Monday, April 22, 2013

Tarah Ketron: On the Documentary The Cove

On the Documentary The Cove
by Tarah Ketron
ENG 102 essay for Spring 2013

How does one sleep at night when they spend their life slaughtering harmless, vulnerable animals for six months of the year? I do not understand this either. In Taiji, Japan every year for six months there is a slaughter in a hidden cove where no outsiders are allowed to go. Before 2008 this cove in a sleepy little town was unknown to even most of Japan, and unknown to most of the world. In 2008 a documentary, The Cove was released showing the world that over 20,000 innocent dolphins and young pilot whales are slaughtered every year. In this documentary it also shows how far the town would go to keep their secret safe from the world.

One organization that is highly involved with trying to stop this slaughter is the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. The SSCS is a non-profit organization that dedicates it’s time and volunteers on saving marine mammals around the world. They have very strong views on many things and take hefty actions to prevent the slaughter and unrighteous killing of the worlds most needed wildlife. Founder and leader of this organization is Captain Paul Watson, who would die to save a dolphin or whale as would anyone who volunteers with him. He has helped save thousands of these animals over the years and continues to try and do so daily; he and his team have dedicated their lives to saving the lives of others who cannot speak for themselves, the marine mammals. Captain Watson is not alone in his fight to stop the slaughter in Japan as the Oceanic Preservation Society dedicates their time and lives as well.

Taiji has a town that looks like they respect dolphins and love them. They even have an aquarium for tourists and the people of the town. At the aquarium they actually serve dolphin meat and whale meat for you to eat while you can go and watch the dolphin show. This fact is absolutely disgusting to me, and makes me feel physically ill. While you are watching the show several bottlenose dolphins are captured in the cove and shipped out to different places across the world like Sea World and other swim with dolphin programs. The town of Taiji, makes several million dollars a year for these live dolphins that can be handpicked by dolphin trainers. But for the thousands of dolphins that are captured and not picked they are slaughtered and Japan makes $600 for each dead dolphin (O’ Barry). To me that is not enough money for the price of a dolphin who is as intelligent as modern apes and even humans.

A dolphin’s intelligence is one of their most loving qualities, they see us humans and try to befriend us and save us against other ocean predators. This quality is what makes them so great and the fact that they are friendly as can be. Dolphins in captivity take on a sense of depression after a while, but they put on a show and smile through the routines they learn. It is when you look into the eyes of a dolphin in captivity that you can see the sadness and despair of these creatures. When capturing a dolphin to hold in captivity, it is like going to jail for something you did not do. When one goes to jail and has not done anything wrong they become sadden and long to be free out in the world again. For a dolphin it is the same, they long to be free in the ocean again. Some dolphins have even been known to commit “suicide” (O’ Barry). According to Richard O’ Barry, who was the star of Flipper, he witnessed this. Dolphins are mammals who need air to breathe, every breath they take they choose to take, so when they choose to not come up for air it is their decision, and in that that he says they commit suicide, as the dolphin Cathy did who was one of the Flipper dolphins.

That show is one of the predominant reasons that dolphin shows became so popular and is now a multi-billion dollar corporation, and it is because of these places that the fishermen of Taiji continue this slaughter every year. Captain Watson and the SSCS sent a team into Taiji in 2003 to get footage of the cove to expose to the world. What the team found was horrid even beyond their dreams and in light of seeing what they saw they decided to take action. The team cut the nets freeing the dolphins that could now swim away to safety. Two hundred dolphins were saved that day and the team was arrested by the Japanese government and is now banned from ever coming back. Over the past few years new teams have been sent in just to watch and monitor the dolphin slaughter in Taiji. They now post for the world to see how many dolphins are slaughtered each day, and how many their interference saves. Good days are ones where no dolphins die.

If you have ever been to Sea World or gone on vacation to a marine animal park and you see these dolphins playing shows you have become part of the problem. Sea World used to say that the reason for these parks was for species preservation, but when the species gets too stressed out to perform and they kill it and find a replacement dolphin, I do not consider this species preservation. Also the fact that because the trainers try and replace the dolphins the money in the Taiji slaughter is too good for them to pass up. Quitting going to these places that are supposed to be fun and helpful for the dolphin species is the first step for the general public to stop this intense killing of innocent creatures.

Another disturbing thought is that the IWC (International Whaling Committee) does not protect these animals against this intense slaughter; however there are rules that are supposed to limit the amount of dolphins hunted and killed. Japan has almost always had a dolphin slaughter but they did not always have the cove. On the Japanese island of Iki in 1978 thousands of dolphins were rounded up and shot with machine guns and the ones who survived after that were beat with clubs or speared to death. These innocent creatures had been in the protection zone where fishermen were not supposed to kill these cetaceans and actually did get somewhat in trouble after they tried to prosecute Dexter Cate who had jumped into the water late one night to free these animals (Watson ch. 8). Since then the SSCS has sent various letters to the Presidents of the United States asking him to help stop this slaughter in Japan for the inhumane killing of cetacean species. His request was not accepted with much faith however, he got responded with “there is nothing more we can do.” This is our government who would not help these creatures that they claim to protect.

The Oceanic Preservation Society and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society had reached out to the world and are supported by thousands, one small group of those thousands included actress Hayden Panettiere, who went to Taiji with a group of surfers and surfed into the cove then gathered into a circle and held hands as a sign that they would not move until they stopped the slaughter. The group was poked with metal rods and eventually forced out of the water and immediately arrested and are banned from Taiji, Japan. Several people have been arrested or even killed on the premises of trying to save these animals. A close friend of Ric O’ Barry’s and himself went on a hunger strike for ten days, on that tenth day O’ Barry fainted and was taken to the hospital, his friend was left alone and strangled with a belt that night. These fishermen are relentless and even have signs saying “nature conservancy” no entering, and behind those “conservation” signs is the biggest endangerment for dolphins. Regular people who see this wrong doing have given their lives to save these amazing animals, who are self-aware and can understand what is happening to them.

A dolphin can pack a serious punch if it were to become angry and want to hurt a human being, and even through all this killing and capturing of their families the dolphins are always docile and they never bite or ram people. They like to save people which to me, makes me think that they have an understanding of how important humans are, but they will not stay this way for long if we keep allowing these fishermen to brutally kill them. These docile creatures are part of what keeps the ocean alive and going without them the entire ecosystems of the oceans will fall, and when that happens all of the world will be in hurt, we need the water; we need the ocean to survive. So by helping to save these marvelous beings you are actually helping yourself to live in a world that you want.

One defense of the fishermen is that the dolphins are depopulating their fish, but if this was the case why do they drive the dolphins for miles offshore to the shore? The fish are close to inland as well and the dolphins do not come that close on their own typically to eat. Also why do they eat the dolphin meat and say that it is part of their culture when half of the population does not know that they are eating dolphins? It is not part of their culture; it is strictly part of their economy and a way for them to make money. Dolphin meat also contains very high amounts of mercury, more so than regular fish and because of this and the mislabeling that the fisheries do, the general public of Japan who eat this meat unknowingly to them are causing them to become very ill with mercury poisoning. This is not just unfair to the dolphins but when you start endangering the lives of you own kind for an “economic profit” you are not doing a good deed.

Overall the slaughter in Taiji that takes place does not seem to help anyone aside from the selfish and greedy. These people are all what is wrong with the world as a whole, taking what they can because they can and not thinking about the consequences of their actions or who they are hurting. Any argument that is brought up in support of the Taiji slaughter does not seem logical and can be refuted in a matter of minutes. There is no real need for Japan to make money this way as they have several other million dollar ways of making the money they need to sustain their economy. Aquariums around the world do not need dolphins at them however much tourist attractions they are. We should not raise our children to live in a world where you can literally pay to see the beauty stripped from it. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and the Oceanic Preservation Society and a few other groups realize the beauty in true nature and want to preserve and protect it, especially with creatures that are so amazing in several ways. The Taiji slaughter needs to end, and we all have a choice, to help or not to help.

Works Cited

The Cove. Perf. Ric O' Barry. 2008. 2009. DVD.

Kupiers, Dean. "Sea Shepherd activist arrested filming cove dolphins - Los Angeles Times." Los Angeles Times Articles. Los Angeles Times, 5 Jan. 2012. Web. 13 Apr. 2013.

Oceanic Preservation Society. "Dolphin Slaughter in Taiji." Oceanic Preservation Society- Home. Oceanic Preservation Society, 2012. Web. 10 Mar. 2013.

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. "Cove Guardians - Sea Shepherd." Sea Shepherd International. Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, Mar. 2013. Web. 1 Apr. 2013.

Watson, Paul. "The Dolphins of Iki." Ocean Warrior: My Battle to End the Illegal Slaughter on the High Seas. Toronto, Canada: Key Porter Books, 1994. Print.

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