After watching the Academy Awards last Sunday, my eyes opened up to a new film that peaked my interest. The winner for best documentary, The Cove, tells a story the Japanese government would rather not be made public. The documentary follows O’Barry’s efforts to make a video record of a dolphin slaughter that takes place regularly in a secluded cove in Taiji, Japan, far away from public view. Here thousands of dolphins are trapped, some to be captured and sold to dolphinariums, but most to be brutally massacred for food. I am nowhere near an environmentalist or a nature lover but The Cove was definitely hard to watch at times, and the slaughter scene itself is certainly not for the faint of heart. But it is something that cries out to be seen.
The film team go in like a Navy Seal team, with night-vision and under the cover of darkness. It is an act of incredible risk because it has become all too apparent that the locals will do anything to protect their secret slaughter. The only downside to the film is that it doesn’t address what would happen to the small city of Taijii if the dolphin slaughter were stopped. No one eats dolphin anyways, and most shouldn’t because of the high levels of mercury present in the meat (even sushi-grade tuna has high levels). So why does this horrible act even happen and will the city survive without doing this? Those question are unfortunately never explored fully. Still, this story was amazingly told and was so tough to watch, that it will linger with me for a very long time.
To help balance things out in The Cove there is also coverage of the International Whaling Commission gatherings as well as an interview with a Japanese government official in Tokyo. Two local politicians in Taiji, at great risk to themselves, also offer a few comments on camera about toxic dolphin meat in Japanese school lunches. The majority of the population in Japan, has no idea about the dolphin harvest in Taiga. The Japanese consumers have a right to know that their government is allowing the sale of mis-labeled meat and that this meat is toxic. This to me was the most interesting aspect of the film. Honestly, just really interesting information that didn’t bore me one bit.
However, one could argue that humans are the top of the food chain on our planet and that we kill animals to live. Just because cows and other farm animals are domesticated, we don’t feel guilty killing and eating them. Dolphins are animals just like cows, so why is that the society views marine animals more desirable than the animals on land? This is why I love this documentary, as it doesn’t try to sway an opinion, it is just made to open your eyes to a situation. The cove is not propaganda, meaning the viewer has an idea if the viewpoint is an honest depiction of the subject because it isn’t just a single perspective of the controversy. No matter your view on the environment, after seeing The Cove, you will never be able to look at Sea World in the same way again.