Bon appetit? What it’s like to eat Flipper

Raw dolphin

By Greg Beck

Last weekend I ate dolphin. Wait! Where are you going? Let me explain. I did not set out to eat dolphin. I went to an international exchange barbecue hosted by my friend in Osaka. The participants came from Japan, America and Australia. We all brought food and drinks for one another, and learned how to play cricket. We fired up the grill and started throwing on what we brought, and one of the Australians said, “I have a bit of dolphin in the cooler if you want to try.”

Here is where I feel the pressure. I love trying new food and I have never said no to a challenge. I keep a list in my head of animals I have and have not yet eaten, and dolphin is one of things, like whales, that I know I shouldn’t eat, but… maybe just once. So that is exactly what I did. I tried the steak part and the skin part, once raw, once grilled, each.

While I ate Flipper, I found out more. The Aussie who brought it said he loved the stuff, and always ate it raw with soy sauce. He bought it from Taiji, the very subject of the new film “The Cove”, which the (far-too-biased-to-really-be-called) documentary condemns for their annual killing of literally tens of thousands of dolphins. It is also the main capture spot for dolphins used in shows and aquariums worldwide. I had seen previews and wanted to see the movie, but I already knew the gist of it: dolphins are intelligent, majestic animals that should never be caged or killed for food. I love, respect and admire dolphins, but just like dogs or cats, if I find myself in a place where they are eaten normally, I’m going to try a little.

Grilled dolphin

We all continued to discuss the subject and the man who brought it talked about how he, as a foreigner, couldn’t find it at the stores there, but if his Japanese wife went in alone and asked for it, the shopkeepers would bring it out from behind the counter. This sounds very diabolical, but given the threat protesters and demonstrators could pose to the businesses who sell it out of simple indifference, I can understand why they would be careful. Why are there no Japanese protesters causing problems in Taiji? That is a larger and better question for someone who wants to research the topic.

When I came home from Osaka, I immediately watched “The Cove”. But much like actually eating dolphin, the experience was unimpressive. Sure, the movie made a few good points about mercury levels, pollution, and the over-fishing of whales and dolphins, but this movie was less about the killing of dolphins and more about how difficult and dangerous it was for the crew to get in to Taiji and record the killing of dolphins. Their goals were admirable, what they exposed was deplorable, but the whole movie screamed of their own egos.

Ultimately, I do not feel bad about eating dolphin, because I was not actively pursuing it, I didn’t pay for it, and I didn’t create any new demand for it. I got to find out what it tastes like, and that was enough for me. The taste, by the way, was similar to liver but with the texture of beef. The skin, mostly fat, was obviously chewy, oily, and not very good. Now that I have crossed that line I can say from experience that it is not worth trying. But I also know that if you are like me, you want to make that decision for yourself. In contrast, I also tried crocodile that day. It was delicious, like sword fish, and came from an animal that is decidedly stupid, ugly, and disagreeable. So I’d like to conclude by saying, save a dolphin, eat a croc.

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Bon appetit? What it's like to eat Flipper, 7.0 out of 10 based on 6 ratings

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22 thoughts on “Bon appetit? What it’s like to eat Flipper”

  1. Looks delicious, but I hate liver, so thanks for the heads up. I’ll strike dolphin off of my list of inteligent majestic creatures I’d love to eat. (-:
    Loco

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  2. Have you tried whale? If so, how did it compare?

    I enjoy whale sometimes and would love to try dolphin just once. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that they keep the meat on the down-low when foreigners come asking…

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  3. “It was delicious, like sword fish, and came from an animal that is decidedly stupid, ugly, and disagreeable. So I’d like to conclude by saying, save a dolphin, eat a croc.”

    I love that some hairless ape is calling another animal stupid ugly and disagreeable. Project much? Anyway except for that little “hilarity” I guess you’d eat chimp brains if you “didn’t pay for it, and I didn’t create any new demand for it and got to find out what it tastes like?” Same goes for for human?

    Frankly I have no problem with eating what you want, don’t try and justify it though.

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  4. Taiji Industries,

    Sell dolphins to Water Parks is Japanese Culture ???

    The bottom line is the dolphin culling is done for MONEY more than anything … NOT FOOD … NOT CULTURE …

    The quality dolphins that are captured are sold for about $150,000 USD to places like Sea World. The rest is sold for $600 per dolphin as Mercury tainted meat in supermarkets and schools.

    The Japanese people know that your “fisherman” SLAUGHTER every year thousands of whales for “SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH” in Antarctic Sanctuary ?

    Where is the results of SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH ?

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  5. Hey I know you’re probably jesting about the crocodiles being stupid and ugly. But just because an animal is stupid or ugly doesn’t make it any different in terms of how we should consume it. Unlike bottlenose dolphins, some crocodiles are endangered. Don’t believe we should go around saying, just because something is ugly its ok to go around and exploit it–alligators and sharks included. Thanks.

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  6. @feitclub
    Yes, I have tried whale once, it was delicious. Again, I make no attempt to eat it, but I wouldn’t turn it down if it was offered. Horse is somewhere in-between.

    @Karsten
    I’m not “hairless”, and while I resent the warrant-less implication that I’m projecting my own flaws onto crocodiles, I agree that such terms are largely subjective. In this one case, no, I didn’t pay for it, but I would pay to try something once (again, only if the situation presented itself). If I ever get to try monkey-brains, or human, you can bet I’ll write about it, but I’m not champing at the bit.

    @Kay
    Yes, I was joking, but the real joke is modern conservationism. I agree that no one should be greedy or wantonly wasteful, but humans choosing which species to “save” is just as ridiculous as choosing which to eat based on affinity. Nature is change. ‘Nuff said.

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  7. “We tested some samples — purchased at the Gyokyo supermarket in Taiji and Super Center Okuwa in the nearby city of Shingu,” Yamashita said, adding they were “shocked” by the results.

    One dolphin sample had a mercury content 10 times above the health ministry’s advisory level of 0.4 parts per million, with a methylmercury readout 10.33 times over the ministry’s own advisory level of 0.3 ppm.
    Another dolphin sample tested 15.97 times and 12 times above advisory levels of total mercury and methylmercury, respectively.

    The results prompted the two officials to describe dolphin meat as “toxic waste.”

    The Taiji assemblymen, who are both independents, also condemned the growing practice of feeding this meat to children in their school lunches — describing it as no less than “toxic waste.”

    http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fe20070801a1.html

    “the man who brought it talked about how he, as a foreigner, couldn’t find it at the stores there, but if his Japanese wife went in alone and asked for it, the shopkeepers would bring it out from behind the counter. This sounds very diabolical, but given the threat protesters and demonstrators could pose to the businesses who sell it out of simple indifference, I can understand why they would be careful.”

    A large supermarket chain in western Japan has permanently discontinued sales of dolphin meat after learning that mercury levels in a sample purchased at one of its outlets greatly exceeded government safety levels.

    http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20070111a4.html

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  8. Omg Ive seen the cove and the water is so red with blood and I get it that they are killing for money and things but the way they are killing them is just horrid and that they are eating it and giving it to kids when it’s like poison, that’s just not right!! Dolphins should be wild and not kept in tanks because they really do hate it!!

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  9. Oh, so hey, anyone who still checks this :P
    I just found out that lots have things, including humans, naturally contain some mercury. Also, if you eat something with mercury in it, it doesn’t stay in your body and poison you forever; your body has the ability to cleanse it from your system, and that’s why even fish with unusually high levels of mercury won’t kill or even harm you, unless that’s pretty much all you eat, everyday, and in unusually large proportions. Still, smart or not, dolphin tastes gross ;)

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  10. Greg, a lot of things contain mercury, thats true. But sea life contains unusually large amounts thanks to pollution. The older a sea animal is the more mercury it picks up.

    While for adults this probably isn’t an issue. But for children or expecting mothers, high levels of mercury can cause any number of issues or birth defects.

    This is the main argument that Japanese dolphin/whale protesters use in Japan. That the high levels of mercury are a health risk. Japan has had several high profile cases of entire cities being poisoned due to mercury dumping, and the issue still is a hot topic.

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  11. Greg you horrid cruel barbarian… I can’t believe you digested this majestic creature and supported this Oh so epidemic industry!!! So is it anything like Panda’s foot cause if it is I want to try so long as someone else is paying.

    Like you I personally would not attempt to seek out dolphin to cross it off of some list of creatures I have eaten especially since you claimed its taste is similar to liver (not a fan of it cooked even though I do enjoy it raw)…I being raised a certain way have never refused a dish offered to me no matter how disgusting or “morally” reprehensible it was to eat it… It was just the way I was raised “try everything and as guest be sure to clean your plate”.

    I love the indignant attitude some of the posters here have for you like the millions of people supporting the chicken and pork industries is any less despicable than you. I did the vegetarian thing for a while but not out concern for animals rights (a whole other debate: I believe in animal welfare; giving rights to non humans regardless of their intelligence is ridiculous in my book) but rather to learn to appreciate a whole new style of cuisine. I stopped because essentially hated being a picky eater and despised being pulled into a debate on the side of Vegan Nazis of PETA. Despite all the different vegetarian movements claim, evolutionarily speaking we were designed to be omnivores and that means meat or fish is an essential part of our diet.

    Preferably I would eat only wild caught or killed meat for the rest of my life if I could. Thus while I admire Dolphins and would never personally hunt them for my source of protein I do empathize with those who do. Alas my lifestyle of how I earn a living and the difficulty and expense of getting a hunting license here in Japan, much less just having the time to fish and hunt for my protein source precludes that. I just have to rely on the meat in the fish market or supermarket, hidden from us pesky gaijin or not. いただきます and Bon Appetite! Who is anyone to judge one’s lifestyle choices, it’s not like the 99% of the people picketing Taiji and Japan’s annual whale hunt have anything to do with the west’s insatiable demand for the newest iPhone-like gadget or they aren’t the cause of all this unnecessary heavy metal pollution cause they upgrade their hardware every year and a half, it has to be the Japanese and greedy hunt of dolphins that are screwing our environment, right? I don’t care how environmentally friendly you attempt to be, by just existing (and existing as a part of a western capitalist system even more as most crunchy granola green peacers are) we are causing the extinction of thousands of creatures around the world by the fact that we use electricity; Don’t see no protesters arguing we give up this tenet of modern life. C’est la vie or しょうがない.

    As for your argument of Mercury levels not being that toxic you are a little off…sure if it was once in blue moon treat but as a regular part of one’s diet there is a high risk of mercury poisoning happening even if its effects are minimal. Like Joshua pointed out this is extremely reckless on a part of feeding pregnant women, nursing mothers or developing children. Regardless of any animal’s liver’s ability to scrub blood of toxins, hard metals is not one of the things they can rid the body of effectively if at all. Which this is why doctors recommend not eating liver of animals that are carnivores… and may be the reason Dolphin meat did taste much like liver.

    Let me know if you get a invite on those monkey brains where someone else is paying… I am always down!

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  12. Found this only now.

    @Greg, always wondered what dolphin actually tastes like! If I ever come accross it, I will have to try it (not because I want to eat majestic animals, but because I am curious).

    BTW, all fish have mercury, the higher in the food chain they are the more mercury they have, so the longer living predators right at the top (dolphins, sharks) accumulate quiet a bit. Maybe only eat yound dolphins? LOL

    The mercury comes from right at the start of the food chain where algae absorbs it from the sea water.

    Great post!

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  13. Lucky duck! I’ve always wanted to try dolphin because dolphins are huge jerks and I hate them. Ah… maybe someday I’ll have the opportunity.

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  14. Dear Greg Beck,
    Im curious to as you don’t find the way of the killing inhumane? Im doing a research project on such a topic and it honestly disgusts me to watch the documentary “the cove” and see the malicious way the fishermen treat and kill the dolphins. Did this documentary at least have an effect of the way you view the killing or do you agree with the taiji when they say its for culture and its okay to massively slaughter these creatures?

    Thank you for your time,

    With all respect,
    Alexis.

    I would greatly appreciate if you emailed me.

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  15. Hi all. Just randomly popped in to check on this.
    I see what you’ve all said about mercury, and I will just say: I am ot a doctor. Don’t take what I wrote and start cracking open thermometers!

    @Alexis.M Sorry, I didn’t see this for a year and a half, and I don’t have your email to write you.

    I honestly find the way most animals are raised and killed to be inhumane. At the same time, like Morgan said, I don’t have time or the right lifestyle to remove myself from that system, and I don’t *want* to stop eating beef, chicken, etc., so there’s that too.

    Since writing this, I have tried balut in the Philippines, and cockroach, mealworms, crickets, and small frogs – all fried, in Thainland.

    Again, I would not recommend cockroach. The taste was similar to dolphin, although, I hardly remember the taste anymore, but the mouth-feel of cockroach was like dry catfood.

    Bon appetit!

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