Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

ADI catches BBC in hot water over dolphin documentary ‘Spy In The Pod’

Posted: 20 February 2014. Updated: 20 February 2014

  • ‘Spy dolphin’ owners exposed for exploiting dolphins for entertainment
  • Calls for BBC to sever ties with the animal entertainment industry
  • 1,000 strong vigil planned for dolphins hunted for marine parks

Animal Defenders International (ADI) has condemned the BBC for collaborating with a marine park that exploits dolphins for entertainment during the making of a wildlife documentary. ‘Spy In The Pod’, narrated by David Tenant (1), involved strapping camera equipment to a ‘spy dolphin’ in order to provide footage for the documentary. The dolphin was supplied by the Roatan Institute for Marine Science in Honduras which controversially keeps wild dolphins captive and forces dolphins to give ‘dorsal-rides’ and perform tricks for holidaymakers (2).

ADI Chief Executive, Jan Creamer, “The BBC must be aware of the public outrage at the extreme cruelty involved in capturing wild dolphins and forcing them to perform. The Honduras marine park that supplied the ‘spy dolphin’ openly forces dolphins to endure lives of misery in captivity, performing tricks and giving rides to tourists. Animal loving viewers who tuned in to watch dolphins in the wild will undoubtedly feel cheated and betrayed by the BBC’s collaboration with a marine park that exploits captive dolphins for entertainment, especially those who have been captured from the wild. The suffering of these intelligent and emotionally complex animals in marine parks is receiving universal condemnation from vets, dolphin experts, zoo industry insiders, celebrities and the public. The tide has turned on marine parks and we call on the BBC to respect public opinion by adopting a policy not to work with facilities that exploit wild animals in future.”

Although ‘spy dolphin’ was apparently “free roaming” for the programme, his owners hold many other dolphins captive, including dolphins caught from the wild who were sourced from dolphinaria in Florida (3). The practice of keeping and training wild animals for entertainment is being widely condemned as people become increasingly aware of the enormous animal welfare costs; 25 countries now have national restrictions on performing animals. As ‘Spy in the Pod’ aired, Twitter lit up with comments about the cruelty of dolphinaria and marine parks as exposed by blockbuster documentaries The Cove and Blackfish (4).

Zoos and dolphinaria around the world acquire dolphins and other animals through controversial ‘drive hunts’ such as the infamous hunt at Taiji (5). This Friday ADI will join over 1,200 people planning to attend a protest and candle-lit vigil for dolphins outside the Japanese Embassy in London (6) to condemn the infamous and bloody dolphin hunt in Taiji that supplies dolphins for marine parks that featured in Oscar-winning documentary, The Cove. ADI has signed a joint letter from many leading animal organizations to the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums concerning Japanese zoos and aquariums that continue to buy animals from the brutally cruel Taiji drive hunts (7).

Dolphins are intelligent and complex animals who suffer greatly when denied freedom and subjected to environmental deprivation. ADI’s evidence clearly shows that the use of wild animals in captivity causes psychological suffering and extreme physical and mental effects (8). ADI has also gathered extensive evidence of the animal suffering and abuse caused when training captive animals to perform tricks (9).

The BBC controversially dramatised scenes of a ‘wild’ polar bear birth that took place at a zoo for its Frozen Planet series (10) and has since aired warnings that scenes involve “dramatised natural history” when Hidden Kingdoms aired last month (11).


1. BBC media centre: Spy In The Pod
2. Anthony’s Key Resort: Roatan Institute of Marine Sciences
3. Twitter: #SpyInThePod
4. Associated Press: 19 January 1996
5. ADI: Information on ‘drive hunts’
6. Facebook: Taiji Action Day for Dolphins 2014 London UK
7. ADI: Joint letter to WAZA
8. ADI: Whales and dolphins in captivity
9. ADI: Animals in entertainment
10. The Guardian: BBC to air on-screen warnings of re-enacted elements in Hidden Kingdoms
11. The Telegraph: Frozen Planet: BBC ‘faked’ polar bear birth

Animal Defenders International
With offices in London, Los Angeles and Bogota, ADI campaigns across the globe on animals in entertainment, providing technical advice to governments, securing progressive animal protection legislation, drafting regulations and rescuing animals in distress. ADI has a worldwide reputation for providing video and photographic evidence exposing the behind-the-scenes suffering in industry and supporting this evidence with scientific research on captive wildlife and transport. ADI rescues animals all over the world, educates the public on animals and environmental issues.

© Animal Defenders International 2019