The Dolphin Display Industry, On Display
“An Inconvenient Truth” created a new benchmark for documentary filmmaking—in bringing to light the threat of climate change and calling people to action. “The Cove”—which opens nationwide this weekend on Aug. 7—could have the same catalytic effect on the plight of marine mammals, based on the rave reviews and tremendous buzz it’s created.
A gripping, thriller-style narrative, the film exposes the awful, inconvenient truth about Japan’s horrific dolphin slaughter—the largest mass killing of cetaceans in the world—and its role in the lucrative captive display and swim-with-dolphin industry (an issue I wrote about in May).
"Drive fisheries." Image courtesy of The Cove/Participant Media
Already a hit on the major international film festival circuit, “The Cove” is being acclaimed by critics and audiences alike—good news for animal advocates, as a high-profile, must-see movie like this has the power to reach a cross-section of viewers who might otherwise not get exposure to animal protection issues.
The HSUS and its international arm, Humane Society International, have been working to protect dolphins from this type of indiscriminate slaughter for years. Along with other NGOs, we have succeeded in decreasing the number of dolphins killed in the Japanese hunts—many more villages used to conduct them. Because we alerted the international diplomatic community and the U.S. Congress to this hideous annual event, both condemned the killing in communiqués and resolutions. When he introduced S. Res. 99 to end drive hunts, Senator Frank Lautenberg called the practice "utterly senseless." Our efforts saved some dolphins from death but drove what remained of the killing behind the “keep out” signs and razor-wire the film-makers had to get past to make the movie.
What is masterful about “The Cove” is that it can’t help but make activists out of its outraged audience, weaving the story of the daring, covert operation to film the hidden slaughter at Taiji with campaigner Ric O’Barry’s disturbing commentary about the dark side of dolphin captivity. The truth behind the Taiji massacre isn’t just inconvenient—it’s horrific.
The dolphins are stabbed to death—and their mercury-contaminated meat sent to market. The massacre’s survivors are sold for six figures to the international marine entertainment industry, a fate that’s not much better, as it turns out.
The HSUS’ Hollywood Office works with documentary filmmakers to support and encourage such projects and, for four years now, we’ve awarded a $25,000 grant to feature filmmakers who spotlight animal advocacy themes.
The HSUS/HSI has partnered with Participant Media, one of the film’s distributors, to produce social outreach materials to educate viewers about the captivity connection with the hunts and the scope of whale and dolphin killing world-wide. We continue to fight to save whales at the International Whaling Commission (featured in the film), to prevent and other human-caused noise from harming these sound-sensitive species, and to protect whales from becoming entangled in fishing gear or being struck by ships.
“The Cove” opens nationwide on Aug. 7, and I urge you to see it. For the price of admission, you can do your bit toward making the movie a worldwide success, sending a message to Japanese authorities that the killing has to stop.