The Truth Behind the Dolphin Smile
"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 today...in 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
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
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.
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
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.
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!
JOIN SAVE JAPAN'S DOLPHINS at http://www.savejapandolphins.org/