On Thursday 6th November I attended a screening of documentary film The Cove with Q&A session with Ric O’Barry in London.
The Cove is about an issue that was never really bought to public attention before – the annual dolphin hunt in Taiji. Although the word ‘hunt’ really isn’t accurate, as the dolphins are not given even the slightest possibility to escape the hunter. The dolphin hunters trap the pods of dolphins that will be swimming through this area. Dolphins are incredibly sensitive to sound, which is used to their disadvantage, as the hunters trap them by banging poles at the bottom of the sea bed, thus startling the dolphins and stopping them in their tracks. When the whole group is collected in this area, a large net is then put down and they are trapped there over night. The next morning, the hunters will return and sort out those to ship to marine parks (such as Seaworld) all over the world. The rest will be slaughtered, and sold as dolphin meat.
Ric O’Barry’s evolvement with the Dolphins in Taiji came about in a very strange way. Having spent years working with dolphin Cathy on the famous TV series Flipper, O’Barry feels somewhat responsible for the way dolphins are treated today. He played a part in encouraging everybody to love these intelligent mammals and wanting to see them, however the captivity of dolphins in marine parks and swim with dolphin programmes has actually resulted in the slaughter of around 20,000 dolphins and small whales in Japan every year.
What really inspired me about The Cove and listening to Ric O’ Barry afterwards was his sheer determination to change things. My favourite part of the film is with a room full of representatives from different countries discussing Japan’s whale and dolphin policy, O’Barry simply walks in and stands at the front with a TV screen attached to him, showing the footage of a dolphin slaughter. Without a single word, O’Barry clearly shows that the facts speak for themselves.
So what is the answer? O’Barry believes this is exposing what happens in Taiji to the rest of the world. Founder of The Dolphin Project, O’Barry has a team of Cove Guardians that are at the cove every day of the hunt, documenting what happens. Careful to keep on the right side of the Japenese law, as they know that if they get in trouble they will be banned from the area and become ‘out of the game’ as O’Barry puts it. O’Barry believes that if the world knew about what happens in this tiny part of Japan, the whole practice would be shut down. He also refuses to blame the Japanese people for this annual tradition. The documentary actually follows him to other parts of Japan where the people are completely oblivious to what happens in Taiji, and aren’t even aware that dolphins are used for meat.
“Why is this happening?” Was somebody’s question to O’Barry, who then went on to explain how the situation in Taiji is the direct result of public demand; people want to see bottle-nose dolphins that look like Flipper, but the by-product of this is the rest of the dolphins who wouldn’t be suitable for the entertainment industry. O’Barry reminds us not to buy a ticket to these marine parks, now with the knowledge of what our money is really paying for.
O’Barry’s enthusiasm is definitely contagious and I left the screening feeling sad about the situation, but very positive that things can change. The caption on the front cover of The Cove DVD reads, ‘Shallow water. Deep secret.’ It seems that the key is exposing the secret, and boycotting marine parks and dolphin programmes, knowing the real price dolphins pay.