The Cove won best documentary at this year’s Academy Awards. Funded by the Ocean Preservation Society, the team secretly filmed the slaughter of dolphins in a secluded cove in Taiji, Japan. Bizarrely, Taiji looks like a town that loves dolphins. Sculptures and murals of these mysterious mammals are everywhere. But the cove is shut off with barbed wire and keep out notices reinforced by aggressive local fishermen. Visitors are clearly not welcome.
In the 1960s, animal trainer Ric O’Barry captured and trained the five dolphins who played Flipper in the international children’s TV series. Since then O’Barry has travelled the world campaigning against keeping dolphins in captivity and was instrumental in putting together the team of people who made this film. In Taiji, young female dolphins are captured to be sold to the multi-billion pound animal entertainment industry via organisations like Sea World. The remaining males and the babies are slaughtered in barbaric fashion that turns the sea red. The film is worth watching even if you need to close your eyes for the final scenes. Global attitudes to whaling are covered, the unsustainability of overfishing the oceans as well as the gritty economic realities of nature versus income. I’m not a sushi fan but I would certainly think twice about watching dolphins in perform in captivity again.
Coincidently, today’s Guardian runs the story of the closure of a California restaurant for selling whale meat after the Cove filmmakers secretly filmed the evidence while in town to collect their Academy Awards.