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Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Why is it so important that the tuna be “dolphin safe”?

Asked by Hypocrisy_Central (26783points) January 16th, 2012

These days when it comes to tuna, people ask if it is “dolphin safe”, and won’t eat it if it is not. If you do what you can not to kill any dolphins but it happens, it will not make the tuna taste any worse. To reject eating some tuna because some dolphins die during the capture is about as logical as avoiding a stretch of road because it was not “kitten safe”, “armadillo safe”, “deer safe”, etc. Animals get tagged by cars but people still drive those roads, so why is it more important that the tuna be “dolphin safe”?

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16 Answers

ragingloli's avatar

Tuna are caught with huge nets that catch critters indiscriminately. Often Dolphins are caught up in the net and perish. Comparing it with animals dying when they are hit by a car is unfitting.
A more appropriate analogy are cluster bombs dropped on a city full of civilians with the intent to kill a few terrorists.

elbanditoroso's avatar

The whole dolphin-safe thing is based on some folks’ idea of political correctness. Dolphin-safe doesn’t make the tuna taste any better. It’s all about kow-towing to the “save the dolphin” lobby, because dolphins are smarter animals than tuna.

A perfect example of pressure groups raising our costs in the name if some idealistic goal.

thorninmud's avatar

The technology exists to catch tuna without endangering dolphins, but it costs the fishermen money to adopt this technology. There is naturally some resistance to this unless there’s an economic incentive to do so. If the major packers are under market pressure to offer only “dolphin safe: tuna, then the fishermen will be under pressure to adopt the technology. Fishing is hard to regulate legislatively, because so much of it occurs in waters that aren’t under the control of a particular state, so market pressure is more effective than lobbying.

Where public works projects are concerned, lobbying is the environmentalist’s weapon of choice. The technology doesn’t exist (as far as I’m aware) to make roads animal-safe, at least not in a way that taxpayers would consider cost-effective.

There is, of course, always a measure of subjective bias in placing more value on one form of animal life over another (tuna vs. dolphins, dogs vs. chickens). As a vegetarian, I’d rather see all animals get the respect we accord to dolphins. But, failing that, I’m glad that we at least do care enough to protect some species.

MrItty's avatar

Because Dolphins are cute, so we aren’t allowed to hurt them. Tuna are ugly, so it’s okay to kill and devour them. See also: pigs, cows, and turkeys vs cats, dogs, and horses.

marinelife's avatar

Because there are methods of taking the tuna that do not involve killing mammals.

OpryLeigh's avatar

When you buy something whether it is tuna, other meat, clothing etc you are basically approving of the practises that went on to get to that point. I don’t approve of dolphins getting caught up and killed in nets so I will only buy tuna that has been caught at no risk to dolphins. I don’t see how this isn’t logical to you. Things are only on the shelf that people are willing to buy so if everyone only buys dolphin friendly tuna then sooner or later that will become the only practise for catching tuna.

mangeons's avatar

Because there are ways to harvest the tuna without killing dolphins. If a company chooses not to harvest tuna in that manner, people don’t want to advocate their methods.

Coloma's avatar

I agree with @mangeons
If there are options that involve less cruelty to “default” species, then measures should be undertaken to mediate the situation.

Watch the documentary ” The Cove”, to see the suffering of Dolphins at the hands of Japanese fishermen. Tragic and avoidable.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

There are methods to fish up tuna without killing dolphins, but many fisherman don’t care enough to spend the extra money to do so. If every tuna eater were to boycott all tuna except dolphin-safe tuna, the fisherman would likely put out the extra dough to make their product dolphin-safe. It’s quite simple, and shouldn’t confuse anyone.

When I’ve deer hunted in the past, I always made certain to fire a kill shot or not fire at all. I didn’t want to just wound the deer or run the risk of hitting other nearby animals. It’s a similar concept.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@ragingloli Comparing it with animals dying when they are hit by a car is unfitting. How so? In many cases animals that are hit by cars are a result of urban sprawl. If people did not feel the need to ever encroach on rural areas that wild life live on, they would not have to compete with man for space.

@thorninmud If the major packers are under market pressure to offer only “dolphin safe: tuna, then the fishermen will be under pressure to adopt the technology. How is that to work anymore than the “Buy American” idea? You can’t get the majority of US citizens to insist on buying American to stem outsourcing, how will they ever get together to pay more for tuna but because no dolphins are harmed when the taste is not any better?

@Leanne1986 I don’t see how this isn’t logical to you. It is illogical to me because the fishermen did not target the dolphin because it was competition for the tuna, etc, their getting caught in a net is a byproduct of tuna fishing, no different than animals getting hit are a byproduct of us having ever wider roads, for our convenience. Unlike a developer who knows they are invading the habitat of foxes, owls, dear, etc, I don’t see people passing up on buying new homes because the developers bulldoze the habitats of native animals to make a profit.

@Coloma Watch the documentary ” The Cove”, to see the suffering of Dolphins at the hands of Japanese fishermen. Tragic and avoidable The dolphins in that were the intended target, not just caught up in the process of hunting or fishing other prey. To link it to tuna fished caught dolphins would be to say developers built roads through deer country so cars could plow them down better.

How much more are people willing to spend to say no dolphins were harmed in getting that can of tuna, $2.70, $4.25, etc?

SavoirFaire's avatar

People are allowed to make their own economic choices. The market chose dolphin-safe tuna over the alternative. No, dolphin-safe tuna does not taste any different than tuna that is not dolphin-safe; but taste is not the only thing that determines what people buy. Each person gets to decide what they are looking for in a product. Enough people chose dolphin-safe tuna for it to dominate the market.

As for the difference between killing dolphins while harvesting tuna and killing animals while driving: the latter is an accident, while the former is negligent. Most people would forgive someone who tried there best not to hit an animal, but did so anyway. The case would be different with someone who hit an animal out of recklessness and disregard for the animal’s life.

P.S. The question contains a false premise. People do not refuse to eat tuna because some dolphins die during capture. Even tuna that is caught with dolphin-safe techniques may accidentally harm or kill dolphins (though there are different labels to address different levels of care). What some people refuse to do is eat tuna that was caught with no regard to whether or not dolphins may be harmed. So when the OP misses the point entirely when it says “if you do what you can not to kill any dolphins but it happens, it will not make the tuna taste any worse.” Doing what you can to not kill any dolphins is part of being dolphin-safe tuna in the first place.

thorninmud's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central“How is that to work anymore than the “Buy American” idea?”

Just as McDonalds has the power to change the production practices of entire sectors of agribusiness: enormous purchasing power.

The 1986 boycott of the tuna industry scarred the three largest packers in the world, StarKist, Bumblebee, and Chicken of the Sea, into agreeing to purchase only dolphin-safe tuna. That shifted the entire tuna fishing industry toward dolphin-safe practices.

There’s not much point in debating how this can work when it clearly already has.

Berserker's avatar

I always thought it was perplexing a little, too. I mean, why are dolphins so precious, but tuna Holocaust is completely acceptable? On the other hand, the dolphins don’t need to be killed, and they’re in way much more danger of extinction than tuna is. Not that I think we should have a say in how nature goes, but if I really meant that, the only things I would ever eat would be fruit that fell out of trees.
It is logical then, at the very least, to avoid killing things we’re not going to use at all. Not entirely sure that boycotting indiscriminate tuna hunting is really gonna fix anything though. You’d have to make those hunting techniques illegal for it to have any real result there, I think.

Earthgirl's avatar

Dolphins are highly intelligent and that makes them different and more worthy of protection. Some even think they should be classified as “non-human persons”. This is a great article. Read it and decide for yourself.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

“Like humans, dolphins appear to be self-conscious, unique individuals with distinctive personalities, memories and a sense of self, who are vulnerable to a wide range of physical and emotional pain and harm, and who have the power to reflect upon and choose their actions,” I can say that of my cats. Where one would not care at all about the laser pointer, the other can’t stop chasing it. One cat hid in a neighbor’s garage when she was young because I chastised her. She would not hide when she seen other humans, just me. Dogs protect people, maybe their masters more so than anyone else. Certain apes can be taught sign language, supposedly. So how human are those non-human animals? Just trying not to kill dolphins to quite a few is not enough, they do not want any dolphins in the nets.

OpryLeigh's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central I am sure most of us try to avoid hitting animals whilst driving, why not avoid killing dolphins while fishing? It’s not always possible to avoid hitting animals with our car but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. If it is possible to avoid killing dolphin then we definitely should. Unfortunately we have to live somewhere and so it is inevitable that habitats are often destroyed when we build on land. I hate that but as I need a roof over my head I have no choice. I do however have a choice in whether I buy dolphin friendly tuna or not.

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