Last night I went to see “The Cove”. I probably shouldn’t be writing this now, because I don’t feel as if I have gotten over the emotional impact. I knew full well what it was about (the annual and covert massacre of thousands of dolphins), and yet it still hit me like a ton of bricks. Last night I was stunned, this morning I woke angry and frustrated and depressed.
I’m not even a vegetarian, I go along with an eastern philosophy I once read, which speaks of us all being connected, that when we eat flesh it becomes a part of us, and since we are all a part of each other that is natural. What we must do is be grateful for what we eat, and we must not inflict suffering in the process of killing what we eat. This last, I admit, is very hard to control in our personal lives these days of mass provision of foods. Whilst I might choose to buy from the finca, not everyone has the opportunity, it’s the same with whatever flesh we eat.
I’m also ambivalent about zoos and such. I do believe they have a role to play in the education of humans, in our respecting and better understanding animals. We can’t all go on safari or cruise to the Antarctic. It goes without saying that the exhibits have to be treated properly, and not simply as money-making objects. My perception (and I admit I might be totally wrong in this) is that these days zoos etc are quite strictly controlled, and the bad ones are rapidly being closed down. For one thing, people are better educated and will simply not go to places where the animals seem to be mistreated.
I stopped going to dolphin shows a while back. It was swimming with “wild” dolphins which influenced my decision. In Florida a couple of times I’ve swum in controlled conditions with dolphins. Not dolphins who have been trained to jump through hoops, but there are places in the Florida Keys which study dolphins, our relationship with them and the possibilities of more contact. One in particular I remember, studies the effects which contact with dolphins has on sick children. The studies are funded partly by allowing people like me to swim with the dolphins in a fenced off section of the ocean, but the only contact allowed is if the dolphins actually want to do it. They aren’t trained to entertain humans, but often initiate contact, and, apparently, it is often the ill or troubled they seek out. I can’t do justice to the feeling I had doing this. It was liberating and, yes, life-changing.
I’ve also, several times, laid on my belly on the deck of a boat whilst wild porpoises raced alongside us for miles. It’s the most amazing sensation, the sensing of connection, the feeling of freedom it gave. I’m lucky to have had that experience. I’m aware that it isn’t available to everyone.
Whilst I get what Richard O’Barry believes – that dolphins have no place in our land based society, that it is cruel to imprison them in tanks and pools, I am only about 85% convinced. I’m not sure whether the good of the species as a whole is better served by humans having the opportunity to see and relate and sometimes interact with them, and thus caring more about this dreadful slaughter which occurs every year in Japan. Would I care as much as I do if I’d never seen a real dolphin. I’d like to think so, but I’m not totally sure, and I can’t speak for others. Given that there is a case to argue there, it goes without saying that it should be strictly controlled, probably much more strictly controlled than it is right now.
That debate aside, there can be no question about the cruelty of this annual massacre, and it appears to be a by-product of the capture of wild dolphins for zoos and shows. Silly me, imagined that these days only dolphins born in captivity were used. The ultimate scenes, of the secretly filmed slaughter are heart-breaking. If you love dolphins as much as many people seem to, you may never be the same again.
The other issue is the sale of the meat thus gained. Very basically, the larger the fish or mammal the more mercury in its body, and the more dangerous it is for human consumption. The movie proves that the meat is being sold, wrongly labelled, in Japan (no suggestion that it is exported). In a society as apparently scrupulous as the Japanese it’s hard to understand how this can be allowed, but it clearly seems to be happening. The whole thing is a mystery in a way. This small group of fishermen in a remoteish village are poisoning their own people? In fact, according to the movie, the meat was being sold to the school system, and since school meals are compulsory, then it meant that school children all over Japan were being affected. Thankfully, at the end of the movie it states that thanks to the campaigning of two, brave Japanese men that has now stopped.
Clearly, though, there is still a lot to do to bring an end to this horrible practise. If you haven’t seen the movie, if it isn’t coming to a cinema near you, Amazon.com have the dvd from just $9.78 and Amazon.co.uk are offering the dvd from just 3.97 pounds. I can’t drop everything and go to Japan, which is something I’d love to do! But I’m going to look into what the ordinary person might be able to do, and I’m buying the dvd and passing it around to as many people as I can.
As a movie, it’s well-made, and holds the attention throughout. It’s won an Oscar and a Sundance prize. For some reason I couldn’t link to the page itself, so I’ve linked here to the trailer via YouTube, but, honestly the trailer only gives you the faintest idea. I’m still lost for words.