It’s not paranoia if they really are out to get you.
Richard O’Barry was the animal trainer for the 1960s TV series Flipper (basically Lassie with dolphins). In a way, through that immensely popular show he helped create the demand for Seaworld parks and ‘swimming with dolphins’ experiences, now worth hundreds of millions of dollars. However, for the last 35 years he has turned against the industry that made his fortune, and is now a significant thorn in the side of Japanese whaling (among others).
In fact, he’s caused them so much trouble he’s been permanently banned from attending IWC meetings, and as the amazing documentary The Cove opens, he’s driving through Taiji in Japan, convinced he’s being followed, hiding his face from passing policemen. He seems pretty paranoid. As quickly becomes evident, he’s right.
The Cove is a brilliant and shocking documentary that moved me to tears more than once. In a way it does for (part of) the Japanese fishing industry what Jamie Oliver did for battery chicken farming in the UK; except that the images portrayed of the titular ‘secret bay’ in Taiji are far more distressing and brutal.
Possibly even more insidious and disturbing than the immediate visceral slaughter of thousands of dolphins are the underlying behaviours and practices at every level of the fishing unions, local and national authorities.
As Ric and the Oceanic Preservation Society put a daring plan together to expose the truth, it becomes something between a heist and spy drama. It felt quite a lot like the excellent Man On Wire in the setting up of the team and the equipment, but in contrast to Jean-Philippe Petit’s playfulness, this is deadly serious.
The film takes a few diversions into the physiology and psychology of dolphins, the scandalous misleading labelling of dolphin meat as something else, mercury levels in school meals and Japan buying support for its whaling practices at the IWC. But the inexorable thrust of this narrative is always towards the truth of what happens in The Cove. In a terrible final few minutes we get that awful truth.
The trailer is gives a good idea of the film, and glimpses of the shameful way the fishermen herd dolphins inshore for selection by the agents for aquariums from around the world. But I urge you to watch the whole film. It’s not at all for the faint-hearted. Indeed, I almost hope it will disturb and appall you: because what it shows is shameful, and should be stopped.
There’s a lot more here.