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The Blood Dolphins

Updated on May 2, 2019

"Throughout history, the greatest crimes have happened to innocent, sentient beings hidden from others' view."

The Grim Truth Behind The Dolphin Smile

When we see dolphins perform for us at places like Sea World or Dolphin Resort, many people think that it is wonderful and the dolphins are happy because their curved mouths give the appearance that their smiling all of the time but it's really the dophins' natural expression.

Are the dolphins really happy living in captivity? And how did the dolphins get to the marine park or dolphinarium in the first place? The dolphins that we are the most familiar with are the bottle nosed dolphins as they are typically the ones that we see perform for us at marine parks. They live in the temperate and tropical waters of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and every sea that has this kind of water. So how did they end up here? Most people have never heard of the dolphin trade and that for the few dolphins that we see perform at a marine park, there is a great sacrifice of thousands trapped in a cove, caught in nets, and unable to escape a horrific fate.

It is Dolphin Captivity that Drives the Dolphin Hunts

Hidden from the eyes of the public for decades, an unsightly, bloody, and most violent event takes place every year in the Cove as pods of dolphins are slaughtered there and the water turns to blood red.

This is how the annual hunt begins...

Every year on the fifth of September marks the opening of the dolphin hunting season in in Taiji Japan. During the six-month season, thousands of dolphins are corralled into narrow coves and a few are captured for sale to aquariums or amusement parks but those that aren't selected by trainers from aquariums or amusement parks to perform before the public are brutally killed for meat.

After the annual dolphin hunt was covertly filmed for a documentary, the little fishing village of Taiji, Japan suddenly found itself in the uncomfortable center of a media spotlight.

Police and fishermen as a rule in Taiji don't allow filming of the hunt going on in this village, shrouded in secrecy even from those that live there. The area is sealed off by a barbwire fence and signs which read "Keep Out." But a team of courageous activists and filmmakers risked being arrested and went undercover to shoot the footage of these dolphins being killed and telling their riveting story in the 2009 documentary, The Cove.

Since its release, the documentary — which won the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival and the Academy Award for best film documentary — has spurred an international outcry against the capture of these intelligent and sensitive mammals for the purpose of killing for meat. In one case, Taiji's sister city — Broome in Western Australia — suspended its relationship with Taiji for as long as dolphins continue to be killed. And yet the killing still continues the cove.

The Cove Documentary

"In a sleepy lagoon off the coast of Japan lies a shocking secret that a few desperate men will stop at nothing to keep hidden from the world. In Taiji, Japan, former dolphin trainer Ric O'Barry has come to set things right after a long search for redemption. In the 1960s, it was O'Barry who captured and trained the 5 dolphins who played the title character in the international television sensation "Flipper." One fateful day, a heartbroken O' Barry came to realize that these deeply sensitive, highly intelligent and self-aware creatures must never be subjected to human captivity again. This mission has brought him to Taiji, a town that appears to be devoted to the wonders and mysteries of the sleek, playful dolphins and whales that swim off their coast. But in a remote, glistening cove, surrounded by barbed wire and "Keep Out" signs, lies a dark reality. It is here, under cover of night, that the fishermen of Taiji, driven by a multi-billion dollar dolphin entertainment industry and an underhanded market for mercury-tainted dolphin meat, engage in an unseen hunt. The nature of what they do is so chilling and the consequences are so dangerous to human health that they will go to great lengths to halt anyone from seeing it."

The Cove Movie Trailer

A Poem About the Tragedy of Taiji's Cove

The Blood Dolphins

Trapped in the cove,
the dolphins wait.
Some will go to a marine park
to amuse the spectators there...
with their amazing agility
and beguiling smile,
the people eagerly applaud.

But truth lies hidden
behind the dolphin's smile
in a very different reality;
feeling the anguish of a captive,
he cries in his heart for freedom.

Behind this scene,
a spectacle contrived for our pleasure,
is a grimmer one–
a truly horrible spectacle indeed
that has been kept secret in the cove.

Blessed with intelligence and charm,
he has been turned into a pawn
to enrich the pockets of some
while others do him great harm...
such an innocent creature
who has no idea about
human greed...
and the depths of depravity.

Surfers and sailors
have all reported
his nature to befriend mankind-
coming to his aid against shark
or pushing him ashore
when he almost drowned.
Have they not heard of his noble deeds?

But these dark figures,
they wait to kill
the dolphins who still remain
captured in the cove...
bloodthirsty and senseless
to any appeal to their humanity.

What defense has he
against the minds of such men...
with prejudice making them impervious to see-
these sensitive, intelligent creatures
for what they truly be?

Filled with irony,
in a play worthy of Sophocles,
the dolphin who was once worshiped
as a god in Ancient Greece
for his virtue and vitality...
would now become the subject
of a Greek tragedy–
victimized by those who are blinded
by their own human conceit.

With a last thrust of his spear,
the poor dolphin
continues to thrash in pain
and struggles to flee;
his cries for help are drowned out
by the louder ones...
to hurt and to kill.

The fisherman has blood
on his hands
and death in his soul.
He is as cold as the dolphin... inside,
that he has so willingly sacrificed.

For he has allowed himself to be
a killing machine,
doing the sordid work for others
without question,
blinded to the truth you see...
how dangerous is he.

Yes, he is as cold as the dolphin... inside,
for his soul died
after he killed just one;
but it has gone on so many times,
he has lost count.

So many times,
he has thrust that spear
that not even the sight
of so many dolphins
writhing in such torment,
and so much blood
can move him
as he is dead too, you... see.

-Lora Hollings

Ric O'Barry Talks about His Days as A Trainer for Flipper

Taiji is the largest supplier of dolphins to marine parks and swim with dolphin programs around the world. Each dolphin sold for these commercial ventures sells for more than $150,000.

It's the captivity industry which keeps the slaughter going by rewarding the fishermen for their bad behavior- driving the dolphins into the cove and capturing them. The people that are involved with capturing these dolphins can get more than $150,000 for a live show dolphin but only $600 for a dead dolphin. The dolphins that aren't selected by the trainers for marine parks are trapped in the cove and killed for meat.

The trainers sent to Taiji from these marine parks are looking for "Flipper," says O'Barry. But as O'Barry recounts his days as a trainer for this very popular program, he talks about Kathy, one of the dolphins used for this television series.Tragically he revisits the moments of her death which forever changed his views on dolphin captivity and the tragedy of keeping these intelligent, self-aware, and very sociable animals in captivity.

In the following interview he talks about Kathy making a conscious decision to hold her breath and die. In this context says O'Barry, "Kathy committed suicide." Dolphins and other Cetaceans (members of the whale family) aren't automatic breathers like we are. They have conscious control over their breathing. They can choose to end their life when life becomes too unbearable by just simply refusing to breathe.

When Ric O'Barry started out as a dolphin trainer, there were only three dolphinariums. Now it is a multibillion dollar industry.

Discourse With Ric O'Barry

Please watch this video at Youtube.
Please watch this video at Youtube. | Source

What's Wrong With Dolphin Captivity?

Dolphins are beautiful captivating creatures of the ocean. These glorious animals are friendly, loving and energetic. In the wild dolphins travel in pods with their families. We admire these animals because of their ability to communicate and show love towards humans, yet capturing them to become performers is a sad life for a dolphin and can destroy them.

There are many risks involved when dolphins spend their lives in captivity. They have a much shorter life span than dolphins in the wild. Many who are captured only live for a few years and some don't even survive the capture. More health problems are associated with dolphins that live in captivity due to chlorine poisoning. This can also lead to blindness from chemical exposure, and ulcers. Many dolphins in captivity are also more susceptible to pneumonia, and some of them experience stress related disorders and even shock.

Dolphins in captivity are confined to a limited amount of space that can cause them to become frustrated and bang their heads against the tanks. Captive dolphins can quickly become bored and flustered so they will swim around in circles, sometimes in panic and distress. It can be traumatic for young dolphins to be separated from their mothers and other family members. Dolphins in the wild love to swim for miles each day, and when they are captured to live in captivity their freedom is stripped from them because they are limited to a certain amount of space. Some captive dolphins due to high stress levels will act out aggressively by biting some of the other dolphins they are forced to live with in captivity.

Dolphin Music

The Best Place to Watch Dolphins is in the Wild

The best way to see dolphins is in the wild where they belong- not in an artificial, cramped aquarium where they don't have the opportunity to really be dolphins and live the life they were intended to have. To deprive any animal of its natural behaviors- the ability to engage in a wide variety of behaviors- by putting them in a tank or aquarium is to deny these dolphins a life with their family groups and what gives them joy- freedom! In the oceans, dolphins swim up to 40 miles a day. Dolphins are extremely intelligent, social and self-aware animals; putting them in captivity for the sake of our entertainment is really wrong and selfish of us.

I hope that someday soon that our humanity will finally help us to realize that wild animals weren't put here for our entertainment or amusement, any more than we were put here to be enslaved for the entertainment of others. When we think about using wild animals for our entertainment, we must use empathy or the ability to share and understand the feelings of others. How would we feel if some other species were able to capture us, taking us away from our family, and put us in a physically restricted, artificial environment where every day we would have to perform for them, and never be able to be free to live the life we loved!

There are many places to watch dolphins in their natural environment- in the ocean where they belong, not in a dolphinarium or marine reserve. This is like prison for a dolphin just like it would be for us to constantly live in a confined space without our freedom and nature's compelling call to live according to our own instincts- only living to be at the beck and call of others. Isn't dolphin and whale captivity a form of slavery?

Slaughtered Dolphins and Toxic Meat

Each year thousands of dolphins are slaughtered in a small town called Taiji on the west coast of Japan (mostly unknown to the majority of Japanese public). The meat is fed to the community despite being so heavily contaminated with mercury, almost toxic waste! The Japanese government has yet to recognize the scientifically proven health risks of eating dolphin meat.

Japan Scientist Warns of Mercury in Dolphin Meat

How Can We Put an End to Dolphin Slaughter

25,000 dolphins and porpoises are killed in Japan every year! How can we help put an end to this cruel, senseless killing?

It is dolphin captivity which drives the annual dolphin slaughter in Taiji, Japan. If people would stop buying tickets to watch dolphins perform at marine parks and to swim with them in dolphin pools we would stop the demand for dolphins and end the dolphin slaughters!


Ric O'Barry talks about what YOU can do against dolphin slaughter


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    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 

      5 weeks ago from Fresno CA

      How distressing. I never heard of this before. I'm so upset! Thanks for enlighting me.



    • clivewilliams profile image

      Clive Williams 

      4 months ago from Jamaica

      Oh My God! Release the captives.

    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      4 months ago

      You're welcome.

    • Lora Hollings profile imageAUTHOR

      Lora Hollings 

      4 months ago

      You're very welcome, Robert. Thank you for your interest.

    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      4 months ago

      Thank you for the detailed answers to my questions. I appreciate that.

    • Lora Hollings profile imageAUTHOR

      Lora Hollings 

      4 months ago

      Thank you Robert for visiting this site and for your questions about dolphins. They are good ones. I found a great website that answers your questions and tells people the best way to view dolphins. Here is a list of things to keep in mind when viewing them.

      Viewing Dolphins in the Wild Do's and Don'ts:

      Viewing dolphins in their natural habitat is an educational and enriching experience if done safely and responsibly. As human interactions with wild dolphins increase, the risk of disturbing or injuring them also increases. Below are some important do’s and don’ts to remember when viewing dolphins. Help keep dolphins wild!

      DO’s AND DON’TS

      DON’T: Feed or attempt to feed wild dolphins: it is harmful and illegal.

      Prevent harassment of wild dolphins!

      DO: Stay at least 50 yards away from dolphins when viewing from a vessel or jet ski. Use binoculars for best viewing.

      DO: Limit time spent observing marine mammals to 30 minutes or less.

      DO: Avoid making loud or sudden noises near dolphins.

      DO: Move away slowly if a dolphin’s behavior indicates the animal is stressed or disturbed.

      DO: Look Before You Book! Book wild dolphin viewing tours with businesses that responsibly view dolphins in the wild and help dolphin conservation. Visit: to find responsible dolphin tours in your area.

      DON’T: Pursue, swim with, pet or touch wild dolphins, even if they approach you.

      DON’T: Encircle or entrap dolphins with vessel(s).

      DON’T: Operate or maneuver vessel in a manner that may cause dolphins to change their current behaviors. Specifically, do not direct vessel or accelerate toward dolphin(s) with the intent of creating a pressure wake to bow or wake-ride.

      DON’T: Separate mother/calf pairs.

      Prevent watercraft related injuries!

      DO: Put your vessel’s engine in neutral if in close vicinity of dolphins.

      DON’T: Drive watercraft through or over groups of dolphins.

      In regards to your second question, because dolphins are at the top of the food chain and eat other fish especially tuna which has shown to have higher mercury levels as a result of pollution in our oceans, the answer would be that it is due to an overall health problem in the oceans and also because of the position of dolphins in the food chain.

      The Taiji dolphin hunts have been going on for a long time. I don't know the precise number of years. But, if you watch the documentary "The Cove," it says that it has been going on for decades. The International Whaling Commission outlawed commercial whaling in 1986 but unfortunately, it didn't include a ban on small cetaceans such as dolphins. Japan and Norway do not abide by the IWC's ban, however, and still continue to hunt large whales.

    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      4 months ago

      This is an informative article. It brings up many questions. Isn't viewing dolphins in the wild also dangerous, unless done from a great distance? At the National Aquarium they warn against dolphin watching tours. Does the mercury in the dolphins speak to an overall health problem in the ocean or is it the dolphin's constitution that makes them have more mercury in their blubber? How long have the Taiji dolphin hunts been going on?

    • Lora Hollings profile imageAUTHOR

      Lora Hollings 

      4 months ago

      Thank you for this information, Layne. It is good to know that many people have become active in being the voice for these highly intelligent marine mammals who deserve their freedom as much as we do! To live a life in the ocean, not so confined in a tank, the way nature had intended and not enslaved for mankind’s entertainment and for those who profit so much from their captivity. "It should not be believed that all beings exist for the sake of the existence of man. On the contrary, all the other beings too have been intended for their own sakes and not for the sake of anything else." -Maimonides (physician and philosopher)

    • Layne Holmes profile image

      Layne Holmes 

      4 months ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thanks again, Lora. I was so pleased to see your article. I follow a really important group "dolphin project" on instagram. They upload tons of footage of dolphins in captivity. If you haven't heard of them, you might find them interesting. They often post videos of atypical behaviors and holding tank aggression in these parks—which opened my eyes up to the major issues going on.

    • Lora Hollings profile imageAUTHOR

      Lora Hollings 

      4 months ago

      Thank you Layne for dropping by and for your comment. I'm glad that you found my article to be enlightening in helping people to understand the connection between buying tickets to dolphin shows and marine parks which not only support dolphin captivity but also are supporting the terrible dolphin hunts.

    • Layne Holmes profile image

      Layne Holmes 

      4 months ago from Bend, Oregon

      Love that you wrote about this. I recently wrote a similar commentary. Great coverage of Taiji.

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      I hesitated to read this hub when I saw that title because I knew that it would make me cry. What is happening to the dolphins is disgusting. I've heard some things about what happens to dolphins in captivity, but I had no idea about the great dolphin hunt. Yes, I cried, but I'm glad I know now. Something has to be done about this.

    • MsAndreaRobinson profile image

      Andrea Robinson 

      3 years ago from California

      You put your heart and soul into this page and it shows. It's always so disturbing to hear of violence and especially the lengths some people will go through to cover it up. I saw footage of the slaughter of these dolphins years ago, and I must say it's something you never forget. I never knew they could literally stop breathing at will. That Kathy would choose suicide is incredibly sad and shocking.

      Thank you for your sincerity and true appreciation of these marvelous creatures.

    • profile image

      Kim N 

      3 years ago

      So sad to hear of this mistreatment! I had heard and seen documentaries about similar types of slaughter, but not this particular one in Taiji. Terrible to think of something like this continuing with no government involvement. To think that these animals are mostly rounded up for amusement.

      I remember running on the beach as dolphins leaped out of the water at a beach in North Carolina. Sad to think about anyone harming such beautiful creatures.

    • Jeolson profile image


      3 years ago from Champaign, Illinois

      Absolutely horrible what happens to these beautiful animals. I have never heard of them being killed for meat but I can't say I'm surprised. This article has really opened my eyes to dolphins that I see in captivity, such as at zoos. While I enjoy watching them do tricks they may be paying a price for their happiness. Thanks for writing a detailed, thorough article.

    • profile image

      Jamie Adair 

      3 years ago

      I’ve been reading a lot lately about places like Sea World and marine mammal captivity. As someone who grew up in the middle-of-nowhere midwest, far from the ocean or even aquariums, it wasn’t something I’d ever really thought about. But wow, captivity really is a tragic thing.

      I think I deliberately didn’t watch the Cove when I first heard about it because I knew it would be to unsettling and heartbreaking. My brother watched it and was really moved by the film despite that not being the sort of genre he prefers.

      Society has yet to figure out quite where the proper balance is between learning and appreciating something, like an animal, and keeping it from harm. I hope for the sake of God’s creatures that we improve this soon.

      Really informative post. Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      Kelly Sheldrick 

      3 years ago

      It's absolutely disgusting that this treatment of dolphins, and all marine mammals, is still acceptable. What gave us (humans) the right to treat other animals like this. It truly makes me sick. There has been quite a lot of coverage on the treatment of marine mammals in the past 5 years, and I know that the documentary 'Blackfish' has definitely impacted on Sea World, however, there is still a long way to go before marine mammals in aquariums and/or shows is completely banned.

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      What?! People actually eat Dolphins? That's like eating your own dog. I don't understand how people can be so cruel. Dolphins are beautiful creatures and I know people love to watch them and that's why they go to places like Sea World. But this needs to stop. We need to put place like that out of business.

    • profile image

      Nicky Smith 

      3 years ago

      Oh my gosh, how horrible!! I haven't been to sea world since I was a young kid and didn't know any better. Now I would never go. As a kid you just don't realize that the Dolphins don't want to do it. You don't think that they were actually kidnapped from their natural life to perform for us. What a absolutely horrible thought. It really needs to stop.

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      I have never been able to bring myself to watch, The Cove, or Blackfish. I know these horrible things happen, but can’t bear to watch. I’ve been gratified to see that Sea World hasbeen forced to alter some of their policies afterthe negative attention brought on by Black Fish. It’s sad that it usually takes a hit to the pocketbook to bring about change.

      Animals are only slightly less than human, and sometimes – when I see the tragedies men inflict on each other – the superior race. We should treat them accordingly.

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Absolutely disgusting what happens to these animals for the selling to marine parks and such. Cruelty to ANY animal is unacceptable. I've never seen, or heard of, The Cove, but will now try and see if I can find it somewhere. Great post and thanks for sharing it.

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      I went to SeaWorld with my family when I was younger. As a mother, due to what I've heard about all of this and more, I have NEVER taken my girls there. That is just awful. They are absolutely beautiful creatures and to be held captive and not free to do what they were born to....disgusting. And I did see The Cove when it came out....and oh my goodness. thanks for sharing this post, I hope more people come to read it, and realize what happens to bring these animals to the marine parks for their pleasure. We need to value all life, humans and animals. Another great post and poem Lora. Keep up the great work!

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Thanks for writing this post! You've shared a lot of information that so many people aren't aware of. I've never visited a marine park that keeps dolphins and I'm glad! I'm not interested in supporting the permanent captivity of these beautiful animals. I do always love seeing them out in the wild though. It's always such an exciting experience to see them from the beach or while you're in a boat on the water. They're such beautiful, graceful animals and I believe they have truly have big hearts!

    • SolveMyMaze profile image


      3 years ago

      I've been hearing quite a lot about dolphin captivity lately and it's chilling just how so cruel it is. It's sad to hear that one of the dolphins in Flipper actually committed suicide. I loved that show as a child, so it's definitely put a bad taste in my mouth about it.

      In all honesty, I would never actually go to sea world or anything like that, much like I wouldn't go to a zoo or a safari. These poor creatures aren't supposed to locked up, just like we aren't (except where needed to be of course). It's just a shame more people don't feel the same way about this. Yes, it's keeping people in jobs, but its so cruel.

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      I agree with BGM - your hub has expanded my knowledge of this situation very well, as earlier I've just heard about a place, where people are hunting dolphins and that's it. I feel so sorry about every bad thing, which is happening in our world - dog eating festival, dolphins and other animals, who are hunted. That's really sad.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Beautiful, insightful, and very touching poem on the tragic situation on how the dolphin entertainment industry such as Sea World and other marine parks are fueling the tragic dolphin hunts in Taiji! Thank you for this hub which will hopefully enlighten many people on why they shouldn’t buy a ticket to dolphin shows. I encourage everyone to see the movie “The Cove” which shows the connection between the entertainment industry and the horrific sacrifice of dolphins who not only are living a miserable life in captivity but also are horrifically killed in Taiji to support the exploitive and abusive entertainment industry.

    • BGM profile image


      7 years ago

      I had heard a little about these horrific dolphin killings, but your Hub has expanded my knowledge of the situation greatly. I doubt most people are aware of the underpinnings of the multibillion dollar dolphin entertainment industry. It's really wonderful that you are helping to educate others about the tragedy of dolphin captivity. I now understand what's wrong with dolphin captivity and how we can put an end to dolphin slaughter if we don't buy tickets to dolphin shows and support organizations like SAVE JAPAN'S DOLPHINS. The most moving part of this Hub was your poem, "The Blood Dolphins." Thank you for sharing this!


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