Posted by: learnaboutdolphins | September 16, 2011

The Truth Behind a Dolphin’s Smile

 When people think of dolphins they think of Flipper from the television series or the smiling dolphins that they have seen at aquariums like SeaWorld. Dolphins are one of the most beautiful creature in teh world. Most people feel like they have a strong connection to these magnificent creatures. When we see pictures of dolphins we are automatically drawn to there warm and smiling faces. We assume that since dolphins are always smiling that this must mean that they are always happy. However, this is a common misconception about dolphins.
This dolphin is smiling but we do not know if it is truly happy.

I recommend that to everyone reading this to go and see the Academy Award winning documentary The Cove. If you continue to read my blog posts you definitely will want to go and see it because it is a film I am passionate about and I will also referencing it all of the time.

Ric O’Barry is the lead activist, who teamed up with the Oceanic Preservation Society (OPS) to create the documentary The Cove that I mentioned earlier. He is one of the first people to have captured a wild dolphin for the television series Flipper, and for more than thirty years he has been trying to break down the industry that he created. O’Barry went on to co-write the book Behind the Dolphin’s Smile.

In the film, The Cove, we hear this famous quote that was originally stated  by Ric O’Barry,

“a dolphin’s smile is the greatest deception. It creates the illusion that they’re always happy.”

After doing a lot of research on this subject this is a quote that not only is sad to hear, but it is unfortunately true. It is very hard to believe that such a beautiful creature could be so sad.

Once hearing Ric O’Barry state this fact in The Cove it broke my heart. I have grown up around the ocean and to me it is my second home. I have always loved dolphins and I have frequently seen them jumping and swimming in the waves. It is hard to think that any other animal could be as happy as a dolphins.

For those of you who have seen The Cove or have read any articles about dolphin slaughter you know what is going on over in Taiji, Japan. And for those of you who are completely new to this subject, I will tell you that what is going on across the Pacific is a disheartening and sad story. Dolphins are being captured, sold into slavery captivity, and the ones that are not sold are being mercilessly killed be Taiji fishermen.

"The Cove" in Taiji, Japan

It is hard to think of all of the terrible things that are being done to these poor, innocent creatures and all the while they are smiling. I can not think of a sadder image, than to see a ‘smiling’ dolphin being brutally murdered.

To me these dolphins are my friends and to think of what is being done to them makes me very sad. In the book Behind the Dolphin’s Smile, by Richard O’Barry and Keith Coulbourn, they explain that the smiles that you see on these animals are not true reflections of happiness. In an article originally posted by CNN reporter Fisher Stevens states,

“In actuality, they [dolphins] hate to be enclosed in their holding tanks and are often not fed until it is time to perform their daily routines. During his time as a trainer, O’Barry learned dolphins had true feelings – they would get depressed, stressed out, even suicidal. In some parks, the trainers have to give the animals Maalox and Tagamet to treat the ulcers that develop from their stress.”

A dolphin’s smile conveys so much more than happiness. It is a mask that they are forced to hid behind. If you want to learn more about Behind the Dolphin’s Smile by Richard O’Barry and Keith Coulbourn you can pre-order the book here.

Also, I have added a video that was posted on the Save Japan Dolphins blog. This video discusses why it is important to save our friends, the smiling dolphins.


  1. I actually watched the documentary, The Cove, not even a year ago, and when i saw it i had no idea what had been going on but it definitely grabbed my interest. I think that your topic being on dolphin slaughtering and the deception that is involved with it is something that is very important to help teach more people about. Are there any other interesting documentaries on this that are similar to the cove? i would be very interested in learning more!

  2. I would like to watch this movie you speak of to get a better understanding of your reference. I did not know that there was an epidemic of dolphins being slaughtered in Japan. What I did know is that dolphins had permenant smiles that do not reflect what they are truly feeling.

  3. […] da natureza. Cria a ilusão de que eles estão sempre felizes." – Ric O’Barry – Carla Peres e o clã em foto da revista Caras, mais felizes que o […]

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