Discovering “The Cove”

The month of September is associated with the beginning of rituals – going back to school and work, a change in the weather, and generally opening a new chapter. Unfortunately, once again, September also marks the opening of another dolphin slaughtering season in the secluded coves of Taiji, Japan. While much progress has been made on the forefront of preventing these mass, inhumane killings, dolphin activists were still met this first of the month by furious Japanese nationalists and the fisherman prepared to continue to mercilessly take the lives of over 20,000 dolphins just as they did the year before. Since Ric O’Barry released the radically moving 2009 Oscar-winning documentary simply, and grimly titled The Cove, his crew of annual Taiji anti-slaughter activists has grown to 34, 8 of whom are Taiji natives. But still, this deadly ritual continues.

Completely unrestricted, the Japanese have been maliciously herding dolphins into the coves of Taiji for decades, with a spike in slaughters ever since the popularity of the TV series Flipper. Ironically, the original “Flipper” was trained by Ric O’Barry himself, who once made millions coaching marine life into becoming the pawns that places like Sea World still showcase today. After the series launched, every marine park in the world wanted its own version of the famous, friendly animal – at any cost. And so began Japan’s market providing dolphins – around $200,000 for the right one – to park trainers worldwide. In America alone, aquariums and marine parks with dolphin acts have accumulated just almost $9 billion.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4KRD8e20fBo&w=560&h=315]

What The Cove uncovers is the process of getting the dolphins to their selective trainers from the depths of the ocean and follows up with the fates of those who were just not Flipper-enough. Because once Ric O’Barry realized the corrupt business he was unknowingly a part of he felt as ill as the Japanese people who are eating mercury-filled rejected dolphin meat.

As the documentary unveils, the fisherman in the coves actually use sound technology to confuse and provoke the dolphins, animals known to not only possess intelligence comparable to humans, but rely highly on sound communication. As the dolphins are brought in by the masses to the shore, they are man-handled and selected for trainers, then removed from their natural habitats and flown thousands of miles away. The remainder – an estimated 20,000 dolphins – are then captured and dragged literally around the corner from the shore, into coves invisible to the public and closely monitored by the Japanese government. The film shows O’Barry and his team of Oceanic Preservation Society activists and trained divers using underwater cameras and decoys to show that behind the cove lies a blood bath: men with harpoon-sized spears slowly and aimlessly stabbing the dolphins until all that can be seen is red. The meat is then sliced, packaged, and sold to the public – but usually never marked as dolphin meat. This low-grade food is also the highest edible source of mercury – the most poisonous non-radioactive element on earth and a direct cause of dementia and mental retardation in humans.

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So on top of the inhumane destruction of an entire species, dolphin killing also fuels a market that secretly kills its consumers with toxins that physically will never be removed from the earth. Since international law ceases to effectively exist, especially in the environmental realm, there is no way to prevent the Japanese government from ending this practice. In its own defense, Japan claims the hunt is not only carried out humanely, but culturally, and that it refuses to comply with the western ideology of morals, just as a principle. As a member of the International Whaling Commission – the closest thing that exists in terms of whaling “laws” – Japan has even bribed other nations – namely those who are poverty-stricken Caribbean islands but could benefit from marine mammal tourism – to support their practice. What O’Barry and his team do is provide a visual message – and red-handed proof – that this truly is a massacre of nature and human life, and must be stopped before it cycles enough to cause irreversible environmental damage.

Even though another year has approached where the coves of Japan will serve as the slaughterhouse of a unique, treasured, and threatened species, it is not too late to make sure this September is the last. It has been proven that international issues like this are best taken on head first by individuals. In regards to oceanic protection and awareness, The Cove did more its first time leaked than the IWC has done in decades. Again, the power of information cannot be stressed enough. This documentary will truly make you reevaluate the strength of individuals and make you take a humbling step back to realize how vast this world is, and how interconnected environmental and human health are. Make this September the beginning of a new ritual where you reach out and support O’Barry’s Dolphin Project, the OPS, and The Cove

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Allison Beauregard

Allison is a New York City based writer with a focus on sustainability. Her work demonstrates how it is possible to have the “things” that make us happy without compromising the resources that provide these goods. With this vision, Allison sees a future where environmental degradation is reversed and the quality of human life is equally distributed. She is the Category Editor of The Franklin Report and was among the top 5 contributors for Elephant Journal in October 2014.

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