I just finished watching the documentary “The Cove” about the Oceanic Preservation Society’s attempt to secretly document dolphin slaughter in Taiji, Japan while evading local authorities and their fisherman’s union. I had known about the documentary since this summer but I never got around to watching it until I saw the South Park episode “Whale Whores” which poked fun at Japan’s obsession with whaling and the environmentalists’ feeble attempts at curbing whaling. Although, references to “The Cove” were vague in that episode, much of the issues explored in both “South Park” and “The Cove” do raise concerns about Japanese whaling policies and how they handle the issues surrounding it.
The team assembled by the filmmakers is impressive given they and the film were funded by a billionaire environmentalist. Nonetheless, the footage caught by the filmmakers is a gruesome look at how dolphins are savagely slaughtered by local fisherman in the name of local tradition and to sell whale meat to a niche market. In addition to criticising the brutal slaughter of dolphins, the film makes a point that much of the dolphin and whale meat available in the Japanese market is heavily tainted with mercury, which makes it unsafe for consumption and increases the risk of neurological damage. What was more surprising was that the Japanese interviewed in the film seem to be either apathetic or disgusted at the idea of even eating dolphin meat, which seems to weaken the cultural justification for dolphin slaughter.
As a result of “The Cove”, the Japanese town of Taiji has received much unwanted attention from environmentalists and foreigners to the point where they have made changes to their traditional dolphin slaughters. The fishermen now are reported to cut the bottlenose dolphin culling, while continue their process of killing less appealing dolphins and whales. Many japanophiles and Japanese right-wing male virgins have condemned “The Cove” as a racist movie for only focusing on Japanese whaling while dolphins and whales are regularly hunted by Iceland and Norway. Although this is a valid point, Japanese whaling has come under greater scrutiny because while Norway and Iceland regularly slaughter dolphins and whales, they are not accused of exceeding international whaling limits, making baseless justifications that whaling is a form of oceanic pest control, hiding their slaughtering techniques from the public and buying support from current or new member-states in the International Whaling Commission.
Some pro-Japan supporters even complain that the movie was unjust because Korea regularly slaughters dog for food and no one complained when China was having issues with their baiji dolphins. This is really a weak point because there are regular complains that Koreans slaughter dogs for food along with countless documentaries on the process, while the issue with baiji dolphins was more of an environmental concern dealing with the destruction of towns, historical sites, ecosystems and the fact that Chinese don’t slaughter their dolphins for food. In any event, I strongly recommend viewing “The Cove” if it is available in stores or online.