By Melanie Hunter
On Feb. 12 and 13, the Green Film Series presented The Cove. This 2009 Oscar-winning film for Best Documentary shows raw footage of the horrific capturing and mass slaughtering of both dolphins and porpoises in Japanese fishing communities.
For years, dedicated activists have been fighting tirelessly against the exploitation of the marine mammals featured in this film. They argue that these majestic creatures have superior intelligence and therefore do not belong in captivity. Professional surfers, along with celebrities such as Hayden Panettiere, have joined in the fight against dolphin hunting and some were even shown swimming out into a fishing zone in order to protest. They were harassed by the Japanese fishermen and arrested after refusing to leave, which is just one example of the extreme efforts being made by passionate activists featured in the documentary.
Representatives from the largest dolphin-hunting organization in Japan, located in Taiji, argue that dolphin hunting is part of Japanese culture and should not be regarded negatively by Western society. Despite this, Taiji goes to great measures to protect its public image by not allowing people to take footage of the massacres hunters commit in the lagoons of Japan, and for good reason. One of the most devastating scenes in the film was one of hundreds of dolphins struggling to escape from Japanese fishermen while the water became a deeper and deeper shade of red.
Unfortunately, dolphin hunting is an extremely profitable industry. Each year, an estimated 23,000 dolphins are captured and killed worldwide. Some dolphins are sold to various attractions across the globe — including SeaWorld — for approximately $150,000. Dolphins that are not sold immediately are slaughtered for their meat, which is worth about $600 per dolphin.
One may wonder what this lucrative Japanese market has to do with the rest of the world, but the issue is closer to home than it seems. Have you ever been to a dolphin show at an aquarium and seen these lively animals performing tricks? A common misconception is that the dolphins are jumping around happily. However, the film stated that dolphins often become depressed and die within the first few months of being sold. In order to prevent loss of their hefty investments, many dolphin trainers are instructed to feed them antidepressants so they seem more energetic during shows.
As awareness increases, so do questions about what is being done to end the injustice. At the time of the film’s release, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) was the only organization supported by the United Nations that has the resources to protect dolphins. Nonetheless, the IWC, whose chair at the time happened to be an investor in Taiji, chose not to allocate funds for saving the dolphins as he had a vested interest in the multi-million dollar industry.
Since its release in 2009, The Cove has done a lot to increase awareness of the problem at hand. The number of dolphins killed by Taiji fishermen has gone from about 2,000 per year down to 800. Although the battle to save the dolphins is nowhere near its end, The Cove is inspiring people to consider the impact of dolphin hunting.
For more information about the fight against dolphin hunting and to sign a petition, visit takepart.com.
Printed in the 2/15/13 edition