I received an upsetting text message last week from my good friend, 44144. “Cove Update: Dolphins killed in Taiji last week. But we won’t give up! Text COVE to 20222 to donate $10 to Save Japan Dolphins/Earth Island.” I replied. But the minimal gesture of responding just didn’t suffice.
I came across a documentary a few years ago that really struck a nerve. The Cove brought light to an extreme case of animal abuse occurring every year in Taiji, Japan–a town that vows to have an affixation for dolphins, and yet is their greatest nightmare. Every September, the crisp-blue waters of the Taiji coast turn a dark and deep red after fishermen literally take a stab at the dolphins they’ve managed to lure into a hidden coast off the small island.
Fishermen aren’t looking to kill all the dolphins they capture, but rather pick out a select few to be sold for entertainment to aquariums, resorts and theme parks around the world. This special breed of “show” dolphins is worth thousands of dollars and investors have no problem paying the price despite the inhumane manner in which they are captured.
Dolphins are sensitive creatures that cannot survive if they are not in their natural habitat. Much like elephants, dolphins are emotional animals and captivity brings them down. Dolphins in captivity constantly die of “unknown” causes, even in state-of-the-art aquatic environments like SeaWorld. Their will to live dwindles in a tank.
The hundreds of remaining dolphins not suitable for the entertainment industry aren’t set free but rather slaughtered for their meat. Dolphin meat has toxic mercury levels that are extremely harmful to people and yet their meat is packaged and sold as “whale” meat. Dolphins are technically part of the whale family so industry tycoons can get away with the false advertising. However, these same dolphins aren’t protected under the same law that prohibits the fishing and slaughtering of most whales.
Ric O’barry essentially created the dolphin-entertainment industry when he successfully trained five dolphins and starred in the hit series, Flipper. Ric now dedicates his efforts to putting an end to the capturing , selling and training of dolphins. His efforts have been recognized around the world, but progress has been slow. Despite the mass attention “The Cove” received, including an Academy Award, the people of Taiji are still getting away with murder in that small cove that holds the secrets of fishermen and the final breaths of innocent animals.