Though the details are hazy, I remember seeing the dolphin shows at Marine Life Oceanarium in Mississippi when I was a little girl. I loved dolphins (still do) and remember how my father walked me out to the holding pens where trainers kept the sleek, smiley-faced mammals when they weren’t performing. I don’t remember what my father told me when we watched the dolphins swim around and around in these pens. I do remember that I was happy that I could be so close to something I loved.

Yet I still recognized the size difference between the ocean where these dolphins usually swam and the rusty pen that was now their home. But as small as I was back then, my takeaway was probably that I got to be close to the dolphins, much closer than anyone could get to them at the show.

Marine Life doesn’t exist anymore. It was destroyed in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. The dolphins that once lived there were swept out to sea in the storm surge and eventually found. But I’ve never forgotten that place or the push-pull in me that began that day out by the pens. After all, I’ve gone on two dolphin swims and am currently an aquarium member, but am conflicted about putting mammals like these in captivity.

Watching “The Cove” this past weekend did little to settle me down. The documentary, which is now an Academy Award nominee, features a group of dolphin activists who travel to Japan to expose an annual dolphin slaughter that local fishermen have tried to keep out of the public eye.

The most prominent of those activists is former dolphin trainer Ric O’Barry, known for his work on the television show “Flipper.” After arguably sparking a worldwide fascination with these creatures through his work on the show, O’Barry decided that dolphins weren’t meant to be jumping through hoops for audiences or confined to aquariums for educational purposes. So he has spent the past few decades fighting against dolphin captivity and, in some cases, getting arrested and sued for his efforts.

In some circles, O’Barry’s not what you’d call popular. In this movie, he’s aroused a fair bit of ire from the Japanese government, which, among other things, says a. its catch quotas are based on scientific information and b. foreigners like O’Barry need to respect “national and cultural differences” in diet. Both arguments are fair. However, when you see what the fisherman actually do to round up these mammals so that some can be sold to aquariums and others can be sold for meat, you understand why the filmmakers went to the lengths they did to catch this on film. Rigging the entire cove where the slaughters took place with concealed cameras and microphones, the film crew captures scenes that are truly horrific. Add to this the discovery that high concentrations of mercury were discovered in dolphin meat being sold in Japan, and it’s easy to be disturbed by this film.

So, see “The Cove” if you haven’t. And if you have seen it, let me know what you thought in comments.


Debarking Since I’m on an animal rights kick today, take a peek at this story in today’s New York Times about debarking, or the act of cutting your dog’s vocal cords so that they can’t make a lot of racket. The good news is that the practice is falling out of favor. The bad news is that people actually still do this to their pets. Maybe those owners should be debarked too.

Number One The new online viral sensation is the meme “What was the number one song on Billboard when you were born?” For me, it was “Me and Mrs. Jones” by soul singer Billy Paul. Interestingly enough, the song that preceeded it at the top of the list back in 1972 was “I Am Woman” by Helen Reddy. Then, after Paul’s three week run at number one, Carly Simon took over with “You’re So Vain.” I choose not to read too much into any of this, but would like to know what the number one song was on the day you came out of your mama’s womb.

Eliot Spitzer Say what you will about the past year of his life, but the former governor has been on the airwaves a lot lately talking about how people should be furious that the banking system is being rebuilt exactly the same way it was before it all collapsed. Here’s his recent appearance on last night’s “Colbert Report.”

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