Dolphin protest at the Oscars
Human reflexes were fast in shutting down Ric O'Barry at last night's Oscars, but not fast enough for a gazillion viewers to see his Academy Awards protest sign, "Text Dolphin to 44144." O'Barry held the protest sign while sharing the Academy Award for Best Documentary film for "The Cove" about the dolphin slaughter in Japan. See video of protest.
His actions should have been no surprise. O'Barry has never pretended to be anything but an activist on behalf of dolphins, a lifelong dedication that began when he watched Flipper "commit suicide," as he put it. He said the animal drowned itself. O'Barry trained the original Flipper for the '60s TV show of the same name and continued to work with the mammal until Flipper's death made him understand living in living in captivity for dolphins is like being confined to a bathtub. Dolphins have complicated social structures, intricate ways of communicating and a territory that covers thousands of kilometres.
On the red carpet before the awards, "The Cove's" director Louie Psihoyos and O'Barry commented on "The Cove," a documentary about the annual killing of 2,000 dolphins near the Japanese fishing village of Taiji. O'Barry called it the largest slaughter of dolphins in the world.
O'Barry came to Mexico when I was based there and working on a story about dophins captured in the Pacific, trucked across Baja in abominable conditions and held in La Paz. Activist organizations were unable to obtain their release to the ocean - despite efforts of the federal enviroment secretary because the international dolphin theme park industry is too lucrative - and the animals endured living in those shallow pens during at least one, and maybe two, hurricanes, before they were shipped who knows where. Several died while at La Paz.
O'Barry opposes any form of dolphin captivity, including "swim-with-the dolphins" programs and the use of dolphins as therapy for children with handicaps. He points out the dophins aren't really smiling; it's just a figment of our self-centred imaginations.