Swimming with dolphins doesn’t make killing them more palatable


Here’s a new entry in the annals of bad marketing ideas: Officials in Taiji, Japan, recently announced plans to open a marine park, where visitors can swim and kayak alongside dolphins and whales. Then after drying off, tourists can sample dishes made with dolphin and whale meat. And the proceeds from the park will help fund the slaughter of dolphins. How could that possibly lose?

You probably recognize the name “Taiji.” This is the town that acquired global infamy after its annual dolphin massacre was featured in the Oscar-winning documentary The Cove. Turning Taiji into a tourist destination, where unsuspecting visitors swim with dolphins while, in a nearby bay, other dolphins thrash in their own blood after being speared or having their throats cut, sounds like something out of a horror film.

Dolphins have rich social lives, brains that are as complex as our own and pod-specific cultural practices that are passed down from generation to generation. In her new book, How Animals Grieve, Barbara J. King recounts heartbreaking stories of dolphin mothers desperately trying to revive their dead calves by repeatedly lifting their small bodies above the surface of the water and pushing them under again, often while other dolphins swim protectively nearby. Some scientists argue that dolphins should be classified as “nonhuman persons” and that their rights should be protected. Earlier this year, the Ministry of Environment and Forests in India issued an order to all Indian states banning dolphinariums.

The Cove exposed the Taiji dolphin slaughter, taking us back to the unenlightened times of Moby Dick. More recently, Blackfish has rightly turned people away from marine animal parks that snatch infant whales and dolphins from their ocean homes and force them to perform demeaning tricks for our entertainment.

The two industries are inextricably linked. Although most dolphins captured in Taiji end up as meat in Japanese supermarkets — despite the fact that dolphin flesh is so dangerously contaminated with mercury that some Taiji officials have likened it to “toxic waste” — about two dozen live dolphins are sold every year to aquariums, performing-dolphin shows and “swim-with” programs across the globe. It’s these lucrative sales that keep the dolphin slaughter going.

A dead dolphin brings in a few hundred dollars. But a single live dolphin can fetch $150,000 or more.

According to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, dolphins captured live during Japan’s annual massacres have ended up in aquariums all over the world. Even countries that no longer allow the importation of dolphins caught during the gruesome slaughter may be displaying animals purchased before the ban or moved through other countries to disguise their origin.

These magnificent animals suffer immeasurably in captivity since it is impossible to meet their psychological and physiological needs. In the wild, dolphins swim together in family pods up to 100 miles a day. They navigate by bouncing sonar waves off objects to determine distance and location. When dolphins are kept captive, even the largest pen or tank is merely a hideous prison. Their vocalizations become a garble of meaningless reverberations. Most aquariums keep antacids on hand to treat the animals’ stress-related ulcers.

If you wouldn’t dream of patronizing the proposed marine park in Taiji, then please don’t patronize any such facility. Buying a ticket to a marine park or swimming with captive dolphins supports condemning these beautiful, intelligent animals to a lifetime of misery and deprivation.

© 2013, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

Read more From Our Inbox stories from the Miami Herald

  • Whistle blower’s tale with happy ending

    Late last month, the Securities and Exchange Commission issued an oblique news release announcing that it was awarding an unnamed whistle-blower $400,000 for helping expose a financial fraud at an unnamed company. The money was the latest whistle-blower award — there have been 13 so far — paid as part of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, which includes both protections for whistle-blowers and financial awards when their information leads to fines of more than $1 million.

  • High drama in Texas governor’s office

    As moments of high political drama go, it doesn’t get much better than this. Indicted Gov. Rick Perry, we’re ready for your close-up.

  • The ones left behind

    The fire this time is about invisibility. Our society expects the police to keep unemployed, poorly educated African-American men out of sight and out of mind. When they suddenly take center stage, illuminated by the flash and flicker of Molotov cocktails, we feign surprise.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category