CA: Earth Aware Editions, 2012. Print.<http://savejapandolphins.org>.