Dolphin and Whale Protection

Cetaceans home

To start with, please see our list of the 10 Worst Tanks for Dolphins & Whales in North America.

Dolphins and whales, referred to collectively as cetaceans, represent more than intelligent minds and friendly faces in the world’s oceans. While they’ve captured the hearts and imagination of people for millennia, they have also been cruelly exploited in some exceptional ways; ironically, often for the same reasons we are so fascinated by them. Now that we know more, we can do more for them.


Our Vision

Is a world in which all cetaceans are protected and respected rather than exploited.


Our Mission

Is to demonstrably reduce the degree and quantity of physical and psychological suffering in cetaceans from humans – in captivity and in the wild. Ultimately, to also to enhance the wellbeing, survival and cultures of cetacean individuals and populations.

Our Strategy 

To address cetacean protection, both in captivity and the wild, when our impacts may be the most notable, using a strategy of research, investigation, direct action, political action, policy, public awareness, and education.


Captive Cetaceans

We work to improve the wellbeing of all dolphins and whales by:

  • Preventing future captures
  • Supporting the creation of the first cetacean sanctuaries and, if feasible, opportunities for successful reintroduction of cetaceans to the wild
  • Improving the lives of captive orcas and other cetaceans forced to live in solitary confinement with no others of the same species
  • Identifying and bettering the lives of cetaceans
  • Ending the use of captive cetaceans for interactive programs with the public such as “petting pools” and “swim programs” that pose additional and serious risks and impacts


In the wild

We protect the lives, wellbeing, and societal cultures of free-ranging cetacean individuals and populations – including their habitats.


Where captivity and the wild collide 

We emphasize areas of both cetacean captivity and cetacean conservation where these issues collide. Regularly we address cetaceans captured from the wild and captive facilities that misinform visitors about cetaceans and their natural environment.


State of the North American Cetacean Industry

As awareness grows about the intellectual and emotional capabilities of cetaceans, coupled with a more realistic understanding of what life in captivity entails, the cetacean industry in North America is increasingly in flux. Sweeping legislation continues to be passed in order to protect cetaceans from captivity, and the public from bearing witness to the inevitable suffering cetaceans endure. In 2019, Canada passed federal legislation making cetacean captivity illegal and beginning the phase-out process of these businesses throughout the country. In 2016, California passed an act to protect orcas and phase out their captivity throughout the state. And for the first time in North American history, permanent seaside sanctuaries for cetaceans are in development.

Despite all this, business interests - hiding beneath largely false promises of "conservation" and "education" - continue to push for the creation of new captive facilities, such as the Mississippi Aquarium set to open in 2020. Regulatory agencies such as the National Marine Fisheries Service are operating under outdated conceptions of who cetaceans are, and unfortunately these notions direct their mandate and decisions away from benefit to individual cetaceans themselves, who are instead regarded merely as public resources.

There is still much to be done. In Defense of Animals' Cetacean Project will continue to advocate on behalf of captive dolphins. By raising awareness of the suffering cetaceans necessarily endure in public display facilities, to working to shape policy and engage with local decision-makers, our project seeks to phase out cetacean captivity from North America for good.

You can help by visiting our Take Action page, and making a donation to support our efforts. If you'd like to volunteer or get more involved, email 


You can support our work by donating