Bon appetit? What it’s like to eat Flipper
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.
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.