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Questioning Dolphins

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image from the move, "The Cove"

I've seen a lot of disturbing images in my time reels of Holocaust atrocities, raw battle footage from Iwo Jima, aftermath photos of Dresden"and the killing sequences from "The Cove" (though only an extremely small part of the film) are on par with them. While the death of animals cannot be equated to the murder, mayhem and suffering of human beings, the slaughter of those dolphins has certainly stuck with me.

It has brought me to a new awareness: Going to visit the captive dolphins and whales is like going to death row to play with the inmates. Their deceptive smiles and friendly performances belie the bigger issues. Where did these creatures come from, where are they going and how long do they live?

I had the good fortune to spend a weekend with former dolphin trainer Ric O'Barry, the main persona in The Cove, and his son Lincoln, and I found real answers to those questions. Until recently, I would've thought how cool to go on a dolphin-swim program and bond with those amazing friends of man. Not anymore.

When I was a kid, I was amazed by dolphin shows, but now I am even more amazed. Many of those dolphins are snatched from the sea, and their life expectancy is drastically reduced. In the wild, they'll traverse up to 50 miles of ocean in a day"a far cry from the caged lagoons or concrete tanks of captivity. But even with a shortened lifespan, dolphins are big business and can generate millions for their owners.

The O'Barrys have been rescuing dolphins for decades and it's no wonder they are not loved by the multi-billion dollar dolphinarum business. As Lincoln told me, "Anywhere in the world there's a dolphin in trouble, inevitably my dad's phone will ring."

With all the answers now at my fingertips, my main question has evolved: Is this really any less barbaric than applauding dancing bears or the other now-outlawed animal acts of the nineteenth century? The simplest way for me to show the dolphins how intelligent I am is by how I choose to spend my discretionary income.

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Peter's work has taken him all over the world and all over the cable networks. His programs for Unsolved History (Discovery Channel) have taken him inside Hitler's Bunker and Area 51. His three-part series Gun Camera aired on the Military Channel. His Megadisasters series (25 episodes) aired for three years on The History Channel. And he's created many programs for National Geographic that have taken him everywhere from Auschwitz to Iwo Jima. Peter lives in Los Angeles.
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Peter Hankoff is an award-winning director/writer/producer whose work has taken him all over the world and all over the cable networks. His programs for Unsolved History (Discovery Channel) have taken him inside Hitler's Bunker and Area 51. His (more...)

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