Today and right now, all across the world, locals and tourists in the tens of thousands are lining up at marine parks to marvel at the spectacular sight of dolphins and whales up close. These adults and children alike are visiting marine parks with hope and excitement, dreaming for the chance to get a personal encounter with these magnificent ocean creatures. An encounter usually only experienced whilst looking through glass or by peering over a safety barrier, but an experience none-the-less that promises to educate, inspire and foster an unconditional love for these sentient beings.
We don’t need a real-life Jurassic Park to learn about dinosaurs. Do we?
From the SeaWorld’s in the USA to Ocean Park in Hong Kong, from Sea World Australia to Loro Parque in Spain, the scene is a familiar one: roaring crowds cheering as dolphins jump through hoops for frozen fish, loud music blares as an orca waves to its audience on command, dolphins kiss and pose for holiday selfies, and members of the public line up to feed a dolphin, or brush their teeth, or pat their bellies, or ride them around their small enclosed pools.
On the surface, all seems calm. Marine park employees who run ‘Swim with Dolphin’ programs will smile and tell the public that their dolphins and whales are happy and healthy and well taken care of and that they wouldn’t perform if they weren’t (see Blackfish). And, of course the dolphins are smiling, so they must be happy and healthy… right?
Sadly, all is not what it seems…
The truth behind a dolphins smile tells a heartbreaking and horrific story of families being torn apart in a scene of unimaginable trauma and brutality. The ones that don’t survive are the lucky ones… The unlucky dolphins are forcibly taken and have no choice but to endure a horrible fate of life long, exploited suffering – commonly known as ‘happy dolphins’ in a tank.
It all starts in Taiji.
Every year between September and the following March, in the small fishing town of Taiji off the coast of Japan, dolphins and small whales are subjected to this horrific fate. A small group of local “fisherman” bang bars of steel in the water to create a sound barrier so they can confuse, frighten, round up and herd entire pods of dolphin families into a small quiet cove (watch The Cove).
Mothers are traumatised whilst babies are separated from them so that the young attractive ones can be taken and trained to perform tricks for food, then be sold and shipped off to marine parks around the world for a lifetime of slavery for human entertainment. And the dolphins who aren’t captured panic and commit suicide, or are brutally and inhumanely slaughtered. Either way, they end up at the butchers for human consumption.
Dolphins are traded like playing cards across the world, and you wouldn’t know any different.
Considering a trained, young, live dolphin sold internationally can fetch anywhere up to $1000,000, it is undeniable that the annual Taiji dolphin hunt in Japan, and the multibillion dollar captive dolphin industry are directly linked.
Through this brutal and inhumane slaughter and capture of dolphins and small whales, we see everlasting scars of an industry that has perpetuated a great deal of suffering not only for those who are killed or individuals who are confined to a concrete tank; but their brethren in the wild. Humans do not have the right to keep these creatures in captivity just to satisfy their own selfish need for cheap entertainment or greedy, economic gain.
There is no such thing as a happy dolphin in captivity.
Dolphins captured and stolen from the wild are sadly unhappy. They are fed antidepressants to keep them active and from losing their minds from swimming around and around in a pool all day. They are on antibiotics to stop them from getting sick. They are exposed to chlorine, getting cancer from the sun, they’re put in a tank with dolphins they don’t get along with, and are forcibly impregnated to give birth to captive-born dolphins – who’ll never get to swim free and play in the waves.
No pool, lagoon, tank or sea pen, and no matter how large they are, could ever replace the ocean nor reproduce the social complex life of these magnificent wild sentient beings.
You can help end the suffering of these precious, gentle creatures by pledging to never buy a ticket to a dolphin show.
Together we can be their voice.
Together we are their only hope.