Tag Archives: Ric O’barry

The Truth Within The Meat

Many may not know what truths lay behind one’s nation. They may be unaware of the horrendous scenes that take place as they can only see the unscathed masks presented to them. This idea can be seen throughout Louie Psyhoyos’s documentary, The Cove. In his documentary, former dolphin trainer, Ric O’Barry and his crew are seen investigating Japanese dolphin killings in the city of Taiji. His main mission is to exploit the gruesome killings and put an end to the dolphin massacre. Throughout his journey, many connections with food are made as dolphin meat is used not only for economical purposes but for national pride as well. Through the use of dolphin meat in this documentary, advances toward spreading the truth of the dolphin hunts and stopping them are made.

The first example to show how dolphin meat is used in the documentary can be seen when pedestrians are questioned about eating it. Throughout the documentary, many examples of the residents are shown to be unaware of the dolphin eating and killing. A prime example can be seen when a pedestrian is interviewed as shown in this screen shot:Image

“A pedestrian in a state of confusion when told of dolphins being eaten in Japan”

In this screen shot, the old lady becomes in a state of confusion and shock when the news of eaten dolphins were told to her. This just shows how the city of Taiji and Japan were able to cover up the fact that they were hunting dolphins and selling them in the forms of entertainment and meat. Also, coupled along with this idea, are when the families go to the market and see the dolphin meat for sale. Due to the Japanese government and their little tactic of mislabeling, they are able to hide the dolphin killings. Not only are they buying it, they are buying mercury infected dolphin meat. The little fact that many Japanese residents were unaware of such a crisis just shows how important it is to uncover the truth and spread it. Besides the selling of dolphin meat, Japan also used it in order to gain national pride.

The next example to show how dolphin meat was used to make advances in spreading the truth can be seen when dolphin meat began to become a sense of national pride. This idea can be seen when it was stated in the documentary that dolphin meat was a part of the Japanese culture and that they should be able to kill and eat dolphins. To further this idea, it can be seen when dolphin meat began to play a part in children’s lives as seen in the screen shot below:


“Young students are given dolphin meat as school lunch”

This screen shot specifically shows how the Japanese wanted to show how much dolphin meat meant to them and their culture. They were willing to feed their children, and basically their future, mercury infected dolphin meat. The children did not know of this poisoning, but since it was part of their tradition, they ate it. Besides the fact that the Japanese were giving out dolphin meat to schools to use as lunch, they used it as a way to explain their hunts and justify them. An ironic statement that should be made about this idea of tradition is the fact that people are unaware that their culture eats dolphins as seen in the previous screen shot. If dolphin meat was a part of their nation’s ideology, then why were their so many people oblivious to this fact?  If the people asked questions like this and wondered where their meat came from, then ending the dolphin hunting would be that much closer. This just shows how dolphin meat was used as a way to progress their mission.

The last example to show how dolphin meat was used as a way to advance the spreading of the hunt and stop it can be seen when the dolphin killings were made public by O’Barry. The crew managed to obtain clips of the killings and was made public as can be seen in the screenshot below:


“O’Barry carrying a monitor showing the killings of the dolphins”

In this scene, O’Barry is publicizing the dolphin hunt and only a few stop to watch. As the clip progresses, more and more people stop to see and finally learn of the killings. They become enlightened and now realized that the dolphin meat at school came from this, came from the horrendous actions done at Taiji. This clip basically sums up the documentary’s mission as it shows how the spreading of the horror is slowly progressing.

The documentary was capable of spreading the news of the dolphin hunt through the use of dolphin meat as the method of obtaining it was exposed. Many of the Japanese were unaware of the killings and a conflicting sense of national pride arose. Even with the publicizing of the killings, it is up to the people to question where their meat came from and to stop the killings.


The Cove-A Real Life Heist Movie

In the 2009 documentary film, The Cove, director Louie Psihoyos analyzes, questions, and exposes Japan’s dolphin hunting culture. The film serves as a call to action to bring an end to mass dolphin slaughter, to change Japanese fishing practices, and to inform the general public of the atrocities being committed to these animals and the health risks (particularly the increased hazard of mercury poising) associated with consuming dolphin meat. The filmmakers emphasized the secrecy involved in capturing the footage to establish a “spy movie” quality to the movie and, as a result, draw in a wider audience than the typical documentary film fan. However, this secret filming, in combination with the portrayal of the Japanese people, elicited great controversy surrounding The Cove’s release.

Louie Psihoyos undercover

Louie Psihoyos undercover

In the opening scene of the film (featured above) the film’s director, Louie Psihoyos, is featured in the passenger seat of a car driving through Japan. He is shown with a medical mask covering a good portion of his face. He then introduces the audience to the secrecy involved in dolphin hunting in Japan and that exposing the industry is illegal. In this way, a sense of civil-duty and urgency is established and Louie Psihoyos places himself and the crew in a position of importance and power. It is also important that Psihoyos addresses the illegal aspect of their mission in this light because it justifies their illegal actions and argues that illegal actions must be taken if the laws being broken are unjust. However, the opening scene is ironic because of the facemask covering Louie’s face; in attempting to expose the dolphin hunting industry, the filmmakers have to cover and hide themselves. The secrecy also establishes a “spy-like” quality to the documentary. The spy movie feeling is further pushed when the footage is presented in green light for night filming, negative effect, and secret-taping footage. This employment of spy genre movie techniques is vital to the success of the documentary because it is able to appeal to a wider audience and makes the dolphin slaughter appear even more corrupt through the establishing of the “forces of good vs. evil.” However, the film techniques used in the making of this movie, such as secret filming, led to much of the controversy that surrounded its release.

Ric O'Barry in an intimate embrace with a dolphin

Ric O’Barry in an intimate embrace with a dolphin

Another important aspect that led to the success of the film was the personal relationship established between dolphins and humans. The film’s main social actor, Ric O’Barry, discusses his experience with dolphins through his involvement with the Flipper television show. He states that he knows that dolphins are self-aware. This idea is crucial in separating dolphins from other animals like pigs and cows that are also slaughtered for food production. If dolphins are aware of themselves and their surroundings, then they can be viewed as more similar to humans than to other animals and it is then inhumane to slaughter them for meat. This idea is essential in drawing sympathy and compassion on behalf of the dolphins from the film’s audience. The above image of Ric O’Barry in loving embrace with a dolphin epitomizes this concept.

Blood from dolphin slaughter filling a cove in Japan

Blood from dolphin slaughter filling a cove in Japan

This image is taken from perhaps the most important moment in the film. In this screenshot the blood from the slaughter of dolphins is revealed for the first time. The dark red of the blood is significant because it is a visual reminder of just how many dolphins must have been slaughtered and because it is seen in direct contrast with the tranquil blue of the surrounding ocean. This serves as a metaphor that stresses that dolphin slaughter is in direct conflict with nature. It is also important because the presence of dolphin slaughter can no longer be ignored or swept under the rug. From this point forward, the audience is forced to decide to answer the film’s call for action and the Japanese people must face this aspect of their culture out in the open. In this way, consumers must consider what they are willing to look past or abandon morally in order to maintain a diet they are accustomed to.

In the creation of a modern day, real life “heist” film, director Louie Psihoyos turns The Cove into one of the most viewed documentary films released in the past 10 years. As a result, a wide audience of once ignorant viewers has been introduced to a serious travesty plaguing the dolphin hunting industry in Japan. The issue is magnified still through the humanization of the dolphins. As a result, the audience must face the harsh realities of dolphin meat consumption and remember the images of the blood-red cove in making future food purchases. In this way, despite the controversy sparked by the questions of morality sparked by secret filming, the film is effective in bringing awareness to a serious issue in today’s food industry and force the audience to serve as the driving force in creating serious change for both the future of the dolphins and of the human race.

SeaWorld: The Cove’s Continuing Nightmare

SeaWorld is one of the premier aquatic theme parks in not only the United States but globally, as well. Opened in 1964, these theme parks make use of captive orcas, sea lions and dolphins in various types of shows and attractions. SeaWorld has also been known for its animal rescue and rehabilitation programs: programs that, since their inception, have saved around 22,000 animals from endangerment and extinction. However, these programs have brought a lot of criticism from wildlife groups all over the world such as Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project Inc. In the movie, The Cove, which showcases O’Barry and his followers’ attempts to stop the annual slaughter of almost 2, 000 dolphins in Taiji, Japan, the lives of dolphins in captivity are portrayed as sad and detrimental to the lives of one of the world’s smartest creatures. Confinement in captivity seriously compromises the welfare and survival of these animals by altering their behavior and causing extreme distress. From this movie, an example of participatory documentary, the world is able to see the truth behind dolphin slaughter as well as the secrets behind dolphinariums such as SeaWorld.

Ric O’Barry’s conviction throughout The Cove is that no dolphin can thrive in captivity, regardless of whether it was bred there, or caught in the wild in a drive. Dolphins are anatomically built for life in the open sea. They have very sensitive organs that detect small vibrations in the waves and can act like sonar, and it is sensitive enough to detect other sea life for miles away. It doesn’t make a difference where these animals come from – the wild or breeding centers – their bodies, sensory system, and nervous system are not built for small areas. They will never be able to be released in the wild. The Cove stresses that “dolphinariums”, such as SeaWorld, are responsible for buying live dolphins from the Japanese fishermen for use in their dolphin shows, aquariums, and swim-with-the-dolphin programs.




A typical dolphinarium show.


Though SeaWorld itself does not directly buy dolphins from Taiji distributers, O’Barry still believes that SeaWorld by keeping the dolphins in captivity, they are nevertheless killing them. Even though he was one of the founding fathers of the dolphin entertainment industry, he has changed his stance regarding their use and wants to end the use of dolphins, as well as other animals, in shows across the globe. He states, “I spent 10 years building that industry up, and I spent the last 35 trying to tear it down” when asked about his efforts to end the dolphinarium industry. He maintains throughout the film that it is not only the slaughter of the dolphins which he fights against but he also believes that “all of these captures help create the largest slaughter of dolphins on the planet” because whether dolphins are captured or not, their outlook is just as bleak being used as entertainment as being used for food.


Up until the 1980s, SeaWorld did in fact import whales from slaughter sites such as those in Taiji. It wasn’t until things like the Marine Mammal Protection Act and work by environmentalists in the early 1990s that finally curbed the importation of dolphins into the United States. However, as seen in The Cove, this has done little to curb the use of these animals in SeaWorld and other similar amusement parks in the US. Instead, dolphins are simply bred in captivity and never actually experience what it is like to be free and a real dolphin. “It’s the captivity industry that keeps this slaughter going by rewarding the fishermen for their bad behavior” and paying for the dolphins to be exported across the world as food and amusement. O’Barry shows through his film how SeaWorld and other aquatic entertainment centers refuse to criticize other facilities that buy animals from Taiji and have not taken any plans or moved in a direction to stop the hunts themselves.




A dolphin suffering from depression in captivity.


By using participatory documentary, we can see what it actually takes to make a dent in the capture and murder of dolphins. O’Barry’s chronicle of his groups attempt to be the first to document the slaughter of the dolphins in Taiji and document the outside forces which help continue these slaughters. We also get a sense of how situations in the film are affected or altered by his presence. He must disguise himself, shake the tails that companies put on him, and avoid pesky fishermen in order to achieve the goal of his film. The encounter between him and the subject becomes a critical element of the film and allows us to see into the actual battle that is being waged in Japan. He makes the film in a way that allows him to shape the issues according to his own sense of what is important, and controls how the audience sees the story as well. By participating and actually showing the changes that his persistence brings, he is able to better explain the predicament of the dolphins and allow for a larger backing of his cause by the audience. His admittance of his involvement in creating this problem and the pain that he feels for being a major cause of dolphin slaughter and capture, allows the audience to gain an emotional connection to the dolphins.


            Overall, SeaWorld continues practices that O’Barry and The Cove aim to stop. We see that though they don’t directly support Taiji, their lack of work towards the prevention of these acts is apparent. For a company that is at the forefront of marine entertainment and “rescue”, they have not used their global influence as much as they should. They don’t take action because it could potentially hurt the multi-million dollar profits that they make every year. People don’t see what goes on behind the scenes after hours. The best way to end dolphin captivity for entertainment and general slaughter is through the education of the public about the dark side of that captivity and what it does to the health and lives of these captive ‘entertainers’. Thankfully, The Cove does its best to portray these problems best they can because without documentaries like this one, our global wildlife will suffer greatly. As stated in the film, “If we can’t stop that [dolphin capture and slaughter], if we can’t fix that, forget about the bigger issues. There’s no hope.” 


The Cove: Duality in Documentary

In The Cove, director Louie Psihoyos presents the issue of dolphin slaughter by Japanese fishermen in the context of a participatory and expository documentary film. The film not only provides a background on the subject but also depicts the filmmaker and his group of activists as they actively try to tackle the issue head-on. By presenting the overarching issue in an expository fashion side-by-side with the depiction of the director’s real-life participation in the discussion, The Cove works as an extremely successful piece of propaganda that somewhat demonizes the Japanese fishermen and government. This allows Psihoyos to more effectively win the trust and hopefully support of the audience.

The film makes use of a more expository approach in order to give the audience a basic idea of the killing of dolphins in Japan. The film uses footage from other sources of media including Minamata: The Victims and Their World and Flipper as well as provides a detailed account of the life and accomplishments of one Ric O’Barry, who is one of the main characters in the film. By using a more disconnected, seemingly objective approach, Psihoyos is able to distance his own opinions from the information that he is presenting to the audience. Although it is always obvious what side of the issue he is trying to push when he speaks directly to the camera, for the rest of the time he seems to be simply giving indisputable proof of the vice that is the hunting of dolphins. Viewers witness the transformation of Ric O’Barry from a dolphin trainer and television pioneer to a selfless and regretful protector of sea mammals, the barbed wire and heavy security fences that seal off a cove that is known as a spot where dolphins are caught and killed, and the possible effects of the mercury that taints the dolphin meat that is mislabeled and sold to ignorant consumers. These sections of the film are some of the most persuasive and allow the filmmakers to gain the trust and support of their viewers so that when they begin to participate in the events of the film it is implied that it’s the natural, necessary, and moral thing to do.

For most of the documentary, the director is directly involved in the events that are unfolding and unapologetically fights for one side of the debate, or the side against the slaughter of dolphins in Japan. Through this more participatory approach, the film takes on the tone of a struggle between good and evil since the characters are closely tied to the audience since they address the camera directly. The director and his crew of activists document as they go to Taiji and struggle against the establishment there that supports the killing of dolphins and allows the meat to be sold and mislabeled despite the fact that it is potentially dangerous due to high mercury levels. Seemingly unreasonable fishermen and police follow the team mercilessly and force them to find more creative ways to get the footage they need to raise awareness and get proof that the horrible slaughter is happening. Through all of this, Psihoyos and his crew interview various characters in the film as well as provide their own stories and opinions. This technique of depicting the active participation of the filmmakers in the events of the film causes the viewer to see the events that unfold as a fight between right and wrong and since the director and his team are the ones talking the most, they become the de facto “right” side and the Japanese fishermen and local officials become the bad guys. The filmmakers get more sympathy from the audience because they are more visible and relatable since they provide the most commentary and insight to the audience. Therefore, the audience is likely to side with them after watching them directly trying to stop the hunting of dolphins in Taiji. Therefore, by also relying on the genre of participatory documentary, The Cove can more persuasively present the cause of dolphin preservation.

By mixing the genres of participatory and expository documentary, The Cove makes a more credible and convincing case against the killing of dolphins for their meat. The expository sections build credibility and present facts that can be interpreted as proof of the evil of killing dolphins and whales and the corruption of the institutions that allow it to continue. The scenes in which the director and company intervene in the events of the film are also persuasive as they put the viewer on the same side of the conflict as the filmmaker, which hopefully leads them to also support the cause that the film is trying to raise awareness for. The blending of the genres of documentary in The Cove is not only a successful method of propaganda but also creates a engaging and fresh perspective on a interesting issue.

Ric O'Barry with the original Flipper in one of the expository sections of the film.

Ric O’Barry with the original Flipper in one of the expository sections of the film.

Footage of Japanese fishermen slaughtering dolphins in the cove in Taiji.

Footage of Japanese fishermen slaughtering dolphins in the cove in Taiji.

The filmmakers/activists plan their next move to get footage of the slaughter.

The filmmakers/activists plan their next move to get footage of the slaughter.

The Cove: Call It a “Culture”

This is a documentary film that documents dolphin slaughtering in Taiji, Japan. The main starring of this documentary is Ric O’Barry, a former Sea Shepherd member and former dolphin trainer. The documentary opens with the filming crew members are being kept out from the “private area”. After the director Louie Psihoyos comes up with idea of hiding cameras in rocks, the moment gets proceed again. With the idea and direction, the team soon groups up people who has talent in certain fields, like scientist and divers. Before going further, the film introduces some historical backgrounds and mercury poisoning. After everything is been well prepared, the crew goes out in real action. In first attempt, they place a sound receiver into the water and run away from the guards. As the zoon is seen to be extremely important to the town people, the crews are questioned by the town’s governors. In the second action, they place several rock cameras onto the positions and await the slaughter happens. They finally capture the evidence of the dolphin slaughtering in Taiji, and Ric O’Barry even bring it to the IWC (International Whaling Commission) meeting. In the end, the whole action has brought out some positive results such as dolphin meat is removed from Taiji school lunch menu.

First, the documentary film is from an ocean conservationist’s point of view, so the idea of the film is more negative from a neutral standard point of view towards the event. Most of ideas and concept in the documentary are from Ric O’Barry’s personal opinions. Ric O’Barry, who used to be a dolphin trainer and participated in a famous television show called “Flipper”, quit his old job after his two dolphins died. He thinks dolphin is sensitive, communicable and has individuality just like human. He thinks his second dolphin is suicide, which the term rarely uses to animals.


Ric and his dolphin

From the image above we can see that Ric’s smile to his dolphin is genuine, bosom and full of love. It is not possible for a randomly picked person to do what he has done for dolphins. His love to dolphins is so passionate, and it may has become his “culture”, It is this passion encouraged the old man to do everything he can to save dolphins anywhere around the world; and this time it was in Taiji, Japan.

Taiji is a little town in Japan, but it is the primary supplier for worldwide dolphin entertainment industry.


Dolphin supplement map


The town’s fishermen capture and sell dolphins for profit. Trainers from all different aquariums come to this place and choose their equipment, and the leftovers are killed by those Japanese. According to the film, each dolphin worth $150,000 and 23,000 dolphins are killed in Japan every year. Killed dolphins are manufactured as dolphin meat sold in Taiji’s supermarket and as fake expensive whale meat in other cities.


Dolphin blood and devils

The above scene is where the slaughter takes place. Those Japanese kill too many dolphins at the same time that the seawater even turned into scarlet red by dolphin blood. They use spear to kill dolphins and salve the bodies to boat after they die. Such a massacre happens every year but ironically most of Japanese people live in metropolitan don’t know about it. Although the film doesn’t point out directly, it is clear that the Japanese government is the one behind the inhumane slaughter. They know already that dolphin meat contains very high portion of mercury through food chain, and selling dolphin meat to its civilian and even using dolphin meat for children’s lunch meal can dramatically increase the chance of getting Minamata disease. Japan is significantly a country that has suffered from mercury poisoning. And the cause of getting the situation worse during the Minamata incident was because of Japanese government’s slow action. Now the government even gets worse; controls the media and covers up the whole thing. The townspeople are saying it is their culture to kill dolphins. Maybe they’re right; it is the Japanese government’s culture to harm its own civilian and ignore their pains because it gets benefits from their suffering.

Regardless of whether there is law that sets number for dolphin’s predation on fish in Japan, but the law itself is made by us and it should only be enforced to human but no other creatures. We have no right to destruct the entire nature for our own good, but now we are slowly digging our own graves. Wisdom is a gift that given to us to develop technology and civilization, but it’s also a wall that separates us from nature. Perhaps after all creations and civilizations, we find destruction is ours the most primitive culture.

Ethnocentrism in The Cove

          The critically acclaimed film, The Cove, follows Ric O’Barry, the trainer and star of the television show, Flipper, who has since dedicated his life for the justice of dolphins around the world. The documentary’s premise is to expose the tragic dolphin hunt that happens annually in Taiji, Japan to bring the attention to this inhumane practice and act as a call to action to stop the slaughter. In this sense, the film has succeeded as the shock value of the film has resonated with the American public, and is portrayed as being brought the surface by the courageous efforts of the American film crew. Yet, the aim of the movie is to seemingly change a Japanese practice so it fails to stimulate change within the culture as the movie is targeted so far from a Japanese audience. The film, instead, takes a moralistic stance that tugs on the heartstrings of the American public to bring awareness towards this act. Though the film’s initial objective may have been to expose a small group of people on the shores of Wakayama, it clearly imposes Western standards on Japan’s policies, customs, and values, which is particularly evident in the coverage of Japan’s whaling policies. The film was successful in shedding light on the cruelty of Taiji’s dolphin slaughter and certainly is effective in capturing the tension and playing up the danger, but it has done so at the cost of the misunderstanding of the Japanese people’s food culture. By imposing the Western standards and values on Japanese culture, the film adopts an ethnocentric psyche that discredits the issue at hand.

          The problem with The Cove is that the issue is deeper than “greedy” Japanese fisherman killing dolphins and is instead an intrinsic culturally related problem. It is not stated that whaling and the consumption of dolphins has been a tradition that can be followed back to the Edo period of Japan in the film nor do the filmmakers demonstrate any understanding of the Japanese culture. That is not to say that this is a nation wide tradition, as is evident by the portrayal of the Tokyo citizens in the film, but a tradition that deserves a certain degree of respect nonetheless. Additionally, it is important to note that the idea of tradition not be used as an excuse to conduct inhumane practices but instead it demonstrates that had the cultural aspect of consuming dolphins as a form of food been addressed, the film could actually be effective in achieving their goal. By dismissing dolphin meat as food at all, Psihoyos dismisses the people of Taiji’s food culture altogether as an inhumane practice, and dehumanizes the people themselves by degrading their culture as being less civilized than that of the West. Furthermore, it was not too long ago that meat in Japan was addressed in the same manner as exemplified in Fuzukawa Yukichi’s, “On Meat Eating”, where he states, “There remain many people who blindly dislike [using meat], saying that meat eating is filthy, in accordance with the customs our nation has followed for many long centuries.” He goes on further saying, “This is a specious argument born out of ignorant blindness that demonstrates a lack of knowledge.” Ironically, Fukuzawa strengthens his argument for meat eating by expressing that cow meat is much easier to process than whale meat, as if the consumption of whale meat was an integral food group as cows are to the West, “People never express such misgivings when we catch whales and eat their meat.” This further illustrates the polarized cultural rift between the East and the West that demonstrates how easy it is to perpetuate this misunderstanding and dismissal of cultural practices.

One of the most prominent arguments that Psihoyo makes in his argument against the Japanese consumption of dolphins is the fact that they are high in the food chain, thus mercury levels are biomagnified to a toxic level in their meat. It is evident that by utilizing this platform, O’Barry’s is able to orient their animal rights agenda with a human rights violation that defends his stance against dolphin as a commodity. Regardless of whether O’Barry’s concern over mercury poisoning as a result of dolphin consumption is a byproduct of his initial aim, the fact that there is a prospect that the Japanese market contains possibilities of mercury food poising is still prominent. Clearly, this is the film’s strongest argument against the slaughter of dolphins and yet it seems to be contrived and dismissed instead of grasping the opportunity to be a real informational source for the citizens of Taiji. Although there is an older generation of Taiji who feel as though whaling and consuming dolphin meat is an intrinsic part of their culture, the only realistic approach to ending this dolphin hunt is to cut off the demand by informing and educating the younger generation about the real risks of consuming this meat. It is this generational difference that may be the only feasible act that may stop this dolphin hunt and the fact that the documentary did little to address the Japanese audience as a call to action is counterproductive in its cause.

The differences in food culture and its correlation with one’s values are evident in The Cove but it does little to make an ecological conservation argument. Instead, it underscores how dolphins have human-like qualities that should resonate with people emotionally. By humanizing dolphins and in turn dehumanizing the Japanese fisherman, turns an objective look at a cultural problem into an American versus Japanese story about how these cruel fishermen hunt innocent animals. This sets up a hegemonic role that is able to twist the message of the film into something manipulative that is more interested in enlisting foreign support than informing the perpetrators at hand and victims at risk. If the filmmakers could exhibit the sensibility and sensitivity to the culture they were scrutinizing, it could have had the potential to make a real impact on the cause.

History Repeating Itself

           The Cove is a documentary that analyzes and questions the dolphin hunting in Taiji, Japan. The primary speakers are Ric O’Barry, a former dolphin trainer, and Oceanic Preservation Society (OPS) activist/director of this film Louis Psihoyos. This film is produce to stop, educate, and convince the audience the serious problem called dolphin slaughter/hunting/capturing. The dolphins are driven into a cove that is enclosed with nets and lines, to keep the dolphins inside.  Fishing companies sells live show dolphins for to aquariums, museums and other sea/ocean park, and kill off the remaining dolphins to sell their meat. This documentary explains the health risks that are part of dolphin meat and how cruel it is not only the process of capturing these animals, but also the killing of them. In The Cove, dolphin meat represents not only the cruelty treated to these animals, but the serious health risk it is to humans that consume it.

Dolphin meat is extremely high in mercury content.

Dolphin meat contains 2000ppm of mercury compared to the 0.4 ppm recommended

During the film, the audience learns that dolphin meat is highly toxin, having extreme levels of mercury, higher than what is recommend by the health researchers and are a serious health risk to humans. The high levels of mercury found in dolphin meat can lead to something very similar to the Minamata disease that was caused by the mercury found in fish and shellfish. In one scene, Tetsuya Endo, researcher at Health Science University of Hokkaido, tested a piece of dolphin meat bought in a local grocery market in Taiji and discovered that dolphin contain 2000ppm (per part million) of mercury compare to the 0.4 ppm recommended. This amount of mercury could cause another epidemic like the Minanmata disease all over again. Many of the local fishermen deny or don’t want to know about this fact.

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Local Tokyo Citizen surprise by the fact that dolphin are being eaten

Many of the caught dolphins are not sold as live show dolphins, but are killed for their meat. There is no logical explanation to explain why people would want to sell dolphin meat given the health issues, yet fishermen argue it is because it is their tradition to hunt, kill, and sell dolphin meat. Well, in the film we see O’Barry asking many citizens in major Japanese cities, such as: Tokyo, Kyoto, and Hokkaido, yet no one even knew that there are people out there eating dolphin meat. In Japan, dolphin meat is considered as undesired or lower class meat, yet these fishermen in Taiji kill 25,000 dolphins every year. Apparently, these dolphin meats are sold off as whale meat, according to OPS members when they did a DNA test of meat they bought in the grocery market. These fishermen are selling meat that will make people become sick and still argue that it is a part of their ‘tradition’ when most of the population doesn’t even know that people even eat dolphins.

When many ask why dolphin meat is consumed, they were answered that it was Japanese culture/tradition, and that dolphins are consuming too much fish—that these ‘pest’ need to be taken care of. The film has proven that it is not dolphins that consume too much fish, but humans eating/consuming too much fish that it is damaging the oceanic eco-system leading to the result of less fish. Yet, the government and the IWC do not acknowledge the fact that the consumption of dolphin meat will lead to serve health problems, and uses excuses such as tradition or less fish to continue hunting these animals.

Fishermen catching dolphins

Fishermen catching dolphins

The capturing of dolphins is a cruel and inhumane as well as the killing of them. Fishermen uses loud noise, which cause panic and distress in dolphins given that they use sound as their primary sense, to basically trap these dolphins in an enclosed space. Then, once the live show dolphins are picked, they will kill off the remaining dolphins. In one scene, we can see a dolphin swimming to shore bleeding and basically running for its life until it eventually bled out. This method of capture and killing is inhumane to the animals, and could be considered as animal torture. Yet, these fishermen for their profits refuse to admit to these facts and continue to deny that any of this is happening or true.

The purpose of this film is to educate the public about these cruelties towards dolphins and the health risk associated with dolphin meat consumption due to the high levels of mercury it contains. The Cove promotes the stopping of the capturing of dolphins and brings up points that undeniably shocking to the world on a global scale. Yet, the refusal of both the Japanese government and fishermen are both very upsetting, this helps the audience understand just because we don’t hear about it does not mean it does not exists. That people need to stand up and say something to make a difference and help others learn about what is really going on in the world , just like Ric o’Barry, Louis Psihoyos and their crew, because that is how changes happen by people out there making a difference.

Guilt in The Cove

In his 2009 documentary The Cove, Louie Psihoyos seeks to unveil the town of Taiji’s covert dolphin slaughter. Throughout the documentary, Psihoyos explores moral, financial, and nutritional consequences of dolphin liquidation in an attempt to prevent its continued occurrence. His treatment of social actors in his documentary is especially important as it allows insight into the film’s underlying purpose and agenda. Psihoyos uses these social actors to explore several facets of thematically recurrent guilt in the film. Interestingly, guilt, while one of the primary motivating factors behind The Cove’s inception, is also employed by Psihoyos as a tool to influence the audience’s opinions.

Ric O’Barry scans the ocean for dolphins to be captured for use in the popular 1964 TV series Flipper.

Ric O’Barry scans the ocean for dolphins to be captured for use in the popular 1964 TV series Flipper.

The guilt that activist Ric O’Barry’s faces is one of the predominant driving factor behind the movie. Psihoyos, like most of the viewing audience the film caters to, is not aware of the magnitude of Taiji dolphin slaughter before consulting O’Barry. Psihoyos, intrigued by O’Barry’s shocking claims, decides to pursue the story further in the form of a documentary. O’Barry, who captured and trained dolphins for the show Flipper, expresses regret when facing the realization that his actions led to the monetization and widespread popularity of dolphin based entertainment. In several instances, O’Barry is remorseful that his involvement with Flipper subsequently led to the systematic dolphin hunting in Taiji. He contends that he needs to fight against dolphin captivity and the sale of mercury laden dolphin meat as they are direct consequences of his actions. O’Barry’s strong sense of guilt adds urgency and legitimacy to his cause; his authority as an activist is validated, as he is experienced both as a captor and liberator of dolphins. His sense of obligation to save dolphins ultimately increases the likelihood that the viewer will support his beliefs and perspectives.

Taiji fishermen boasting about their previous whale killing experiences.

Taiji fishermen boasting about their previous whale killing experiences.

The Cove also frequently examines the apparent lack of guilt of the Taiji fishermen and the Japanese IWC representatives that protect them. The representatives are characterized by Psihoyos as bureaucratic enablers of unnecessary dolphin butchery. The fishermen are portrayed without any sense of compassion, often laughing or taunting the documentary film crew after killing dolphins. The fishermen, who do not seem disturbed by their violent conduct, often berate or mock the concerned filmmakers. Psihoyos later references other activist movements in order to strengthen his own; he includes footage from Tsuchimoto’s Minamata: The Victims and Their World in order to draws comparisons between the harmful actions of Chisso executives and the IWC delegates responsible for the dolphin slaughter. Both the fishermen and IWC representatives responsible for the killings are portrayed as uncaring, distant, and emotionally vacant; their detached behavior is in many ways similar to Tsuchimoto’s representation of the Chisso executives. The voices of Psihoyos and O’Barry are also evocative of the strong demand for justice present during the Minamata protests.

The large Seaworld audience helps illustrate the wide spread implications of the dolphin crisis while simultaneously appealing to bystander guilt.

The large Seaworld audience helps illustrate the wide spread implications of the dolphin crisis while simultaneously appealing to bystander guilt.

Guilt also plays a crucial role in understanding the interplay between Psihoyos’ film and the audience. The inclusion of Seaworld imagery increases the relevance and applicability of the film to it’s viewer base. Most audience members are likely to possess some degree of knowledge of the theme park either through direct experience or outside observation. Use of these easily identifiable images make the audience feel in some way responsible for perpetuating the problem. Psihoyos induces subtle tinges of guilt in the viewer to increase the potency of his message. There are undercurrents of guilt in the film’s call to action as well. The film ends with a direct appeal to the viewers. In the final frames, the film uses inclusive language when speaking to the audience; the word “you” adds a sense of personal urgency and implies viewer involvement. The call to action plays off of contrasts established earlier in the film; many viewers would likely feel the need to align themselves as an activist rather than an “inactivist.”

It is clear that guilt is one of the main factors behind the creation of The Cove. Less apparent is Psihoyos’ use of guilt to more effectively enthrall and captivate his audience. While Psihoyos’ manipulation of viewer guilt does not detract from the film’s integrity or value, it should be examined to gain a more complete and multifaceted understanding of common documentary conventions.

Societal Expectations and Its Double Standard in Dolphin Slaughter

With the progression of time societal norms, expectations, and standards begin to transgress across boundaries of country and culture. From this, a dilemma arises in which one questions what exactly is right and wrong, and who is to set such standards in the various growing societies of the world. In the 2009 Documentary, The Cove, produced by former National Geographic Photographer Louie Psihoyos, mass killings of dolphins within Taiji, Japan of the Wakayama Prefecture is put into light and questioned on a moralistic level. The film follows former dolphin trainer, Ric O’Barry who claims that the dolphin killings are wrong on several different levels, and are utterly unnecessary and inhumane altogether. This controversial claim has put the Japanese on the defense as they argue that the killings of the dolphins for the usage of food are merely part of Japanese culture, which cannot simply be deemed morally wrong by another culture’s standards.


Keep Out Sign Preceding the Taiji Cove

The killing and eating of dolphin and dolphin meat is placed under the attention of the world and subjugated as morally incorrect by the cast of The Cove. In the documentary, this standard is set in place under the justification that dolphins are creatures of intelligence and emotion as opposed to the livestock animals that are slaughtered by the masses all over the world (especially with Western Cultures of meat indulging). Ric O’Barry brings to attention a sense of a “crisis of conscience” through his narration as he proclaims the inhumanity of animal killings of a specific species of animal (the dolphin). The aspect of a double standard comes about as the usage of other animals for food is not once questioned while the Japanese culture of eating dolphin meat is detested and looked down upon. The modernist values of America become essentially imposed upon Japanese culture, a culture geographically far and essentially unrelated to that of America. As in many foreign cultures (not that of just Japan), killing for sustenance and nutrition is necessary for the continuation of life and culture.


Undercover Video of Dolphin Killings in Secret Taiji Cove

Ric O’Barry and the crew of The Cove, however bring to light the thought of dolphin meat poisoning the people of Japan rather than providing nourishment and nutrition. The film incorporates the Japanese history of the Minimata Disease, using the topic as a focal point in arguing the immorality of dolphin consumption on a dual level. On one hand, the killing and eating of dolphin is morally wrong as dolphins are intelligent creatures, while also on another hand, the fisherman who sell the dolphin meat are essentially killing and poisoning the Japanese people. The Minimata Disease was first discovered in 1956, as a result of mercury-induced poisonings that left many Japanese citizens impaired and deformed. Dolphins, being higher up on the aquatic food chain, are likely to contain higher levels of mercury than that of smaller fish due to bioaccumulation. In mentioning such, the film is able to provide another point in justifying dolphin killing and consumption as unnecessary practices. The film includes such argument in order to nullify the Japanese defense of the utility of dolphin meat.


Interview of Taiji Councilmen on the Controversy of Dolphin Killing/Eating

Psihoyos creates the film in such a way as to heighten the sense of a “post” society in which some sort of disaster is to come. This post-disaster that is envisioned is brought about through the dolphin killings which could both lead to a natural imbalance and widespread death (through the Minimata Disease). The Cove is set in a sort of heist scene, incorporating elements of technological espionage, creating the sense that the people of Taiji were hiding a dark secret. In incorporating such aspects, Psihoyos effectively predisposes the idea of dolphin slaughter and consumption to be immoral and cruel. In analyzing the film further, very little consideration is placed towards Japan’s unique and extensive culture, as the film focuses predominately on the mission of the exposure to the “wrong-doings” of the Japanese; leaving audience to only further question the social bias presented within the film.

Social and cultural alignment across nations are extremely unlikely leading to inevitable debate and controversy over regional food cultures. Japan and its long-held culture of eating dolphin meat is deemed as both wrong and inhumane by Ric O’Barry and the production cast of the film The Cove. This heist-styled documentary film emphasizes the innocence of the dolphins and the need to protect such animals. Ironically, however, much is left to be heard about the many other animals that are slaughtered daily, giving rise to biased and exclusive sentiments towards the animal of dolphin. In this on-going controversial debate, Japan defends its rights as a culturally independent and separate nation, staying steadfast with its cultural lifestyle and eating habits involving dolphin meat.

Flipper ruins the world, and mercury poisoning is bad too

The Cove is a 2009 film by Louie Psihoyos about the slaughter of dolphins in Japan. Lead by former dolphin trainer Ric O’barry, the film is an insightful look into the evils of dolphin fishing in Taiji, Japan.

the man was one flipper how cool is that?

the man was one flipper how cool is that?

What starts off as a tour of the secret killing cove by O’barry, swiftly becomes a covert operation to showcase the rampant slaughter that was a yearly custom at that point. Dragging together various Hollywood and ocean specialists, Psihoyos and O’barry successfully place cameras throughout the killing cove, and capture the slaughter for the whole world to see. This is shown parallel to a number of interviews by Psihoyos of various people of interest including the Japanese deputy of fisheries, and the IWC chair members legal adviser. By juxtaposing these two moments we get a skewed view of the conflict between O’barry and Psihoyos against the Japanese government, and the film skillfully forwards its ideas as being better for human and animal rights.


A portion of the film focuses upon a proposal to get  schools  to use dolphin meat found and harvested in Taiji to feed children. To prove this is a bad idea we are given various statistics from food officials who state that the amount of mercury meant to be in dolphin meat is 0.4 ppm. Upon being given samples of various meat samples sold in Taiji, Tetsuya Endo a health university officer at Hokkaido determines the mercury ppm to be 2000 ppm, well over the limit and in his words “very,very toxic”. This showcase of the incredible deadliness of the meat is another point for proving the futility of dolphin slaughter. With the meat being more deadly to humans than nearly any other fish, the reasons for eating it becomes very construed and traditional, instead of being based in logic. The fact that Minamata disease is a well documented case of the evils of mercury poisoning should be a warning to others not to go down the same route. Luckily a pair of town council members stopped the movement from going forward, however it still doesn’t make up for the ludicrous of the proposal in the first place.

In the movie its explained that one of the main reasons behind the continual slaughter of dolphins has to do with the town culture. O’barry reputes this by saying this is only a modern idea, and that they’re only doing it for the money. When taking into account the various shady dealings the Japanese government has had on behalf of the dolphin industry (including bribing various small poor Caribbean nations with large million dollar fishing houses) it seems ridiculously important that this tradition continue regardless of the intention or the benefit of the act. Its possible that the government may be doing this as a way of getting back at westerners for interfering with their culture since the 1940’s, with fishing being the one vestige unchanged. But why should fishing be the one ideal? Even with the extremity Japan has gone through for food throughout history, there are a variety of other unchanged Japanese concepts that could remain sacred from westerners.

place in point

place in point

I was confused as to why the small poor Caribbean nations gave their votes to Japan in the first place. Surely there had to be a greater reason then to be just for the money. As a former IWC member said, the majority of the “gifts” the Japanese gave are being used for means other then shipping, so why all the work for a large useless house? Why not better prepare the world for environmental destruction? With the amount of poison in the sea increasing every year, and with the fishing industry having as many problems as it does,(not only with the slaughter of dolphins, but sharks,whales, turtles etc) their votes could potentially help the global community better itself for a long term fishing stabilization. Yet it these smaller countries continued to let japan walk over and vote for them, letting an economic powerhouse continue to dominate. This is a matter of which the film does not delve deep enough.

In conclusion, I find the film to be a thorough documentary about a heist of information. The fact that the Japanese government used and enabled the town of Taiji is sad, but I’m sure there’s more information to be had. One of the larger criticisms I’ve had of the film is its inability to see why the Japanese did what they did. Besides money (which O’barry said they denied greater money to stop working at one point) and tradition (which I find silly and frivolous) the movie lacks reasoning as to why the Japanese spent millions of dollars on a scheme to enrich a small town, and potentially kill tons of people. Despite this, I still find the film to hold a seminal place in our readings as a great example of a film that explains Japanese culture and some of the darker tendencies of the people. Alongside the factory ship and my year of meats, the film helps us understand the food culture of japan.