I’m a vegetarian, so it doesn’t take much animal cruelty to get me up in arms. But I always thought places like Sea World were havens for injured animals, which made me fully support them. Well, yesterday, I vowed to never visit another Sea World again after seeing the documentary “The Cove.” I feel tricked and lied to by all of the aquariums I’ve visited. Trust me, the animals you see there do not have “Free Willy” tales. Read on to see just how brutal the dolphin trade is. [Update: Found video that does not auto play, hooray!]Ric O’Barry, the man who trained the dolphins that appeared on “Flipper” in the ’70s helped the filmmakers paint an honest picture of what goes on with dolphins in captivity. O’Barry has made a serious 360 from his days on “Flipper” and is now the biggest activist against putting dolphins in captivity. The whole phenomenon of swimming with dolphins that O’Barry largely created is now one that he is actively trying to stop. Here’s why:
- The dolphins that you see at tourist attractions or that you swam with in the Caribbean were most likely bought from a tiny cove in Taiji, Japan, at a going rate of about $150,000 each.
- Fisherman cruelly scare the dolphins into this cove by pounding on metal poles that send sound waves through the waters. Once in the cove, the fisherman have their pick of thousands of dolphins to sell into captivity. The dolphins that aren’t selected are slaughtered. This is the fate of approximately 23,000 dolphins a year.
- The slaughtered dolphins are used for their meat. Except that, since dolphins are at the top of the food chain, they have the highest level of mercury of any fish, which means their meat is practically deadly. Most people in Japan don’t eat dolphin, so the meat doesn’t even sell well.
- Since it’s so hard to sell the dolphin meat, other animal products are infused with dolphin meat to sell more meat at a cheaper cost. Most consumers have no clue that dolphin meat is being mixed with other animal products. As a result, many Japanese people are unknowingly eating meats with dangerously high levels of mercury.
- And as for people who voluntarily eat dolphin meat, they often don’t know of the harmful amounts of mercury poison it contains. When tested, dolphin meat eaters usually return positive results for mercury poisoning.
- But back to the dolphins who get to live, albeit, in captivity. Since all dolphins are auditory creatures who depend on their sense of hearing, those dolphins who are put into tanks become highly stressed due to continual sound bouncing off the walls.
- If not quickly treated, dolphins will die from the stress. To prevent that, captive dolphins are fed fish coated with extreme amounts of medicine to downplay their stress.
So recap: Essentially 23,000 dolphins a year are murdered to become food product, even though their meat is deadly to humans and not widely eaten anywhere in the world. And those dolphins that are spared death are sold into captivity. And the dolphins you saw doing tricks at the dolphinarium on your last vacation were probably ripped from their natural habitat specifically to entertain you, which causes them stress to the point of needing drugs. So the next time you’re headed to dolphin show, think again. And instead of seeing the latest Hollywood animal garbage like “G-Force,” opt for this documentary instead. “The Cove” has won awards at nearly every film festival, most notably taking home the Audience Award at the Sundance Festival. It is an absolute must-see.