September 3, 2009—Former dolphin trainer Ric O'Barry, star of the new documentary The Cove, again confronts the Japanese town where dolphins are trapped and killed by hand in "drive hunts."
© 2009 National Geographic (AP)
The animal trainer for the 1960s TV series "Flipper" headed to Taiji in western Japan this week as he continues his crusade to put an end to the slaughter of dolphins.
SOUNDBITE (English) Ric O'Barry, Dolphin Activist
"This is it" Question: How many dolphins have been killed in that cove, do you think ? "Hundreds of thousands, maybe half a (m) million. This is the dolphin's worst nightmare, right here. This is Dante's Inferno for dolphins. But maybe it's over ? Now that we know that the dolphin meat is poisoned, what is the point of killing dolphins?"
American Ric O'Barry is the unlikely star of "The Cove", a new award-winning documentary that depicts the dolphin slaughter in the seaside town.
Water in the cove turns red as fishermen kill the dolphins that they have frightened and chased into the cove by banging metal poles in the water.
OBarry hopes recent reports of high mercury levels in dolphin meat, which the Japanese government acknowledges, will convince Japanese people to stop eating dolphins.
The film, which won this year's audience award at the Sundance Film Festival, and is directed by former National Geographic photographer Louie Psihoyos, mixes shots of gliding and breaching dolphins with violent pictures from the hunt.
Its hero is O'Barry who started his campaign after training dolphins for movies and TV.
The film also shows activists confronting fishermen, who defend their actions as a way to make a living. Meat from one dolphin nets about 500 US Dollars and is sold at Japanese supermarkets.
As news media following him reported, as soon as O'Barry arrived this week for the start of the annual hunt, he was stopped by several plainclothes police officers who demanded his crew members show their passports.
One officer said "The Cove" included footage shot by trespassing.
O'Barry said his team was challenging that allegation because the cordoned-off area was in a national park.
In Taiji, the fishermen have long turned tight-lipped toward outsiders who question the hunt.
One blocked the door of a supermarket, preventing O'Barry's crew from entering to buy groceries.
News reports suggest most Japanese have never eaten dolphin and would likely be stunned by the slaughter portrayed in the movie.
The Japanese government, which allows a hunt of about 20-thousand dolphins a year, argues that killing them and whales is no different from raising cows or pigs for slaughter.
OBarry was ecstatic that the fishermen had not gone out to the cove, at least during the first days of his visit. He says media attention may have delayed the hunt for a few days, but he cant stay for the whole six months of the hunt.