Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Cove

Fourty years ago Richard O'Barry was training dolphins for the tv series Flipper. A great job where he could afford a Porsche a year and let's face it, who doesn't love dolphins?  The last thirty years he's been trying to undo what he started back then.

Before Flipper was on television there were three dolphin shows all over the world. After Flipper the demand for these shows began to skyrocket. And each of these places needs dolphins. Where do all these dolphins come from? Do they just voluntarily swim into their dolphinaria like the shows owners would like us to believe?

This movie answers that very question and it's not a pretty sight. Each year 23.000 dolphins are being slaughtered in Japan. The big money is in catching those cute bottlenose dolphins (yes, the ones who look like Flipper) which sell to shows for thousands of dollars each. Doing tricks for food is all they'll be doing for the rest of their lives. And those who aren't cute enough to swim in a show? Those unlucky ones end up in the supermarket.

Surely no one eats dolphin food I hear you say? Not consciously but the food is labeled as whale meat in Japanese shops (which does make me wonder who would eats whale meat). Worst of all however is that the meat is heavily poisoned with mercury. Mercury tends to stack its way up the food chain. And since dolphins are on top of their food chain they are full of mercury. Only those who eat dolphins get even more mercury in their blood. Tests on the meat show that the mercury levels are 900 times above the safety limit. Some might consider killing dolphins to be a cultural thing just like eating dogs is in parts of China. Noone can however consider selling poisonous meat acceptable.

It makes one really wonder why the Japanese authorities do not intervene. Selling poisonous food in local schools should be a court case any lawyer can win. Instead of doing something about it the Japanese are actually trying to legalize whale hunting again. So far they've been using the loophole of  whaling for scientific reasons. Nowadays they are even bribing other, third country worlds to get their vote on legalizing whale hunting again.

The movie shows all this and more but what it does brilliantly is keep the footage of the killing for the end of the movie. Seeing the images of fishermen throwing harpoons at dolphins is enough to make anyone yield. "The dolphins are killed in one blow" the PR men from Japan assures us. And a second later we see a dolphin trying to get away while leaving a stream of blood. It's all just so brutal and so pointless.

This is a documentary that works. After seeing this documentary I'm convinced that the dolphin hunt should be forbidden. And a documentary that manages to prove its point in such a convincing way is a must see for everyone.


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