Tag Archives: dolphins

Will this year’s dolphin slaughter be the last?

By John Di Leonardo

Anyone who has picked up a newspaper lately knows that times are changing for captive marine mammals. The National Aquarium has decided to transfer all eight dolphins it once used in performances to coastal sanctuaries. The Georgia Aquarium has announced that it will no longer tear whales and dolphins away from the ocean. SeaWorld has stopped breeding orcas.

But even though the public’s mindset is undeniably evolving — and the captive industry is responding — wild dolphins are still dying. They’re being slaughtered and captured by the thousands to supply aquariums, theme parks and swim-with-dolphins programs. Every year between September and March in the small fishing village of Taiji, Japan, thousands of bottlenose dolphins and many other dolphin species are slaughtered. These “drive fisheries” were first exposed by the 2009 Academy Award–winning documentary The Cove. Yet the massacre continues to this day.

While crew members clang metal poles and rocks together underwater to disorient the dolphins, boats chase them into shore. These dolphin killers have perfected their techniques. Most of the dolphins are butchered, slashed, bashed or crushed. Those left waiting scream and struggle to escape. The water literally runs red with blood.

According to author Susan Casey, who traveled to Japan to document the killings for her book Voices in the Ocean: A Journey Into the Wild and Haunting World of Dolphins, Taiji hunters recently introduced a new killing technique: They sever dolphins’ spines while they’re still alive by spiking metal rods into their blowholes, then they plug them with wooden dowels. The animals die slowly and in agony.

Most of the dead dolphins are sold for meat — even though their flesh is heavily contaminated with mercury. A dead dolphin is worth about $500.

But some dolphins are instead sold to aquariums, performing-dolphin shows and swim-with-dolphins programs in China, Korea, Vietnam and other countries. It’s these lucrative sales that keep the dolphin slaughter going. A young female dolphin can sell for $150,000. In 2012, marine parks bought 156 bottlenose dolphins, 49 spotted dolphins, two pilot whales, 14 Risso’s dolphins, two striped dolphins and 24 white-sided dolphins from Taiji.

Closer to home, SeaWorld continues to force dolphins to perform tricks. In fact, earlier this year, SeaWorld San Antonio made the largest single capital investment in its 27-year history by doubling the size of its existing dolphin tank, adding more captive dolphins, and, for the first time ever at this facility, allowed paying customers to swim with the dolphins.

In the wild, dolphins swim together in family pods for miles every day. They navigate by bouncing sonar waves off objects to determine location and distance. For captive dolphins, even the largest tank is truly a hideous prison. Even sea pools limit these free-roaming animals to a tiny portion of their rightful ocean home.

Although captive dolphins in the United States are afforded minimal protections, programs outside the U.S. are often governed by even fewer, if any, laws. Throughout the world, dolphins are kept in small tanks or polluted sea pens. Driven by greed, many facilities operate almost continuously, giving the animals little respite from a constant stream of tourists.

It’s time to stop exploiting dolphins for human entertainment. These intelligent, social animals should not lose their freedom just so that we can watch them perform silly tricks or go swimming with them. Families can help keep dolphins, whales and other aquatic animals in the oceans where they belong by refusing to patronize aquariums, swim-with-dolphins programs and marine theme parks.

Don’t be struck by “vacation blindness”!

By Jennifer O’Connor

I recently returned from a Caribbean cruise, which was supposed to be a lovely weekend with my mother. But what we brought home with us were memories of battered dolphins, beaten-down horses and bald parrots. Everywhere we went, we saw animals who were being abused and exploited in order to empty tourists’ wallets.

Travelers with money to spend are the driving force behind “swim-with-dolphins” excursions, horse-drawn carriage rides and beach photos with parrots or iguanas. But long after those tourists are back at home with stories and souvenirs, the animals will remain in the same grim conditions until the day they die.

Resorts and cruise lines make big bucks off the backs of dolphins. Although captive marine mammals in the United States are afforded some limited legal protection, programs outside the United States are often governed by few, if any, regulations. Many “swim-with” facilities operate almost continuously, giving the dolphins little respite from a constant stream of tourists. Even though dolphins are keenly intelligent and capable of swimming vast distances every day, their worlds are reduced in these facilities to cramped and shallow swimming pools. Most captive dolphins die far short of their natural life span.

We overheard many people talking about their “swim-with” excursions and claiming to “love” dolphins. But every ticket purchased from such operations directly contributes to the animals’ captivity and misery. Dolphins used by these operators will never know the complex ocean world in which they belong. They’ll spend every day of their lives in the same barren tank, serving the whims of tourists who are more focused on having an “adventure” than thinking about the cruelty they are supporting.

The horses we saw who are used to ferry tourists looked like props from The Walking Dead. They were skeletally thin, and many had clots of foam dripping from their mouths. Several had visible injuries, and one was obviously lame. Most looked like they could drop at any second. There must be some sort of “vacation blindness” that grips people, a compulsion to “do” things that allows vacationers to ignore the animals’ obvious suffering and line up to take a ride.

Along the beaches, once-beautiful parrots were hauled around for photo ops. The birds looked bedraggled and depressed. Their feathers were scruffy, and one had several raw sore spots. They were never allowed to fly. Avian welfare expert Dr. Kim Danoff notes, “Depriving birds of flight is mentally and physically stressful. Some birds respond by plucking their feathers out; some become aggressive. It also contributes to poor health including weak and atrophied muscles, cardiac problems and respiratory problems.”

The birds had no shade and were on the beach all day. Lorin Lindner, Ph.D., who founded California’s Serenity Park Parrot Sanctuary, points out that parrots are very sensitive to heat and direct sunlight as well as being vulnerable to sunburn, heatstroke and heat exhaustion.

We saw one teenager shriek and drop an iguana to the ground during a photo op. Without stopping to check for injuries, the handler quickly retrieved and passed the reptile on to the next person waiting.

As long as travelers succumb to temptation and take a swim or a ride or a photo using captive animals, this suffering will continue. While packing your bags for your vacation, please remember to include some compassion. Don’t spend any money or time at places where animals will continue to languish in misery long after you’ve returned home.

Swimming with dolphins

By Paula Moore

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.

Stop the dolphin slaughter — stay away from marine-mammal parks

By Paula Moore

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. Some scientists argue that dolphins should be classified as “nonhuman persons” and that their rights should be protected. The resident dolphins of Toshima, Japan—about 100 miles south of Tokyo—are considered official citizens of the small island and are fully protected while in the island’s waters.

But elsewhere dolphins are in danger. Every year in Japan, thousands of these intelligent, self-aware animals are killed in violent hunts known as oikomi or “drive fisheries.” Others are ripped from their ocean homes to be put on display in aquariums and marine theme parks or used in “swim-with” programs. These industries are inextricably linked. If you don’t support the slaughter of dolphins, then don’t pay to see them perform in dolphin shows.

September 1 marked the official start of one of the most notorious dolphin hunts—the annual slaughter in Taiji, Japan, that was documented in the Oscar-winning film The Cove. Video footage of past hunts in this Japanese fishing village shows dolphins thrashing in their own blood for many agonizing minutes after being speared or having their throats cut. By the end of the slaughter, the entire cove is red with blood.

While 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”—every year, about two dozen live dolphins are sold 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 only 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 during Japan’s drive fisheries 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.

Dolphins suffer immensely in captivity. Eight former trainers at Marineland in Niagara Falls, Ontario, recently spoke out to the Toronto Star about the substandard conditions at that facility. Among other abuses, the trainers claim that five dolphins had their skin fall off in chunks after they spent months swimming in water so green that they could barely be seen in it. Photos of the dolphins show them with their eyes squeezed shut against the filthy water. According to the trainers, some animals have gone blind at Marineland.

In the open sea, dolphins live in large, intricate social groups, swim together in family pods and can travel up to 100 miles a day. In captivity, their world is measured in gallons instead of fathoms. Dolphins communicate with each other through whistles and body language. In tanks, their vocalizations become a garble of meaningless reverberations. Most aquariums keep antacids on hand to treat the animals’ stress-related ulcers.

No animal deserves to be torn from his or her rightful home, locked up in a tank or cage and forced to perform tricks just for our amusement. But the plight of a captive dolphin swimming in endless circles in a concrete tank is especially heartbreaking. Please stand up to this cruel industry. Before you buy a ticket, remember that patronizing marine-mammal parks and swim-with programs helps to support Japan’s bloody dolphin hunts—and condemns intelligent, social beings to a lifetime of misery.

SeaWorld: a world of suffering!

By Debbie Leahy

SeaWorld’s damage control team is in overdrive following the tragic death of a trainer who was attacked by one of the theme park’s captive orcas. But if SeaWorld held news conferences every time an animal died at its facilities, people would be staying away in droves. SeaWorld, which owns most of the captive orcas and bottlenose dolphins in the U.S., has one of the worst animal care records in the country.

Twenty-one orcas died in U.S. SeaWorld facilities between 1986 and 2008 — an average of nearly one each year for 22 years. Their deaths were caused by a range of factors, including severe trauma, intestinal gangrene, acute hemorrhagic pneumonia, pulmonary abscesses, chronic kidney disease, chronic cardiovascular failure, septicemia and influenza. In some cases, the cause of death could not even be determined, but it is clear that none of these animals died of old age. Dozens of bottlenose dolphins have also died at SeaWorld. Marine mammals are literally dying to entertain you.

Ocean animals inhabit vast, fascinating and complex worlds. Orcas are intelligent predators who work cooperatively in search of food. They share intricate relationships and swim as much as 100 miles every day. At SeaWorld, orcas perform circus-type tricks for food; swim endless circles in small, barren concrete tanks; and live far short of the 60-year maximum life span that orcas enjoy in the wild. Their worlds have been reduced from fathoms to gallons. Continue reading SeaWorld: a world of suffering!

Dolphins in tanks: cruel confinement

editor’s note: In light of yesterday’s news (whale drowns trainer), I thought it would be good to run this piece on dolphins.

By Jennifer O’Connor

Scientists at Emory University recently determined that the cognitive capacity of dolphins is second only to that of humans and that the brain cortex of dolphins has the same complicated folds associated with human intelligence. A prominent ethicist believes that dolphins should be given the same moral standing as humans. We know that dolphins have distinct personalities, can recognize themselves in mirrors and can think about the future.

Yet dolphins are still captured from the wild to be put on display in aquariums, held captive in theme parks and used in “swim-with” programs. This must stop.

In their rightful ocean home, dolphins inhabit vast, fascinating and complex worlds. They establish close, cooperative and long-standing relationships. They live in large, intricate social groups, swim together in family pods and can cover up to 100 miles a day. Dolphins communicate with each other through whistles and body language, and when they are injured or dying, other dolphins will come to their aid, supporting them at the water’s surface so that they can breathe. However, in tanks, their worlds are reduced to gallons instead of fathoms. Continue reading Dolphins in tanks: cruel confinement

What marine-mammal parks don’t want you to know

By Lisa Wathne

Dolphins are dying to entertain us. That’s the message of a devastating new documentary, The Cove, which sheds light on a dirty secret of the marine-park industry.

Every year between September and March, more than 2,000 dolphins are slaughtered in the small fishing village of Taiji, Japan, where The Cove was secretly filmed. Most of the dolphins are butchered and sold for meat. A dead dolphin is worth about $600.

But a few live dolphins—about two dozen each year—are sold to aquariums, performing-dolphin shows and swim-with-the-dolphins programs in Mexico, China, the Philippines and other countries. It’s these lucrative sales that keep the dolphin slaughter going. A single live dolphin can fetch more than $150,000.

During a typical slaughter—or “drive fishery,” as it is called—boats chase pods of dolphins while crew members clang metal poles together underwater, creating a cacophonous wall of sound that disorients the animals. Some dolphins are pursued for hours. Continue reading What marine-mammal parks don’t want you to know