It must really suck to be Rick O’Barry. Here is a case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t. O’Barry helped create the multi-million dollar dolphin-centered entertainment business when he served as lead trainer for the mid-60’s family show, Flipper. Then, ten years later, one of his dolphins who played Flipper, died in his arms. From there, his life was changed and he took up the noble cause of freeing every captive dolphin he could. And then Taiji, Japan crossed his radar.
A small Japanese village is the site of one of the most devastating and stunning examples of all-out barbarism in the world. Each year, approximately 23,000 dolphins are trapped within a three-sided cove and stabbed repeatedly to death with harpoons. The massacre is so severe that the water within the cover turns into a thick crimson red.
The question then becomes, why? Well, the short answer is money. But the more detailed answer involves dolphin shows around the world who purchase live dolphins for their shows at up to $150,000 a pop. SeaWorld is one of the prominent and covert buyers, hiding their purchases in the name of science and marine preservation. As O’Barry would probably say, “What a load of B.S.”
Dolphins that don’t get selected end up getting herded into the small cove and trapped overnight. The following morning, the fisherman in the area set out to begin the massacre. Director Louie Psihoyos’ Oscar-winning documentary then goes on to examine what happens to the dolphins that are killed and, furthermore, if the Japanese citizens are aware of this mass-slaughter. (They’re not.)
Examining topics ranging from the mercury content in dolphin meat (which is 200 times higher than what’s considered safe) to the Japanese governement’s manipulation of the International Whaling Commission, The Cove does a nice job of trying to fit a ton of information within it’s 92 minute run-time. And that’s not even including footage of Psihoyos’ Ocean’s Eleven-style infiltration of the cove to plant cameras and audio equipment to capture the slaughter on film. I would love to see a follow-up in a couple years to see what kind of difference this film has made (if any).
Standing in a crowded Tokyo intersection with a monitor strapped to his body and footage of the slaughter playing in a loop, the movie closes with O’Barry being surrounded by passers-by. It kind of reminded me of those Truth anti-cigarette ads from the 2000’s. I await someone to make a similar film documenting the mass-slaughter of seals in Canada. For what it’s worth, a petition has been set up and so far, over a million people have signed it.