‘The Cove’ sheds light on slaughter of dolphins in Japan

Photo courtesy of ‘The Cove’

The Cove, the Oscar-winning documentary from 2009, is still just as powerful a film three years after its original release. The story of one man’s journey to expose the horrific slaughter of dolphins in Taiji, Japan will shake viewers to the core. It’s almost impossible to walk away from the movie without becoming emotional over the plight of these majestic marine animals.

What makes the 90-minute documentary so inspired is not just what it has to say about the dolphins and their difficulties, but how the story is discovered. Filmmaker Louie Psihoyos casts the action of the film against the backdrop of a cinematic thriller. His team of experts, along with dolphin guru Ric O’Barry, documents all of the secretive efforts to film the dolphin slaughter in a tucked-away cove in Taiji. Even though the final 10 minutes show the ultimate fate of these dolphins, it’s the journey to this unbelievable finale that sticks with the viewer. The difficulty of the media to penetrate this remote fishing town is on parallel with Area 51. It appears from the footage in the documentary that no one wants the truth exposed, likely because of the tumult that would surely materialize.

O’Barry becomes the hero of the film, and any representative of the Japanese fishing industry comes off as misinformed and in denial. The country’s actions with the International Whaling Commission are portrayed as similarly misguided.

The story doesn’t begin and end in Taiji. According to Psihoyos’ film, the meat from the dead dolphins makes its way across Japan, sometimes under the guise of whale meat. The mercury in this meat is astronomical, according to the film’s subjects. The dolphins that escape death (mostly bottled-nosed dolphins, like Flipper) are sold to aquariums and dolphin shows.

The Cove is activist cinema, for sure. But after watching these bloody images and finding out the truth, it becomes impossible not to be motivated. Before watching the movie, one can claim ignorance. After receiving such vivid visuals, ignorance is no longer an option.

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

  • The Cove

  • 2009

  • Directed by Louie Psihoyos

  • Written by Mark Monroe

  • Featuring Ric O’Barry

  • Running time: 92 minutes

  • Rated PG-13 for disturbing content

  • Rating: ★★★★

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications. E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

2 thoughts on “‘The Cove’ sheds light on slaughter of dolphins in Japan

  • September 18, 2012 at 9:59 am

    The cove is for sure an eye opener. These events are taking place right now. Just yesterday pilot whales were slaughtered for their meat. I urge anyone who is interested to take a stand, don’t buy a ticket to a marine park!

  • September 18, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    Definately agree Alex Lewis! “The Cove” changed my life and many others I know. I will never again visit an aquarium or marine park again as long as they house marine mammals! People need to educate themselves on the subject of marine mammal captivity and watching the documentary “The Cove” is the best start. And they don’t need to DO anything after they watch….that’s the beauty of it….they just have to NOT DO something, which is ever buy another ticket to an aquarium or marine park again. Supporting these places supports the killing of dolphins and whales! If you truly love them, give them up. Let them be FREE!


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