Sunday, 22 April 2012

The Cove

2010 Oscar winner The Cove is a documentary that looks into and questions the morality of Japan’s dolphin hunting policy. The film shows viewers evidence of the 23,000 dolphins which are killed in Taiji, Japan each year. It also touches upon the trade of catching and selling dolphins for the entertainment industry.

The main interviewee is Ric O’Barry, the man responsible for training dolphins for the 1960s TV show Flipper. After his favourite dolphin is said to have committed suicide, O’Barry turned away from dolphin training and vowed to free every captured dolphin he could. After discovering the cruel practice of dolphin killing in Taiji, O’Barry has spent many years fighting the local fisherman and government and trying to bring the killing to the attention of the international community, with little success.

The Cove in question is a secluded bay in Taiji which is protected from prying eyes by guards and razor wire. The film makers attempt to show the world what happens behind the fences by sneaking down to the cove at night and placing cameras hidden in fake rocks. The two scenes in which the crew attempt this are extremely tense. Once we see the pictures from the hidden cameras, the true nature of the cruelty is seen for the first time and it is extremely difficult to watch.  Dolphins are herded into the cove using a wall of sound and trapped by nets overnight. The next day, fishermen go into the bay in small boats and harpoon each dolphin several times while they flail in pain. Once each animal is almost dead they are hauled onto boats with spiked rods. The sea is turned a deep shade of red and the whole scene is disgusting and gruesome.

Japan comes out of the film very badly indeed and the entire film can be viewed as an attack on their whole fishing policy. As well as the cruelty, the film makers bring to light the toxic levels of Mercury in the dolphin meat which could cause long lasting damage to the human population. Their concern for both dolphin and human is met with resentment and cover ups by the Japanese fishermen and authorities.

Personally I have no problem with the fact that dolphins are killed for food. If humans are willing to eat cows then why not horses, dogs and dolphins too? It is a strange ideal that we have that only certain animals are edible. What I do have a problem with though is the incredible cruelty and indifference to the animals suffering. My main problem with the film is that as a brilliant piece of propaganda it shows western people going to Japan to save cute dolphins from the evil Japanese. If the Japanese had a particular affinity for chickens then they could make exactly the same film in Europe or America set around the practice of battery farming. While the cruelty is universal, the practice is very much subjective depending upon where you are from. The film makers try to further persecute the Japanese by stating that they can be arrested and imprisoned without charge for 30 days. This just made me think of Guantanamo Bay where their countrymen keep people without charge for much longer than 30 days.

Overall the film is a damming report of Japanese fishing policy and shows extreme and unnecessary cruelty. It is also one of the most one sided and biased documentaries I’ve seen and is very much shown from a Western ecological perspective. That being said, I think it is important that cruelty and injustice is shown, whether it be animal or human and this film has bought to light a disgraceful practice which would have otherwise gone unreported.


1 comment:

  1. Today scientists have declared that dolphins and whales should be given non person human status. There brains are as large as mans. These higher beings live in complex societies and have culture. I really think it is time that humans give up the idea that they are the only "sentient" "intelligent" beings on the planet. Dolphins are apex predators like man at the top of the food chain. Dolphins cannot be compared to chickens,cows or pigs. The are highly evolved beings who really deserve better. The practice of slaughter used in Taiji is called pithing a terribly slow and painful death. I encourage the author to read "The Dolphin in The Mirror" by Dr. Diane Reese to learn about cetaceans intelligence.