Dolphin hunting is legal in many parts of the world, including the Solomon Islands, parts of Denmark and Peru. But the largest dolphin hunt in the world takes place in Taiji, Japan. Every year, more than 700 wild dolphins are killed by fishermen, their bodies sold as meat to stores in Japan. Hundreds more dolphins are captured and sold to aquariums around the world. In a recent tweet, U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy called the Taiji dolphin hunt “inhumane.” The Japanese government says it’s an integral part of their tradition and culture. For this month’s Environmental Outlook, Diane and guests discuss the controversy over dolphin hunting in Japan.


  • Diana Reiss, Ph.D. Marine mammal scientist and professor of cognitive psychology, Hunter College and dolphin researcher, National Aquarium in Baltimore, Md.
  • Richard O'Barry Activist, former dolphin trainer and founder of The Dolphin Project, a campaign under the International Marine Mammal Project at the non-profit Earth Island Institute.
  • Kyle Cleveland, Ph.D. Associate director of the Institute for Contemporary Asian Studies, Temple University’s campus in Tokyo, Japan.

Contact U.S. Embassy Officials About Japan’s Dolphin Hunt

Send email to the U.S. Embassy Japan.

Send mail to the U.S. State Department:
U.S. Department of State
Attn: Senator John Kerry
2201 C Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20520

Scenes From Taiji Dolphin Hunt

Warning: Video contains graphic content

“The Cove” Film Trailer


  • 11:06:53

    MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Since hunting season began in September, 700 dolphins have been killed by fishermen in Taiji, Japan. The U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy, recently tweeted about the Taiji dolphin hunt, calling it inhumane. The Japanese government defends the practice, saying it's an important part of their tradition and culture. Joining me in the studio for this month's environmental outlook, the controversy over dolphin hunting, Diane Reiss of Hunter College.

  • 11:07:34

    MS. DIANE REHMJoining us from a studio in Miami, Florida, Richard O'Barry of the Earth Island Institute; and by phone from Tokyo, Japan, Kyle Cleveland of Temple University. I do invite you to be part of the program. Give us a call. Let us know your thinking. Call us on 800-433-8850. Send us an email to Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. I do want to let you know that at our website,, you can actually see a film of the process of killing the dolphins. It is graphic. I am warning you, it's not pleasant to see. But, if you choose to, it is there at

  • 11:08:32

    MS. DIANE REHMThank you all for joining us today.

  • 11:08:36

    DR. DIANA REISSThank you for having us.

  • 11:08:39

    REHMIt's good to have you all with me. Ric O'Barry, if I could start with you. I know you've just returned from Taiji, Japan. Tell us exactly where it is and what you were doing there.

  • 11:08:56

    MR. RICHARD O'BARRYWell, it's a remote area, a long way from Tokyo, in Wakayama Prefecture, one of the most beautiful places in the world, beautiful coast line there, small villages. And people in Wakayama, some people, eat dolphin meat. It's not something that happens all over Japan. Most people in Japan never even heard of this dolphin slaughter, this annual slaughter. So, what are we doing there? We are trying to work together with Japanese people. Our feeling is that they're the only ones who can stop this. The change has to come from within.

  • 11:09:39

    MR. RICHARD O'BARRYSo we're connecting up with Japanese people -- activists -- and supporting their effort in trying to stop this.

  • 11:09:47

    REHMYou are quite well known for starring in the movie, The Cove, which actually won the 2010 Academy Award for best documentary. And that told the story of the Taiji dolphin drive hunt and showed graphic footage of the dolphins being killed at Taiji, part of which we do have on our website. Explain what a drive hunt is; how many fishermen are involved? Ric.

  • 11:10:28

    O'BARRYThe boats -- and there are 12 of them now, there were 13 -- there's 12 boats that, in the morning, when the sun comes up at first light, they will go out offshore Taiji. The boats are about 42 feet long. They're white in color. They're all exactly alike with a big diesel engine. And they're evenly spaced out on the horizon. And we watch them. And as dolphins are migrating past Taiji, the boats get on the outside of them. They put a long metal pole in the water and they hit it with a hammer, creating a wall of sound or an acoustical net, if you will. This terrorizes the dolphins.

  • 11:11:17

    O'BARRYThey've never heard anything like this before. And the fishermen are able to drive, literally drive the dolphins in shore and ultimately into the cove, where they are brutally slaughtered and captured and shipped to dolphinariums and swim programs in aquariums in different parts of the world, including Japan, by the way, which has -- Japan is the size of California. And it has 51 dolphinariums. It's amazing that they have so many. And they're all substandard, almost all of them. And so they have a very high mortality rate. And they simply dump them and get more.

  • 11:12:05

    O'BARRYSo many of the ones that are captured, are captured for Japan and then China and Russia and different parts of the world -- Turkey.

  • 11:12:15

    REHMNow, help me understand. You said earlier that some Japanese do consume the dolphins, using them for food. What portion is used for food? What portion is used to sell to these dolphinariums, as you put it?

  • 11:12:44

    O'BARRYWell, I've been going there since 2003, four or five times a year and things keep changing. They were killing 2,100 in the cove and not so many captures, when I first started going there. Last year, the 2,100 dolphins have been reduced to about 700. And this is because the Japanese people are more concerned with clean food than we are in the West. And if they had any idea that the dolphin meat is contaminated with mercury -- menthol, mercury and PCBs -- they simply would not buy it. So it's all about supply and demand, just like any other product.

  • 11:13:33

    O'BARRYThe same is true with the capture of dolphins. We think that we have a chance, we may be at a tipping point to stop this dolphin slaughter. But I've come to believe that the only way to stop the captures is for the captivity industry to step up and take ownership of this issue and start policing their own industry. And when I say the industry, I'm talking about the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, that a lot of these people belong to; the American Zoological Society; the International Marine Animal Trainers Association; the Alliance of Marine Parks and Aquariums.

  • 11:14:13

    O'BARRYThis is a multi-billion-dollar industry that is missing in action. I mean, look...

  • 11:14:19

    REHMRichard O'Barry, he is director of The Dolphin Project and the "Save the Japan Dolphins" campaign at the Earth Institute. He's also author of "To Free a Dolphin." And turning to you, Diana Reiss. What does the science tell us about these dolphins? Are they aware of what's happening to them in this cove?

  • 11:14:51

    REISSWell, what we know from our science is that dolphins are a highly evolved species. They are intelligent. They are socially aware. They are self aware. They live in very complex societies in the seas.

  • 11:15:06

    REHMHow do we know that?

  • 11:15:07

    REISSWell, we've done studies. I've done studies with my colleagues looking at mirror self-recognition, for example. Dolphins, like us and great apes and elephants, by the way, can look in a mirror and understand that's themselves in the mirror. And they're actually interested in using the mirror as a tool to examine themselves. That's very sophisticated. Very few animals show that. But they've shown a myriad of other abilities in many labs, looking at their cognitive abilities. These are, again, very advanced species. They're comparable, if not exceeding, the abilities of great apes.

  • 11:15:44

    REISSIn terms of social complexity, there have been a number of studies done for many years in the wild and in aquariums showing that these animals, again, show social complexity that rivals what we see in chimpanzees.

  • 11:15:56

    REHMDo they have families?

  • 11:15:58

    REISSThey have strong family ties. They develop bonds between individuals. They have what's called a fission-fusion type society. So they make new friends, keep the old. They collaborate with each other. They are dependent on each other. They're independent. And, again, they do a lot of cooperative behavior. But they have big, complex brains. They remember things over long periods of time. So these are animals that need global protection. We're protecting many of the species around us now. And that's good news. We need to protect these animals.

  • 11:16:31

    REHMWhat happens when they're herded into these coves?

  • 11:16:36

    REISSWell, we've watched the videos of this and we see that there's a lot of panicking. This is, as Ric had mentioned, this is an aversive stimulus. When you're creating a wall of sound, this cacophony of sound, they're frightened. And they're racing away from this. This is why it works. And you see them, you know, gathering together. When they're in these areas, being held in a cove, we don't know whether they're able to eat or even if they will eat. But these are animals that are going through severe stress besides getting killed later on. Just the herding is not a humane way to deal with these animals.

  • 11:17:15

    REHMAnd how do the Japanese fishermen kill the dolphins?

  • 11:17:20

    REISSWell, we have footage that we've obtained form a vantage point where we can see it quite clearly. And my colleagues and I published a paper in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science. This is a peer-review paper that came out in April. And what we showed was that the claims that are being made that it is a humane practice by the Japanese fishermen and the fisher -- the collective -- are simply not true. These claims are not true. What's happening, actually, is that the fishermen get the dolphins and they'll tie them by the tail and pull them into this -- onto the beach area.

  • 11:17:55

    REISSEven in that process, the animals are often in what's called a forced submersion, where they can't get to the surface to breathe, which can be quite stressful, you can imagine. These are air-breathing mammals. And when they're actually pulled onto the beach, they're tied by their tails. And then, I'll be very graphic about this, because I think people need to hear it, a very sharp instrument is used about -- behind their blowhole. They breathe through their blowholes.

  • 11:18:24

    REISSAnd they force a very sharp instrument repeatedly into the top of their head, behind their blowhole to sever the spinal cord from the brain.

  • 11:18:37

    REHMDiana Reiss, she's a cognitive psychologist, professor in the department of psychology at Hunter College. Short break. We'll be right back.

  • 11:20:01

    REHMAnd welcome back. Here in the studio, Diana Reiss, cognitive psychologist, professor in the department of psychology at Hunter College. She is director of a dolphin cognitive research program at the National Aquarium in Baltimore. Also with us, Richard O'Barry. He is on the line from Miami, Fla. He's director of the dolphin project and Save Japan's Dolphin's campaign. And by phone for the hour from Tokyo, Japan is Kyle Cleveland. He's associate director of the Institute for Contemporary Studies at Temple University's Japan campus in Tokyo.

  • 11:20:59

    REHMKyle Cleveland, I want to hear from you what the reaction of your own students was when ambassador Caroline Kennedy came out with her statement calling the killing of these dolphins inhumane.

  • 11:21:22

    DR. KYLE CLEVELANDWell, in the short term here there hasn't been a lot of feedback because I haven't addressed this in my class yet, although I do. But I have found that there are very definite patterns of reaction between Japanese students and international students. Our university has students from some 52 countries. But it really does tend to track along cultural lines where Japanese are very sensitive and defensive about being criticized for these practices. And for the most part foreign students are very upset with the dolphin drives and are against whaling. So there are some cultural pattern reactions here.

  • 11:21:58

    REHMAnd what about the overall public reaction you've heard?

  • 11:22:04

    CLEVELANDI think Ric is correct that most Japanese don't really know a lot about this issue. And, in fact, in the movie "The Cove" there's some very evocative scenes where he's showing people some of this very lurid video taken at the cove where these dolphins are being brutally slaughtered. And people are very surprised and very upset about this. I've seen public opinion polls where something like 25 to 30 percent who are asked about this and have an opinion about this would support whaling. Another 18 percent or so are opposed. And then you have the majority of Japanese people who are not really emotionally invested in this issue per say.

  • 11:22:42

    CLEVELANDBut I think what happens here is when Ambassador Kennedy had Tweeted this and it hit the media and Japanese government officials started responding to this, this was played in the media quite frequently. And so that provoked people to some sort of response. I don't think most Japanese people are really that emotionally invested in the issue so it's probably a bit of an error to speak in really inclusive terms of what do the Japanese think about this.

  • 11:23:09

    CLEVELANDI think we need to start to make some distinctions between these interest groups, these fishermen in Taiji, various government agencies that support this and the general public who I don't think necessarily have strong opinions about this except in reaction to what they perceive as being criticized.

  • 11:23:24

    REHMNow, isn't there something of a dichotomy there because don't the Japanese people generally like the fact that Caroline Kennedy is there as the ambassador?

  • 11:23:43

    CLEVELANDWell, yes. I think that's one of the reasons that this really provoked a strong response because, you know, she came in with the name of Kennedy and all the status that goes along with that. And so I think they really do care about what she thinks. And very quickly out of the gate, you know, just a few weeks into her new ambassadorship, she came out with this critical statement not only saying that she found this objectionable, but also that the United States government opposes this.

  • 11:24:10

    CLEVELANDIt was a very brief Tweet, but it provoked quite a reaction. And I think that the fact that she said this really did play differently. You know, Ambassador Roos, the ambassador previous to this who was the ambassador when the movie "The Cove" was released, he talked about this a number of times. And it didn't really provoke the same kind of response that the new Ambassador Kennedy has.

  • 11:24:33

    REHMSo you think it's because of who she is that this is gaining some traction, I won't say a great deal, but some traction.

  • 11:24:47

    CLEVELANDI think part of it is because of her status and the notoriety of the Kennedy family and how that plays in Japan. But also I think very quickly in her new ambassadorship, she took a stand on a number of very controversial issues the Japanese nationalists care about. She was opposed and critical to Prime Minister Abe's visit to Yasukuni Shrine. This is kind of a war memorial where Class A war criminals from World War II are enshrined.

  • 11:25:15

    CLEVELANDAnd every time a Japanese politician or prime minister visits there, it really provokes a strong response from others, particularly Chinese and Koreans because of what that suggests about Japan's inability to really reconcile these differences with these countries about their war past. Also you may recall that very soon after she was ambassador there was the controversy with China about the no-fly zone and, you know, the position that the United States government took on that in support of Japan.

  • 11:25:48

    CLEVELANDAnd then this issue of whales or dolphins, ostensibly it's about whales and dolphins but I think there's a larger context here about the way this provokes Japanese conservative reactionary nationalists. And what you see are these older politicians and these right wing organizations in Japan that are called Uyoku that are very strident about this. And these are kind of a political interest group that's very conservative and reactionary. And they take this as a symbol of Japan's autonomy.

  • 11:26:19

    CLEVELANDAnd so they think that when foreigners, including an ambassador, are critical of this, that somehow it's a form of cultural imperialism and that people are making these really invidious comparisons between their country and Japan. And these conservatives are very upset about that. So my point is that there's a broader context here in which her comments kind of resonate.

  • 11:26:39

    REHMDo you...

  • 11:26:39

    CLEVELANDAnd I think it's -- yeah.

  • 11:26:40

    REHMI'm wondering if you think her comments, most particularly on the dolphins, have created tension between her and some portions of the Japanese government.

  • 11:26:58

    CLEVELANDWell, sure. Obviously it has given the reactions that we've seen. And I don't think that the ambassador and her staff are unaware of the kind of reaction that this would've provoked. You know, this is a real hot button issue. And since the release of "The Cove" this has become a very controversial public issue. And so when a new ambassador comes and takes this kind of stand, I think she's kind of laying down a marker here in a way and the message was received, which is that these kind of -- there are international norms that Japan is perceived not to be in compliance with.

  • 11:27:34

    CLEVELANDAnd on this issue of whaling and dolphins, Japan is really out of sync with the rest of the world. There are only a few countries in the world that continue whaling. And these dolphin drives are an especially kind of brutal version of that.

  • 11:27:49

    REHMKyle Cleveland. He's associate director of the Institute for Contemporary Asian Studies at Temple University's Japan campus in Tokyo. And, Diana Reiss, we have an email here that I'm sure many people are saying to themselves, "What's the different between killing and eating a cow, killing and eating a dolphin? All this carrying on over the dolphin hunt is completely hypocritical and more than a little disgusting." How do you feel about it?

  • 11:28:35

    REISSI'm really glad to get that question. I've heard it many times. So here's one situation. As a scientist that studies these animals, I would argue that they need protection from being someone's food item. But beyond that, let's say we agree that a culture is going to eat dolphin. Okay, we eat cattle. In the food industry, in the slaughterhouse industry we have rules, not just in the United States but in most modern and technologically advanced societies that we're going to treat animals humanely. And the way the dolphins are being killed is not at all humane.

  • 11:29:09

    REISSThat would never take place in a slaughterhouse in our country. There are rules and regulations, again, not just in our country but many modern countries, where an animal should be rendered unconscious as quickly as possible. And then the rest of the processing is done. This is not what's happening. So it's very, very different.

  • 11:29:28

    REHMWhat happens when this knife or whatever the instrument is is driven into the dolphin just behind the whale hole?

  • 11:29:43

    REISSSo they insert repeatedly a knife and then you can see the animals flailing, struggling to get away. And they have to get through this muscle. They think that they are severing the spinal cord from the brain and rendering the animal unconscious. That's the goal but it's not happening. There's a great deal of damage done and the animal is conscious and struggling. And it goes on for minutes, minutes, minutes, not seconds. Then they -- if that weren't bad enough, they hammer in a wooden stake to keep the blood from coming out. And even the Japanese scientists who report on this method admit that this can prolong the time until death.

  • 11:30:21

    REISSThey do it so that water doesn't -- isn't contaminated by the blood. And this has been stated by the fishing cooperative. So again, this is -- the practice is inhumane and as a scientist I think we have to be more concerned with how we kill any animal. I would prefer not to have dolphins killed at all but this is an inhumane practice unlike what happens in slaughterhouses.

  • 11:30:42

    REHMAll right. And for you, Ric O'Barry, here is an email from Luke who says, "Our fisherman have nearly wiped out species of fish like cod, Atlantic salmon and swordfish. Who are we then to yell at Japan for killing and eating dolphins who are not a threatened species?" Ric, are you there?

  • 11:31:14

    O'BARRYI am. Yes, I am. And, yes, overfishing is a worldwide problem. That is not unique to America or Japan. And that is exactly why these drives, I think, are taking place. They took place in -- these drives happened in Iki Island, in Futo and other parts of Japan. They don't happen anymore and the reason is they've killed them all. There's nothing left to kill. And they're doing the same thing in Taiji because of overfishing. And I know that because I go there four or five times a year for the last eleven years, and I talk to the fishermen.

  • 11:31:55

    O'BARRYWe had a meeting in the city hall with the mayor and the city commissioner and the Coast Guard and the fishermen. And we offered to subsidize them for one year as an experiment. In other words, if you leave your boat tied up at the dock from September through March and don't kill any dolphins, we'll pay you the same amount of money that you would've made killing dolphins. And they translated that around the conference table and it came back, it's not about money. It's about pest control. That's their words, which translates into overfishing.

  • 11:32:33

    O'BARRYThe Japanese will eat fish three times a day and they consume a great quantity of fish from the ocean. They want to kill the competition. Each one of these dolphin will eat somewhere between 30 and maybe 100 pounds of small fish every day. And so they told us that it's pest control.

  • 11:33:00


  • 11:33:00

    O'BARRYThis is genocide. It is but look, in defense of the Japanese people, I must tell you, there's 127 million people who live in Japan. In Taiji there are 3500 people. Out of the 3500 people there's only about 35 men who are doing this. So it's not the whole town of Taiji. So when we say fisherman in Taiji, most of the fishermen, the majority of them, fish for squid, lobsters, crabs, small reef fish. They don't kill dolphins. It's a very small minority of men who should be isolated from the rest of Japanese society because...

  • 11:33:40

    REHMAll right. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." What about that, Kyle Cleveland? Do they see these dolphins in a pest category?

  • 11:33:56

    CLEVELANDWell, I think the fishermen might. And some of the government authorities that are defending their actions might use that kind of label. But one thing to keep in mind -- and this is also demonstrated in "The Cove" -- is the Japanese don't make a distinction between dolphins and whales. And so in the village of Taiji there has been a tradition of whaling going all the way back to the 17th century. And there is kind of a cultural tradition there. More recently there's been the focus on the dolphin drives. And particularly that's been brought to public attention after a movie like "The Cove" came out. But there is a long and a deep cultural history there. That's complicated.

  • 11:34:35

    CLEVELANDAnd I think that for Japanese who defend the practice of whaling, they will argue that this is part of their cultural tradition. And I think Japanese have a different view of animals perhaps than westerners and certainly Americans have. You know, on the one hand, they kill and will consume these dolphins or whales. On the other hand, within Japanese Shinto religion, Ebisu, the god of fishermen, is embodied by a whale. And you'll see shrines and Japanese worship whales at the same time that they're killing them and consuming them.

  • 11:35:09

    CLEVELANDSo I think to the western mind that's confusing, contradictory and incoherent. But from the Japanese point of view, it's certainly a different way of looking at it than we do in the west.

  • 11:35:20


  • 11:35:21

    REISSYes, I think this is incredibly interesting but again, I'm going to try to talk about science here because I'm a scientist. And the issue I have with this is that we obviously embrace culture. Culture's wonderful. But when you know that animals or humans are suffering based on a cultural practice, I think we as a human species want to change it. I think people living in Japan are just like us. They have their pets. They care about nature. And I think we need to get together and say, what is it that we know? We were a whaling country at one time. We had slaves in our country. We've made changes. We've adapted based on our knowledge, our change.

  • 11:36:01

    REISSAnd I think here is a wonderful example of where we can share our knowledge, our scientific knowledge with the Japanese government. This is what we've tried to do and say, this is what we know about these animals. Can you consider this? And I think it's a very strong request. Are they going to turn a blind eye to what we know about these animals and continue a practice if they know it's causing pain and suffering?

  • 11:36:24

    REHMSo since your knowledge, your understanding, your papers have come out, have you seen a diminishment in the killing of the dolphins?

  • 11:36:39

    REISSI don't know if it's because of the science but I think it's the way it's been talked about in the public. I think "The Cove" has made a big impact. I'm not sure if it's helped but I think it's increased awareness. I think there's been a drop in numbers, to some extent, of the animals that they're releasing. However, those animals are being held in a very stressful situation. So we don't know what the mortality rate is for the animals they're releasing. What I really hope is that we can get into a really productive and friendly discussion with the government in Japan.

  • 11:37:12

    REHMDiana Reiss, a cognitive psychologist, professor in the department of psychology at Hunter College. Short break here. When we come back, we're going to open the phones and hear your thoughts, your ideas. Stay with us.

  • 11:40:01

    REHMAnd welcome back. We're talking about the killing of dolphins in Japan. There is a scene upon our website at I warn you it's quite graphic, but if you want to see how these dolphins are killed in this cove, a movie of which has been made -- an award-winning movie -- you can go to There's also contact information for the State Department and also for the U.S. embassy in Japan if listeners want to contact them. A number of our listeners, Ric O'Barry, have asked about the albino dolphin that I know is now in captivity.

  • 11:41:04

    O'BARRYYes. Angel. But if I may, I would like to go back to something that Professor Cleveland said because I'm afraid we left your audience believing that what happens in Taiji is cultural and is traditional and we have no business interfering. This is not traditional. It is not cultural. As I mentioned before, there's 127 million people in Japan who don't even know this takes place. How can it be their culture and their tradition? This actually started in 1969. And so when the prime minister of Japan goes on international media, television and radio, and says this is our culture and this is our tradition, he's ill informed.

  • 11:41:53

    O'BARRYI don't think he's lying. I think some of his aides gave him some bad information because this started -- and by the way, the professor talks about whaling in the 14th century in Taiji. Yes. They went out in a canoe, six guys with a spear, and they fed the whole village for a while. And then they would kill another whale. The whaling that Japan is involved in now is not cultural, it is not traditional, it was actually General McArthur who started them and gave them those factor whaling ships that they use today.

  • 11:42:30

    REHMAll right. Let's let Kyle respond.

  • 11:42:35

    CLEVELANDWell, I agree with Ric. I mean I think he's making some good points there, that the way in which these dolphin drives operate today are not really consistent with the tradition of what was called found whaling, where in the migratory routes whales would go nearby the shore and centuries ago you would have groups go out in small boats and pull them in. But I think unquestionably this whaling is a part of Japan's cultural tradition. The question is what do you do with that factoid? I mean, how do you interpret and how do you make sense of that? And in this sense, also, how do you attach that to a particular political ideological agenda?

  • 11:43:15

    CLEVELANDAnd I think that the Japanese are a little bit disingenuous by saying that this is our tradition because the argument is that this was a kind of sustainable whaling, it was ecologically sustainable and it was something that was very important for the survival of these villages, which may have been true 400 or 500 years ago. But with the advent of commercial whaling in the latter part of the 19th century and then later, as Ric mentioned, around the period of World War II, you have commercial whaling. And commercial whaling is completely inconsistent with those more ancient forms of whaling.

  • 11:43:47

    CLEVELANDSo when Japanese are saying this is our tradition, well, which tradition are they referring to?

  • 11:43:52


  • 11:43:52

    CLEVELANDAre they referring to industrialized commercial whaling, which is entirely qualitatively different than the kind of archaic whaling that we saw centuries ago?

  • 11:44:00

    REHMAll right. And, Ric, we have a question from Don. "Is it known how many Japanese have actually seen the movie, 'The Cove'?"

  • 11:44:13

    O'BARRYVery, very few. And that's because it was blocked in Japan by the rightwing that would be protesting. When I got off the plane in Tokyo -- I was the first one off the plane. And I was there to promote the movie, "The Cove." There were 60 police officers in uniform waiting for me to protect me from the rightwing who threatened us and didn't want this movie shown. So most people have not seen it. I got involved in this movie because I was told we're going to show this in Japan for free. And that never happened.

  • 11:44:49

    REHMI see.

  • 11:44:51

    O'BARRYBut it's going to happen because I talked to Louis Psihoyos, the director/producer. It's his film. He sold the rights to a Japanese distributor. And that distributor is interested only in the product and selling movie tickets. And so he made sure that every time we put it on the internet for free, he would take it down. So I think Louis and I are talking about getting the rights back, Oceanic Preservation Society. Buying the rights back and getting this film on the internet in Japan for free. That's what we started out to do and that's what we are going to do now, a little bit later.

  • 11:45:27

    REHMAll right. I'm going to open the phones. Let's go to Scott, in Indianapolis. Go right ahead.

  • 11:45:35

    SCOTTI appreciate the opportunity. Dr. Reiss I think actually touched, as well as some of your other guests, on my main point. And that was that irrespective of whether this is traditional or not traditional our actions ought to be based on what we know now, not what was going on hundreds of years ago. Bullfighting be a prime example. But having said that I guess I would like to disagree respectively with Dr. Reiss's analogy about eating dolphins. I actually agree with the emailer, who I'm sure I'm on a completely different end of the spectrum as regards issues of eating animals, but his point that what's the difference between eating a dolphin and eating a cow? Well, I'm sure dolphins are certainly much more evolved, much brighter.

  • 11:46:13

    SCOTTBut the conditions the cows are killed in are no better than those of the dolphins. And I'm sure this is a brutal slaughter. I've seen it and it's sort of hard to take. But I think people eventually have to come to grips with what their morality is and what is consistent. And I think that gentleman who sent that email makes a very, very valid point about it isn't just about eating, it's about what they are, how we treat them, whether it's killing them or whether we put them in a small pool to entertain us. I think we have to have a…

  • 11:46:41

    REHMAll right.

  • 11:46:41

    SCOTT…more intellectual approach to how we view our interactions. Thank you.

  • 11:46:48

    REHMAll right, sir. Thanks for calling. Diana?

  • 11:46:51

    REISSYes. I agree that we have to take another stand about how we deal with animals. And we have to think much more about their welfare. However, it is untrue that cattle are treated the way we treat dolphins. There are rules and regulations. Some cattle go through mistakes, but in general, you cannot use these procedures to kill a laboratory mouse or animals in a slaughterhouse.

  • 11:47:15

    REHMAll right. Kyle?

  • 11:47:17

    CLEVELANDWell, I would…

  • 11:47:18

    O'BARRYYou know, I can tell you -- I'm sorry.

  • 11:47:19

    CLEVELANDI'd like to kind of widen the frame -- I'm sorry.

  • 11:47:21

    REHMGo ahead, Kyle.

  • 11:47:22

    CLEVELANDCan you hear me?

  • 11:47:23


  • 11:47:24

    CLEVELANDI'd kind of like to widen the frame here because the argument that people make about why is it okay to eat cows or pigs or chickens and make this kind of culture relative to this argument. It's not just how these animals are killed, but it's also how they're held in captivity. I'm from the rural Midwest, the State of Missouri, and if you've ever been to a chicken farm or you've ever been to a slaughter house, I think that wouldn't hold up the kind of scrutiny that has been placed on the Japanese. And there may be humane methods, there may be some sort of oversight or protocol for how these animals are slaughtered, but the way these animals are kept in cages, the way that they're treated is really inhumane before they get to the point of slaughter.

  • 11:48:08

    REHMAll right.

  • 11:48:08

    CLEVELANDAnd in Japan, one of the more famous cuisines is Kobe beef, that's one of the more delicacies in beef around the world. But look at the way those cattle are kept. They're kept in extraordinarily poor conditions.

  • 11:48:22

    REHMAll right. Ric?

  • 11:48:25

    O'BARRYWell, I have witnessed hundreds of these drives and the dolphins being slaughtered. And when you look at the movie, "The Cove," you're looking at the Disney version of what happens. It is so brutal and so over the top, you really -- as bad as slaughter houses are -- and they're really bad -- you cannot compare it with the dolphin drive. You don't terrorize the animals in the slaughterhouse for days, even weeks before they're slaughtered. You have to remember that once the first guy hits the hammer onto that pole out at sea, they're terrorized. And they start running. And they are running for their life for hours, sometimes six and eight hours.

  • 11:49:11

    O'BARRYPregnant females abort the babies. The old are left behind and can't catch up. Some have heart attacks. Some of them commit suicide. They're driven into the cove and sometimes they're there trying to nurse their babies for a week and they can't do that. They can't eat. This is long before the slaughter takes place. So you really can't compare a slaughterhouse with what happens in -- and by the way, if the cow or the chicken or the pig had the same levels of mercury, menthol mercury or PCBs that the dolphin meat has, they would ban it immediately.

  • 11:49:50

    REHMAll right. And here's a question for you, Diana Reiss. "What is the accumulated evidence that these creatures are self-aware? Your statement that they indicate having long-term memory lends support in favor of this possibility."

  • 11:50:14

    REISSWe've done careful studies that were published in the National Academy of Science, showing that dolphins and elephants, like us humans and great apes, show the same behavioral evidence for being able to understand.

  • 11:50:27

    REHMGive me an example.

  • 11:50:29

    REISSSo what we do is basically we expose dolphins to mirrors. We first record their behavior. We call it baseline recordings to say what their normal behavior is. And I've studied dolphins for 40 years so I'm familiar with their behavior. Then we expose them to a mirror. We record and analyze their behavior, every second of their behavior. And what they do first is they act as if they're looking at another of their own species and show social behavior. Then it changes to what's called contingency testing behavior, where they do a lot of unusual and repetitive behaviors in front of a mirror, as if they're checking what's going on in the mirror when they're doing certain behaviors.

  • 11:51:08

    REISSThat's where they understand there's a one-to-one correlation between their behavior and what they're seeing. It's kind of like what you see Groucho Marx doing in the little skits. And that's where the light bulb goes on. They understand it's themselves in the mirror. They show a third stage called self-directed behavior, where they use the mirror as a tool to look inside their mouths, to look at their eyes close up, to watch themselves doing different things. Then we mark them. We put a non-toxic mark on a part of their body that they can't see without the mirror. And the idea is will they race to the mirror and expose that portion of their body right away to look at the mark, to use the mirror as a tool to view themselves, to view the mark.

  • 11:51:49

    REISSAnd that's exactly what they did. And now we're even doing studies looking at the age at which it emerges. Young children show this at about 18 to 24 months of age. Young dolphins show the same behavior.

  • 11:52:02

    REHMKyle, you wanted to comment?

  • 11:52:04

    CLEVELANDWell, I have a question for professor Reiss and it's a genuine question. Has there been any comparable studies that have been done on whether or not animals that are commonly consumed for food stuff in the West, such as pigs or cows or other animals, that they have a comparable kind of higher self-reflective consciousness or not?

  • 11:52:22

    REISSThat's a great question. Most animals that have been tested don't show this ability. Very few animals show it. As I said, humans, great apes. Monkeys do not show this. Interestingly, pigs show not mirror self-recognition, but mirror directed behavior. In other words, they can find things using a mirror that they can't find in their environment without the mirror. And again, I just want to say that I agree with what many of the callers are saying and what Kyle and Ric are saying. We need to really rethink the way we treat animals and the way they're cared for in slaughterhouses. I'm not defending any of that. Again, I'm saying as a scientist, I can speak to what we know about marine mammals, about dolphins. And I'm saying that these animals are being treated in a very inhumane way. We must do better than this.

  • 11:53:11

    REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's take a call in Chapel Hill, N.C. Hi, Steven.

  • 11:53:23

    STEVENHi, Diane. Great show.

  • 11:53:25

    REHMThank you.

  • 11:53:26

    STEVENI spent about six months in the Eastern Tropical Pacific aboard U.S. flagged tuna seiners. And this was in the '80s when there was still a fishery that involved encircling spotted and spinner dolphins on the surface to catch the yellowfin tuna underneath. And 99 percent of the time or 99 plus percent of the time the dolphin were released and they went on their way, but I saw some pretty horrific, tragic events when hundreds of dolphins would die maybe out of a school of 1,000 or 2,000. But they don't die easily and it's not a pleasant thing to see. I'm a hunter and I couldn't hunt for two years after being aboard these vessels.

  • 11:54:21

    REHMThat's very interesting. Thanks for calling, Steve. Go ahead…

  • 11:54:26

    O'BARRYAnd by the way, that continues. That problem still goes on and Earth Island Institute is working on that. So when you buy a can of tuna, make sure it's got a dolphin safe label on it. We've lost between 7 and 10 million dolphins in our tuna-fishing methods. It continues in the Eastern Tropical Pacific with the Mexican fleet and other fleets. You can learn about this at

  • 11:54:51

    REISSBut this is a great example that in our own country our government did respond. And the public had -- there was a large outcry for our government to do something about it. And we did come up with dolphin safe labeling, although, as Ric said, we have to keep on working to make sure the standards remain high.

  • 11:55:07


  • 11:55:08

    CLEVELANDWell, yeah, I think that what we're getting at here in the last couple of the comments is that really many people do have the belief that dolphins and whales are qualitatively different than other animals. Not only in terms of this reflective self-consciousness, but in the way that they school together, that there's kind of a culture there, the way they treat their families. And so to make comparisons to other animals, I think if we're being honest about this, animal rights activists believe that dolphins and whales are exceptional. And certainly most Japanese do not hold that belief.

  • 11:55:39

    REHMHere's actually a final email from Hiroshi, who identifies himself as a Japanese who's lived in the USA for the last 41 years. He said, "Why is Japanese dolphin hunting called killing instead of hunting? By the way, how many other animals are killed in even the U.S. per year?" Diana?

  • 11:56:13

    REISSYeah, I don't know the numbers of how many animals are killed in the U.S. But I can tell you that I'm going to take this into a completely different realm. Dolphins are more similar to chimpanzees, in terms of what we know about them. Modern cultures are not hunting chimpanzees. Modern cultures are not hunting elephants. As a scientist, modern cultures are not. We're trying to protect elephants. We're trying to protect chimpanzees. In fact, in the United States, and in Japan, they protect chimps now from invasive research. Dolphins are the cognitive cousins.

  • 11:56:48

    REHMSo you would like to see the complete cessation of this dolphin hunting?

  • 11:56:56

    REISSYes, based on our science.

  • 11:56:59

    REHMAll right. We're going to have to leave it at that. Diana Reiss, Ric O'Barry, Kyle Cleveland, thank you all so much…

  • 11:57:07

    CLEVELANDThank you.

  • 11:57:08

    REHM…for joining us. We'll see if we are indeed at a turning point. Thanks for listening all. I'm Diane Rehm.

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