Did you know that dolphins can mimic humans, show empathy, pass on knowledge to their offspring, and even mourn their dead?
They are definitely one of the smartest animal species in the world, which is why this practice in Japan is all the more disturbing. Every year from September to March, a dolphin hunt takes place in Taiji, Wakayama, where fishermen drive groups of dolphins together with boats and either kill them for meat or sell them to aquatic parks.
Part of the reason why the annual dolphin hunt exists is because fishermen believe it is pest control, as they have been told that dolphins are decimating fish populations. There is also a heavy economic motivation, as they make a profit off of selling dolphins and their meat.
During the hunt, when fishermen see a pod of dolphins, they move their boats into position and lower a steel pipe into the water. They hit the pipe with a mallet, which scares the dolphins and herds them toward a cove where they're trapped with nets.
After the dolphins are left overnight to calm down, the fishermen come back and brutally stab them to death. Japanese officials say that the fishermen sever the dolphins' spinal cords which instantly kills them, but according to this study, that's not really what happens.
The authors of the study said that the fishermen's killing method "does not conform to the recognized requirement for 'immediate insensibility' and would not be tolerated or permitted in any regulated slaughterhouse process in the developed world."
If the dolphins are "lucky" enough to be captured alive, they are sold and transported to aquatic parks, where they are trained to perform for people's entertainment.
It is likely that any dolphins you've seen in captivity were caught in this or a similar dolphin hunt.