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The Skinny on Oscar-Nominated Documentaries 'Food Inc.' and 'The Cove'

Michael Pollan and friends reveal the food industry's darkest secrets in 'Food Inc.' and Japan's ongoing dolphin slaughter is exposed in 'The Cove.'

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These creatures are incredible. And the filmmaking is incredibly beautiful -- like Winged Migration with cetaceans. If they get the footage, you're going to want to see it, you're going to have to, because of the injustice of it.

There's also another layer of complexity to the film. There's the political stuff. Commercial whaling was outlawed in 1986, but dolphins -- members of the same family -- aren't protected.

The International Whaling Commission deems them "small cetaceans" and, apparently, therefore worthy of slaughter. Japan, which has tripled its dolphin killing since the ban, kills 23,000 dolphins each year, and thousands more are sold into captivity.

The country is also trying to overturn the whaling ban, and as the film shows, it is offering financial support to small, bankrupt nations to get folks on their side.

And there's also some serious health issues. Dolphins, sadly, are toxic-waste dumps these days. Their meat has been shown to have up to 1,000 times the allowable level of mercury. Eating their meat could be hazardous to a person's health, but often consumers may not know they're eating it.

The Cove shows that dolphin meat is sometimes passed off as whale meat -- and was even being served in school lunches in Taiji.

All this might seem a little depressing. And in some ways, it is. But you won't notice until after the film, because you'll be so blown away by what's on screen. It will captivate you, it will break your heart, and hopefully, it will make you jump out of your seat and help.

And if so, here's what you can do:

Tara Lohan is a senior editor at AlterNet. You can follow her on Twitter @TaraLohan.

 
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