This is not a joke. It is the review of a very moving film by Ric O’Barry, the man who trained “Flipper”. Before “The Cove” most people did not know how “Flipper” died. My husband warned me, and I will warn you. This is a graphic and heart-wrenching film. There is blood, there is death. You may cry. My husband cried, and he never cries at movies. Wow.
So what is The Cove? He had heard some hype and thought it was some sort of thriller or spy movie. It is not fictional, not a Hollywood movie. It’s a documentary about the dolphin slaughter in Japan.
It all starts with Ric O’Barry, the man who became famous for training the famous dolphin, “Flipper”, actually a group of 5 dolphins. While working with the dolphins he realized how intelligent they are. Kathy, one who was particularly special to him, could recognize herself from the other dolphins when she saw filmed footage. Ric recognized that the characteristic “smile” that dolphins always have is just a trick of nature. They can’t smile like we can, and they can’t frown, but they have different ways of expressing their emotions. In the wild, dolphins can swim 40 miles in a day. They are very sensitive to noise; it’s how they experience the world. And they need especially clean water. Imagine what some of these beautiful creatures go through in Sea World and other dolphin shows and aquariums with the cramped quarters and yelling, clapping crowds? Many of the first captive dolphins died because there was too much noise and their water was not clean enough.
O’Barry had noticed “signs of depression” in Kathy for some time. And he says that she committed suicide in his arms. He explains that dolphins and their relatives can choose when they breathe and when they do (unlike us, who can hold our breathe until we pass out. Then involuntary instinct kicks in). If their conditions are unbearable, they can just quit breathing. This is what Kathy did. Her death, the death of “Flipper” really moved O’Barry. Shortly after he started illegally releasing captive dolphins to the wild. The “Flipper” show had made trained dolphins famous, but he now wanted to reverse it all.
If this were the end of the story, a “Free Willy” mission of freeing captive dolphins, it would be sad, even touching, but not as heart-breaking and astonishing as the rest of it. Each year thousands of dolphins are rounded up in Japan using their sensitivity to sound against them. The fishermen beat on long pipes in the water, which scares the dolphins towards shore. There they are kept in nets overnight, and the best looking ones are bought for 100,000 to 150,000 a piece to be trained for places like Sea World and the “swim with the dolphins” attractions all over the world.
What happens to the other dolphins? Are they released to go back to their life? No. They are slaughtered, every last one, in a location that is closed off to the public. Since dolphins are so intelligent, they can understand what is going to happen to them. The mothers watch their children being killed with spears as they all try to escape. At one point in the movie, Ric and his helpers are able to film how this goes on, and even to record the sounds underwater. The dolphins scream, and the cove turns bright red with their blood, until finally the screaming stops because they are all dead. It’s heartbreaking, and hard to watch or even to write about now without crying.
This is done with strict privacy because activists in the past have protested to make it stop. They don’t want anyone to know what they’re doing. It’s a big money industry for them.
The worst? The meat of a dolphin is not really usable. Since they are top predators, their flesh is full of the poisons in the fish they eat. They are heavily contaminated with mercury and other toxic chemicals. The fishermen and the Japanese government know this, but the meat is allowed to sell in stores as whale meat. It still sounds horrible, as whales have their own set of problems. But whale is considered healthier with nowhere near the amount of mercury. So Japanese people unwittingly poison themselves and their children. It is rumored that the dolphin meat is even sold to schools and served to children in their compulsary lunches. Unborn babies and kids are the most susceptible to mercury poisoning which causes damage to the brain, kidney, and lungs among many other things. It is a horrible thing to knowingly subject your people to.
But what can we do? We Americans, Canadians, Europeans, and others who do not live in Japan? More than you would think:
1) Do not support Sea World and similar ventures. The trained dolphin venues and show aquariums of the world are what fund this thing and keep it going. If not for the $100,000 show dolphins, there would be no reason to round up inedible creatures for slaughter.
2) Buy the DVD, watch this incredible story, and share it with others. There is nothing like seeing this.
3) Spread the word to your friends using your blog, Twitter account, etc. Retweet this article, and let people know that you care.
P.S. I know what some of you will say. What PETA and other militant vegetarian people will say. That if it makes me cry to see dolphins being slaughtered, I should cry about the cows, pigs and chickens that are killed every day all over the world that I often eat. I am an omnivore at the moment, and I’m not going to apologize for it, although I am examining that. But hey, even an omnivore can watch this and see that it is all wrong. And we can help.