A Review of The Cove: Japan’s Best Kept Secret

Remember Flipper? The beloved television show that originally aired in the 1960’s featuring a bottle nosed dolphin that always managed to rescue Sandy and Bud, Ranger Porter Rick’s sons, after a day of adventure? Flipper’s only objective was to protect the safety of those around him. While the episodes of Flipper were scripted, the behaviors exhibited in the selfless hero rein true to dolphins as a species. Humans are unable to discover the peak of dolphin intelligence but have over the yearsaccumulated enough evidence to support that dolphins are the only other animal that are capable of displaying altruism. If humans are aware of this then how is it possible to continue to allow twenty-three thousand dolphins to be slaughtered annually on the coast of Taiji, Japan?

For the sake of the dolphins, the future, and the human race, the people of this earth need to come together to put an end to the captivity that occurs at the Dolphin Drive, held annually in Taiji between the months of September and March.

Ric O’Barry was one of the select few who captured the five-bottlenose dolphins who shared the casting roll of America’s beloved Flipper. O’Barry was recognized as the world’s most acclaimed dolphin trainer as he prepared them for Hollywood. After three successful seasons, the show had come to a close, and four of the dolphins were shipped off to seaquariums. However, Kathy—the dolphin who most often portrayed Flipper, resided in the salt water lake outside of O’Berry’s home. In the film, The Cove, Ric claims that every week he “would take [his] TV set, with a long extension cord, and drag it down to the dock and Kathy would watch herself on TV.” It wasn’t long before he realized that Kathy was able to tell herself from the other four dolphins. This was when Ric O’Barry concluded that dolphins, like humans, are self-aware and he began to question whether dolphins belonged in captivity. The day Kathy died, O’Barry states in the film that she committed suicide. “Committing suicide is a very strong claim but you have to understand that dolphins are not automatic breathers like humans are; every breath they take is a conscience effort. When things become too unbearable they can make the decision not to take another breath.” He admits that he knew Kathy was depressed in captivity. The day had finally came where she swam into his arms, looked him in the eye and took a breath, making the decision to never take another. The next morning O’Barrey found himself in Debimany Jail for freeing a dolphin at the Learner Marine Laboratory. This was the night that Ric O’Barry made it his personal responsibility to free as many captured dolphins as possible.

In response to America’s obsession with Flipper, seaquariums began to pop up all over the world, charging the public to watch dolphin shows and pay for the opportunity to swim with these beloved creatures. The majority of the world is unaware of the irreparable harm that is put upon the dolphins. This is why O’Barry teamed up with the Oceanic Preservation Society to film The Cove. The film was an attempt to expose the disturbing mass slaughter of dolphins taking place in Taiji and show the public why dolphins do not belong in captivity. In the wild, dolphins swim an average of 40 miles a day. When dolphins were just beginning to be used for entertainment shows and showcased in aquariums, the facilities were unable to keep them alive because of all of the stress. Dolphins in captivity are now given medication to prevent them from getting ulcers, which is an inevitable response to all of the stress. In The Cove, O’Barry states that a “dolphin’s smile is nature’s greatest deception,” they always look happy when they are not, making it harder to visually see their stress. When the National Aquarium in Baltimore first made the decision to incorporate dolphins into their displays, they struggled to keep any alive. They eventually caught on that the filtration system emanated a sound that was unbearable to the dolphin’s complex sonar—as they are acoustic creatures with sonar unfathomable to the brightest engineers in the world. Although the lifespan of a dolphin in captivity has grown over the years, it is still only a small fraction of the life expectancy of a wild dolphin.

Rick O'barry

Ric O’barry

Ric O’Berry teamed up with the Oceanic Preservation Society and together they drafted other individuals with separate specialties to form a dream team that would enter the town of Taiji, Japan and strive to exploit the small towns big secret. The team was finally granted access to the city after a ton of paperwork and permission slips. They were also provided with a map labeling all of regions they were not allowed to frequent. The appearance of the city of Taiji is a disgusting joke to those who know what takes place there, and a perfectly disguised deceit for those who don’t. The entire city is littered with propaganda covering up belief that this could be the city where twenty-three thousand dolphins are slaughtered each year. There is dolphin and whale propaganda within every turn of the head. Dolphin tiles are incorporated into the sidewalks, and monuments and memorials are scattered all over the city. The efforts they go through to cover up the scandal truly are disgusting.

They station by the dolphins migratory routes in boats where they wait for the dolphins to arrive on schedule. When they do, each boat extends a large pole into the water that they continuously bang with a hammer, creating a large wall of sound that frightens the dolphin and drives them toward the shore as they swim for their lives attempting to escape the sound. This, of course, leads them directly into the nets where they are trapped over night and held until morning when dolphin trainers can line up and choose their inventory like a car dealership at an auction. Divers swim through the lot of captured dolphins and pick out the young females who look identical to those who played Flipper on the television series. These are the dolphins used for showcases around the world and sell for one hundred fifty thousand dollars apiece.

The-coveWhen all of the desired dolphins are purchased, the remaining dolphins are transported to the cove. The only way to access the cove is through specific passages that are heavily guarded by high fences and barbed wire. This unknown area was where O’Barry and his crew needed to exploit. The Japanese government was aware of their time visiting and went to many lengths in attempt to force them out of the city. Signs are posted everywhere surrounding the cove warning that no cameras are allowed and no pictures can be taken. The Japanese police force harassed the team throughout the duration of their visit in attempt to find any excuse to arrest them. After weeks of planning and preparation the team executed their missions to trespass the blockaded area. After two successful missions, they stationed hidden cameras around the cove. An underwater camera and microphone were also set into place and the team attached a camera to a blimp disguised as a whale with hopes of capturing real footage.

The footage received was horrific and very painful to watch in the film, The Cove. When the dolphins are transported into the cove they are sanctioned off and separated into multiple areas. Once every captured dolphin is away from the public eye, the massacre begins. The fishermen stand in their boats spearing every dolphin until they never return to the surface again. Dolphins are aware of their surroundings and are conscience of one another. Therefore, baby dolphins are aware when their mother or sibling is being murdered. The cries captured by the underwater microphone are heart wrenching to listen. The horrific picture killing dolphinscaptured by the underwater camera shows the clear water eroded by blood in the blink of an eye, as the water changes to an opaque cherry red, it only amplifies the sadness. The fishermen laugh as they slaughter the dolphins and hoist them onto their boats where they will be stripped down and sold for meats.

The city of Taiji argues that the consumption of dolphin meat is a long-lived tradition in Japan and not one that can be put to an end. O’Barry and his team found this statement particularly funny because while in Japan they were sure to visit the major cities and interview random civilians. Not one of them was even aware of the catastrophe going on in Taiji and they were all confused by the concept of eating dolphin. If no one outside of Taiji and it’s surrounding cities claims to eat dolphin then where do the dolphins end up? The dream team called in another member, Scott Baker, a specialist in DNA species identification. He set up a lab in a hotel room in Taiji to perform numerous tests that concluded the Japanese government is purposefully mislabeling dolphin meat as that of a larger whale. While consumers may believe they are purchasing healthy whale meat from the southern hemisphere, what they are really getting is dolphin meat from the coast of Taiji.

Many people refute the fact that this impersonation is a big deal. However, Tetsuya Endo P.H.D was hired to evaluate the content of the dolphin meat and calculate the toxicity levels of mercury in the meat. dolphin meatMercury is a very toxic, non-radioactive element on earth. Since the industrial revolution the mercury levels of the environment have risen one to three percent as the result of burning fossil fuel. While the toxicity of these molecules is very small, the levels of toxicity are magnified about ten times with every step they climb up the food chain. The recommended mercury level for the seafood in Japan is 0.4 ppm. Dr. Endo’s tests concluded that the dolphin meat he purchased from Wakayama Prefecture in Taiji contained 2000ppm. The Japanese government is aware that they are poisoning their people but they continue to do it while preserving the ignorance of the consumer.

As a way to support Taiji’s lie that eating dolphin is engrained into the culture of Japan, the fisheries provided free dolphin meat to the local schools for lunch. Once again, they failed to inform the community that they were poisoning the children. Thankfully, two city council members, who found out about this tragedy, spoke out against the government risking their livelihood to protect the health of their children. As a result, this action put an end to the free dolphin meat at local schools. Unfortunately, it has not impacted the number of dolphins being murdered for the sole purpose of consumption.

While many people have joined the movement to stop the mass murders of dolphins, there are still too many people who are unaware of the happenings taking place in Taiji. The city and the Japanese government have gone to extraneous lengths to cover up one of the most horrific environmental and health tragedy that has ever existed.

protest 1

This has become an issue that needs to be recognized by the people and fought against for the good of the world. No one could have predicted that the broadcast of Flipper would be the flame that fueled a billion dollar industry in the captivity and slaughter of dolphins annually. An end needs to be put to the Dolphin Drives that take place in Taiji every year. Dolphins are selfless creatures that save and protect the lives of other living beings in trouble. Now that they are the ones in trouble, who is going to save them?

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2 thoughts on “A Review of The Cove: Japan’s Best Kept Secret

  1. Oh wow…This is so sad. I was completely unaware of any of this, and even more unaware that dolphins in captivity weren’t happy. Whenever you see them in aquariums, or places like SeaWorld, they do look like they’re smiling and they swim around like they’re content. I wonder if all dolphins in captivity are unhappy. The thing that is most striking that you mentioned, though, is that baby dolphins recognize that it is their mother or other relative being murdered and cry. That alone should be enough to stop even the cruelest person from doing something like this. Also, the fact that they sell it in supermarkets and call it whale instead is absolutely disgusting. Innocent dolphins are killed, and innocent shoppers poisoned. Something definitely needs to be done about this. Sadly, I doubt it is possible to stop it entirely, but hopefully something will be done about it.

  2. The images here are really very disturbing. The water barely even resembles water any more. The only thing I see is the red expanse of blood, going on for miles. I’m sure even if people are not aware of this situation and do not read any articles, the photos speak for themselves. The fact that this is happening is absolutely chilling, especially since dolphins are such intelligent, expressive creatures.

    I guess I would understand if the people had depended on dolphin meat for solely for the consumption, but from what is written here, it contains excessive levels of mercury. What is the point of eating such poisoned meat, when the dolphins can live freely?

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