The Cove’s Ric O’Barry Recaps his Oscar Moment

CARE2 Editor’s Note: Again, we’ve teamed up with our good friends over at Earth Island Journal, this time to deliver you guys with a Ric O’Barry post-Oscar interview. Check it out and if you haven’t already, please do your part to help end the slaughter of dolphins in Japan by signing the Care2 petition. Thanks! 

It’s axiomatic that any time the powers-that-be try to censor political speech they just end up drawing more attention to the message they wanted to squelch. 

Evidence of that truth was on display last night during the 82 Annual Academy Awards, when Ric O’Barry — protagonist of the film, The Cove, which took home the trophy for Best Documentary — tried to use his 15 seconds of screen time to jolt new energy into the campaign to halt the dolphin capture and slaughter in Taiji, Japan.

As soon as he got on stage, co-director Fisher Stevens rattled off the obligatory Thank-Yous then included, “My hero, Ric O’Barry, who is not only a hero to this species but to all species.” That’s when O’Barry unfurled a small, plain, black-and-white banner reading, “Text DOLPHIN to 44144.”

That was enough to get the Oscar censors’ attention. Before the other co-director, Louie Psihoyos, could get in more than his own single Thank You, the camera cut to the audience and then the orchestra started in on its “exit-the-stage-now” theme.

But the Oscar producers’ shoddy treatment of O’Barry and company only succeeded in getting even more attention to the cause to protect Japan dolphins. This morning’s LA Times gave O’Barry a thumbs up, and the Seattle Post Intelligencer also offered a nod, as did all sorts of bloggers.

“I didn’t know until this morning that holding up the sign was the right thing to do,” O’Barry told me this morning as he prepped for an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper that will take place later today. “People are taking action because of it. But the Academy doesn’t like that. And I thought I was screwing up Louie’s speech when they turned on the exit music.”

Psihoyos got a chance to get say his piece backstage, telling reporters that, “The biggest thing will be when dolphins are no longer slaughtered for meat” and  “If people take action, [they] can solve this problem.” As of this morning, about 40,000 people have sent the “dolphin” texts, which connects them to an online petition sponsored by Care2.

Far more important, though, is that the Oscar award will open the way for a widespread theatrical release in Japan. As O’Barry wrote in an email to supporters at 2 am this morning:

“Japan has 126 million people; only 600 have seen The Cove so far. Those who saw it were shocked and dismayed that this slaughter was happening in their country. We need to enlist their help and the help of millions of their fellow citizens to stop the Japanese government from issuing 23,000 permits annually to slaughter dolphins.”

As I came to learn when I traveled to Japan with O’Barry last September to write a profile of him for the Journal, the only way the dolphin slaughter will stop is if ordinary Japanese come to oppose it. The movie will have to be a key part of generating that opposition, since many Japanese are unaware of the annual hunt. “It’s really all about Japan for us,” O’Barry said to me this morning. “It guarantees there is interest in seeing this, even if the government doesn’t want people to see it. People will see it now.”

He said, “If another documentary had won, we would have gotten bumped. It’s a major breakthrough in the campaign. It guarantees a theatrical release in Japan. The distributor was struggling. But a movie that has won the Academy Awards will get into theaters.”

O’Barry said he was extremely nervous as he and the filmmakers walked on stage, but he knew that he had to unfurl his banner message:  “I had butterflies in my stomach. I wanted to throw up on my shoes. But I knew that one billion people were watching, and I had to do it.”

O’Barry is no stranger to the movie making business, having spent years as a stuntman and animal trainer on the Flipper series and number of other television shows and films. Still, he said that being at the Oscars made him feel a bit like an odd fish. “I felt different than everyone else in the room,” he said, recalling his emotions in the moments before the award was announced. “I’m not in the industry. I am out of time and out of place. I don’t belong there at all. I am thinking what this will mean to the camping if The Cove is mentioned.”

O’Barry said that it was great that James Cameron shook his hand as he walked down the aisle, and that backstage George Clooney told Psihoyos that it was lame he didn’t get a chance to talk. Oh, and that “the guy” who gave them the Oscar trophies was very encouraging and complimentary and said he had seen The Cove twice. O’Barry might not have recognized him, but “the guy” was, well, Matt Damon.



photo credit: thanks to Zest-pk via flickr
By Jason Mark, editor Earth Island Journal


William C
William C3 months ago


W. C
W. C3 months ago

Thank you.

Sylvie M.
Sylvie M7 years ago

Thanks for sharing this!

Debra Hanna
Debra Hanna7 years ago

Imagine no more Dolphins. This must stop!

Thanks for putting this up for all to see.

Shraddha Jadhav
Shraddha J7 years ago

Stop this. I have now words. I have also emailed and signed a lot of petitions about it. I feel sick. I'm ashamed of being human.

Ambrose Merly
Past Member 7 years ago

that was a great film

Tammy Smith
T Zabel7 years ago

Thanks for the article. Lots of great information!

Bill K.
Bill K7 years ago

I recommend Ric O'Barry's book Behind The Dolphin Smile. It's as exciting and informative as The Cove and tells the story of his early days fighting for dolphins.

Doctor V.
Doctor V7 years ago

WE DEMAND FULL DISCLOSURE AND ACCOUNTABILITY for GEOEngineering and Climate manipulation that has been going on for years!!!

Are you aware that the government admits to the deployment of aerosolized particulates of known toxicity over America for training in military applications and other purposes? Geoengineering? Climate Control?


HAARP and Beyond - Dr. Nick Begich VERY INFORMATIVE...

Jesse Ventura investigates HAARP

"I can’ t believe that people spend time on the internet arguing about “contrails versus
chemtrails” when this has been going on openly for decades. Call it what you want, the
military has been spraying us without our permission for generations."
the full article -

See the "Contrails in the Media" section near the bottom of the page... KNBC 4 in LA, the Weather Channel, PBS

Signs of toxic chemicals used to Modify Climate showing up in drinking water??? Hmmm... on KNBC 4, LA and KTVU 2, SF Bay area...

Mervi R.
Mervi R7 years ago

I´m so glad The Cove won, huge congrats and let´s hope the dolphin slaughter ends NOW!