Taiji: Dolphin’s Sanctuary or Dolphin’s Doom?

In Louis Psihoyos’ 2009 Academy Award Winning documentary film, The Cove, audiences around the world are exposed to the dolphin slaughter occurring within Taiji, Japan. Psihoyos introduces us to Ric O’Barry, an ex-dolphin trainer and activist, who is trying to do whatever he can to undo what he created. The show “Flipper” was the origin of Ric O’ Barry’s worldwide fan. However, it also started a wide spread of dolphin captures, and keeping them in captivity such as Sea World, and other dolphin parks. In the town that seems to adore dolphins, Taiji, the dolphins that are caught, and not wanted by the trainers are slaughtered. The dolphin meat is then sold around Japan in grocery stores where they are labeled as high quality whale meat to deceive the public, and placed into the children’s school lunches. Psihoyos’ documentary film provides the audience with the horrifying truth by using military grade cameras to capture footage that has not been seen by the public before. Louis Psihoyos and Ric O’ Barry’s team were able to expose the fishermen’s secret, and the wrongdoings that have occurred in the town that was also known to idolize dolphins.

                     

Taiji is a town in Japan full of whale and dolphin statues, monuments, parks, and even a whale museum. The people of Taiji are unaware of what really goes on. It is ironic to think that in a place where the people idolize these beautiful creatures, is where the horrific captures occur. The fishermen of Taiji keep the area where dolphins are captured blocked off by fences that are incapable of climbing and signs that keep people out. The Taiji police, the fisherman, and other affiliates are very concerned with keeping the cove a secret from the public eye. They know that if the people saw what happened, their town would be doomed. Psihoyos does not hesitate when trying to uncover what really goes on within the cove, and does not care for the concerns of the Taiji police or the Japanese government. He interviews the Japanese people, and they are in shock when they hear about the truth. They stated that they were unaware that the slaughter was going on. Taiji may have seem perfectly calm, and whale loving before the documentary, but in reality it was both dolphins’ and whales’ worst nightmares.

 

Dolphins always appear to be happy because their mouths are formed in the shape of a smile. However, the dolphins in Sea World, and other dolphin parks are actually far from happy O’ Barry discusses how dolphins in captivity are actually very stressed creatures. Dolphins have highly sensitive sonar abilities, which allows them to hear everything within hundreds of miles. When in captivity, they are surround by a numerous amount of sounds, and it can become too much for them, causing them stress. Being overstressed can kill dolphins just as much as it can kill humans. Thus, many dolphins were beginning to commit suicide in captivity because of the stress caused by the people, the walls, and the city. Psihoyos’ documentary displays how dolphin parks for human amusement are wrong. In Taiji, they are very popular because the people love dolphins and want to see them “happy”. Little do they know, these dolphins are actually suffering.

 

Before the documentary film was released, there were twenty three thousand dolphins killed annually. These were the dolphins that were unwanted by the trainers. The dolphins are trapped within nets, and then slaughtered in a secret cove by the fishermen of Taiji. Any dolphin that was caught was killed. The dolphins’ meat was sold to grocery stores, where they were mislabeled and sold as high quality whale meat. One of Psihoyo’s team members, Steve, was the one who discovered that they were secretly packaging dolphin meat as whale meat. He was able to tell by reading the mercury content. The mercury content in dolphin meat is about 2000 ppt. That is very high, and should not be eaten on a regular basis. However, the Taiji school district began putting it into the children’s lunches. Two of Taiji’s council members were interviewed in Psihoyos’ film and because they spoke out, they were able to stop the inclusion of dolphin meat in their children’s lunches.

We would not slaughter a human, so why slaughter dolphins? They are intelligent, beautiful, non-violent creatures. The people of Taiji, and around the world adore these creatures because of their warmth, and how they do no harm. The animals that used to be treated as gods during the Greek times, are now being slaughtered. The documentary film, The Cove, is what provided the common people with the push they needed to stop the unjust acts of the fishermen and the Japanese government. It displayed to us how what we perceive is not always true. We may have believed that Taiji was a whale loving place, but in reality it was a whale’s and dolphin’s doom. Dolphins at Sea World may seem happy, but now we know the truth.

 

 

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