I don't know anyone who doesn't like animals. I'm pretty sure that if you don't like animals then you're probably an asshole. (If at any point in your life you've ever wondered if you're an asshole, then ask yourself, "Do I like animals?" If the answer is no, then it's confirmed. Congratulations. Self-awareness is a wonderful thing.)
I bring all this up to point out that you don't have to be a tree-hugging liberal to be morally outraged at the covert mass dolphin slaughter that goes on every year in Taiji, Japan. That's the subject of The Cove, a riveting documentary that unfolds like a thriller and builds to a horrifying climax that shows audiences actual footage of what goes on in a hidden, fenced-off, guarded cove in a small Japanese fishing town.
Richard O'Barry, the man who trained the dolphins that appeared on Flipper, is leading the crusade against the dolphin industry that he helped launch—that is, the marine animal parks and swimming-with-dolphins businesses that rely on Taiji and its secret practices. It would be too easy to say O'Barry is looking for some sort of redemption—what's going on here is enough to rile up any average Joe.
Because the commercial dolphin industry is a multibillion-dollar business, a lot is being done to cover up some disturbing facts. Dolphins kept in captivity in amusement parks are so stressed from being out of their element that they need to be given medication for ulcers. And since a single dolphin can yield a payday of $150,000, what goes on Tajai is allowed to keep on going and keep on going strong. Every year, tens of thousands of dolphins are wrangled into the cove. The bottle-nosed dolphins that can be sold are captured and shipped to marine parks around the world, while the many dolphins that don't make the cut are inhumanely stabbed to death and either disposed of or sold as mercury-contaminated meat.
The filmmakers, who snuck high-tech camera equipment and sound gear into the cove while being tailed by Japanese police, claim that approximately 2,300 dolphins are slaughtered every year just to get to the few "good" ones that will eventually entertain families around the world.
The film (and this post) is not a vegetarian treatise meant to stave people off meat and join PETA. (I eat fish.) It's a commonsense call to action, a battle cry of a movie that wants us to understand the inhumane massacre of one of the most intelligent animals on earth and that hopes transparency will breed change.
When I walked out of An Inconvenient Truth and Food Inc., I can remember feeling so overwhelmed by the many problems we face because of global warming and a shady food industry, respectively, that I didn't feel like I could do anything to make a significant impact. But after seeing The Cove, I know that stopping what's going on in this one relatively small part of the world can have far-reaching implications, and it seems like something that can realistically be achieved.
Let's do a few simple things together, shall we?
- Do not financially support marine animal parks or swim-with-dolphin businesses, and tell your friends and family not to go.
- Donate to the Oceanic Preservation Society, the producers of The Cove.
(On a side note, I wish there were in-depth interviews with the fisherman and more about the economy of the town to curb the sometimes anti-Japan sentiment, but that's a small gripe about a bold film.)