A majority of humans are omnivores, and as such, we include some sort of meat in our diet to provide us with appropriate nutrients. Slaughterhouses around the world are designed to butcher animals in order to supply this need. So what makes The Cove in Taiji, Japan any different?  Why should dolphins deserve to be treated with any more rights than the cows, chickens, or pigs that many of us eat daily?

Much behaviorial and anatomical research has been conducted on the intelligence of the dolphin in comparison to that of our own. The results have proven that dolphins are the world’s second most intelligent creatures after humans, with scientists suggesting “they are so bright that they should be treated as ‘non-human persons'”. Dolphins have a much larger brain than humans, which, although is not necessarily an indicator of higher intelligence, leaves greater surface area for neurons. A more accurate measure of intelligence is the “encephalisation quotient” (EQ)– or ratio of brain size to body size. A bottle-nosed dolphin’s EQ is 5.6, surpassed only by the human’s EQ of 7.4. Dolphins perceive the world through sonar experience to an extent that they are even able to distinguish a heart beating or a pregnant woman!

The social development and interaction of dolphins also parallels that of humans. Most live in groups for life, learning societal conventions from their mothers and the community. The group will even have distinct clicks and whistles that, like a name, identify each individual. A member creates relationships with their fellow dolphins, from casual friendships to romantic partners. Dolphins are the only species besides humans to have sexual intercourse for enjoyment rather than for reproductive purposes. Learn more HERE!

Dolphins are known for their social interaction with humans as well. Everyone has seen the videos of dolphins hugging, playing, and giving rides to thrilled tourists. However, dolphins are also the only known wild animals that will come to the rescue of a human being. There are many stories of dolphins ganging up around a surfer to save them from an oncoming shark. The BBC dedicated a whole episode of the TV show, Natural World, to this phenomenon. Here is the first section:

Click here to view sections 2/5, 3/5, 4/5,and  5/5

The capability to learn, remember, and pass on knowledge is another remarkable characteristic of this species. Dolphins can understand about 90 commands of American Sign Language, as well as words, sentences, and differences in word order. They can recognize their reflection in the mirror and watch TV with comprehension. One dolphin, Kelly, even figured out how to fool her trainers! When told to clean up the pool, she would hide a piece of trash under a rock in her tank. She would tear off a piece and return it to her trainer for a reward. After being given her reward, she would go back to the hiding place, tear off another piece, and start the process over again. She then taught her calves and fellow dolphins until the whole crew was showing similar behavior. Another story depicts a young dolphin seeing a human observer taking a puff of his cigarette. The dolphin sped off to his mother, swam back to the man, and released milk into the water to create the same “smoke” effect of the cigarette. Dolphins also use their intelligence to entertain themselves, as seen in this video of a dolphin blowing bubble rings:

All of this research and evidence points to one conclusion. Dolphins are in a league entirely different from that of cows, pigs, or chickens and therefore should not be treated as such. Dolphins play. They remember. They interact. They show sensitive and  protective instincts. They learn. They can even plan for the future, as seen in Kelly’s trash tactics. Therefore it is possible that they are aware of their fate when caught in The Cove.

They are a species we can relate to and learn from. They are not to be on a menu or your dinner plate.