Why don't we eat dolphins?

I had dinner in a seafood restaurant while on vacation in NC last week, and orderd Dolphin with Mango Salsa. Everyone at the table was appalled until I explained that dolphin is a kind of fish*.

Anyway, I was trying to figure out why the thought of eating actual dolphin was so repugnant. Is it that people don’t want to eat trainable mammals that are thought to be intelligent? It’s the only animal I can think of that we won’t eat that is not kept as a pet. We eat Bessy, Porky, Bugs, even Bambi. Why won’t we eat Flipper?

*I don’t know why they call it that; one theory I heard is that they school with dolphins and so are called “dolphin fish.” The Hawaiin name is Mahi Mahi, which is more commonly in restaurants north of NC and elsewhere.

Define “we”. Dolphin is eaten in Japan - dolphin sushi is a speciality, so I hear.

Anyway, the answer is simple, IMO:

  1. Anthropomorphism. They’re cute! And apparently clever.
  2. Endangered species status.

Really? Do you eat tigers or keep them as pets? How about rhinoceroses? Duckbilled platypuses? Giraffes? There are *lots * of animals that are neither eaten nor kept as pets.

Most restaurants put Coryphaena hippurus on their menus as “mahi mahi” to avoid conjuring up images of eating Flipper. I find it somewhat surprising that they listed it as “dolphin”.

Proscriptions against eating any animal that is technically edible, including one another, are purely cultural. The cultural traditions are dependent on the availablity of other food, as any good cartoon will tell you when one of the characters gets hungry and there’s nothing left to eat but the other character.

Common categories in Western culture include most insects, most pets, most higher pure carnivores, carrion-eaters, and assorted religiously forbidden items.

Some cultures (Jains, e.g.) extend I-am-a-holier-eater-than-thou to plants as well, eating only a plant’s expendable parts and not parts such as the root, which would kill the plant. Others take the opposite approach and eat whatever won’t kill them.

I think the general discomfort with dolphins in particular is that they have large brains and there is an unease around wondering if they would have our intentions to eat them figured out–i.e. as opposed to a “dumb animal.”

If dolphins are so smart, why don’t they keep the hell out of the tuna nets?

If humans are so smart, why are there so many auto accidents?

The nets are so large, the dolphins don’t perceive that they are being closed in until it’s too late to escape.

It’s possible that dolphins could learn to avoid nets, but this would require long-term exposure. It may also be that nets kill mainly naive dolphins that haven’t encountered them before (and managed to escape).

Yeah, Colibri , I kinda knew that. I was just trying to underscore the fact that the slaughter of millions of tuna was apparently acceptable, but people were willing to pay extra to get the dolphin safe stuff.

I dunno, but tuna hasn’t tasted as good since they started using those dolphin-safe nets.

I have. Mmmm, tasty.

Perhaps, but there’s not a sympathetic revulsion involved. Pardon me for not being more precise. And pardon you for dinging the OP without offering anything that helps answer the question :rolleyes:

“Who wants dolphin?”
“Dolphin? But dolphins are intelligent.”
“Not this one. He blew all his money on instant lottery tickets.”
“Oh, OK.”
“That’s different.”
“Good, good.”
“Pass the blowhole.”

Seriously, though. I do think we have an overly romanticized view of the dolphin. They’re so cute and adorable and smart, too! (Hmmm. Just like in that “Simpsons” episode…I guess everything boils down to a Matt Groening cartoon.) I mean, who would’ve gotten personally offended if you were eating a shark and not (as perceived), a cute, innocent dolphin?

I can’t be the only one who does not eat carnivorous mammals on principle. I consider them “my kind” and the thought of slaughtering one simply for food turns my stomach. Cuteness doesn’t enter into it. I won’t slaughter or support the slaughter of canids, bears, dolphins, whales, seals, felines, etc.

Hominids are sort of a grey area.

What about pigs?

I think this is a big part of it, but this is a pretty recent image of dolphins. As has been mentioned, they are eaten in Japan.

The idea of eating monkey or ape is repugnant to many in the US because of this factor, but monkeys are regularly eaten in much of the tropics, and gorillas and chimps are popular game in Africa.

I disagree. This is not a case of “Cute-etarianism”, as I’ve heard it called. There is a difference in kind in our reasons for not eating certain animals. With dogs and horses, it IS purely an irrational emotional attachment to those particular animals. But with dolphins, it is because they have an extremely high brain to body mass ratio compared to other non-human species. It’s the same reason we don’t eat apes. Brain to body mass ratio isn’t an infallible gauge of intelligence, but it does make us suspect that dolphins are highly intelligent, and that is why we don’t eat them.

But it can’t just be about intelligence. There are people who aren’t that smart and we don’t treat them as though they’re lesser. Dogs are incredibly smart and better at reading us than any other animal–that seems to mean more than just pure intelligence. Then again, people still eat them. And look at how smart pigs are–they still get eaten. It just seems like there has to be something more than pure intelligence.

I can’t speak for tuna nets, but dolphins and porpoises harass the heck out of shrimpers. They enter the nets because there’s a lot of food concentrated in a small place. If they can’t escape a shrimpers net by swimming out the entrance, then they either swim out the door that allows turtles to escape or (more likely) chew apart the net.

Being carnivores, they can be greedy and they will capitalize on whatever opportunity they find. I’m sure that they enter tuna nets for the same reason some dogs will eat until they are sick, because it’s food and it’s there.

Pigs aren’t carnivorous, they’re omnivores. As are most humans, though groman apparently isn’t… he does have a point, though, as a general rule Americans don’t eat carnivorous animals, just omnivores and herbivores. (do we eat carnivorous fish, though?) My WAG is their diets make them taste unpalatable to us.

Where do you get that? The only thing he indicated he won’t eat are carnivorous mammals.