Posts Tagged ‘mercury contamination of dolphins’

The Cove – what impact will this film have?

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

(Michael Berrill.  mberrill@trentu.ca)

The Cove deserves its awards. Will it achieve its goals?

These appear to be the facts: At Tiaji, In Japan, schools  of dolphins have been herded into a small cove where no one can see what goes on, and each year around 23,000 have been slaughtered. Before a slaughter, a number of bottle-nosed dolphins are captured for the live performance trade, and shipped all over the world. A live animal is worth $150,000, a dead one $600. Dolphin meat has been sold around Japan as whale meat. It is also highly contaminated by bioconcentrated mercury. Most Japanese have no idea that the slaughter is occurring, that they may be eating dolphins, or that the meat is contaminated with unsafe levels of mercury. The slaughter is sanctioned by the Japanese government, and defended by the Japanese at meetings of the International Whaling Commission.

The main arguments of the film are: Dolphins and porpoises are beautiful and intelligent. They should not be captured and used in parks to entertain people, and the slaughter of the rest of the animals is bloody, cruel, and indefensible. The Japanese fishermen and government authorities of course do not agree. The slaughter is kept secret probably because if the world knew about it, it would be shut down. The way to stop the slaughter then is to expose it, no matter the personal danger to the guerrilla team that succeeded in filming it.

Will the film have an impact? The slaughter is certainly a horrible event, and the filming team was both brave and ingenious. It’s hard to believe anyone in much of the world will be anything but shocked by what they see in the film.  But will the film be seen by those who are not already aware and concerned? Because there is some tension in the story, perhaps more will see the film. But will it be shown in Japan? That is certainly hard to expect – it has for instance been rejected for showing at the Tokyo Film Festival.  Instead, it will be necessary to take further action, ensuring especially that more people see it, that politicians see it,  that it reaches the highest levels possible. The new government in Japan will be less inclined to bend to any US pressure, but the rest of the world has leverage.

The filming of the slaughter was driven by Ric O’Barry, and his own biography is worth looking into. Among his comments: There are 2 kinds of people – activists and inactivists.  And: If we can’t stop this action in one little cove in Japan, then there really is no hope.

He makes a strong case.