Newest Review: ... aim of the filmmakers is to get footage of this slaughter happening, despite the best efforts of the entire town (literally) to stop the... more
The Cove (DVD)
Member Name: ilovemycat
The Cove (DVD)
Advantages: Interesting and informative without getting into Japan-bashing (bashing the government is ok!)
Disadvantages: Overdoes the wonder of dolphins a little
While I have never been to Taiji I have lived in Japan for the past seven years and my wife is Japanese, therefore I take offence when I hear people running their mouths about the Japanese and whaling. The majority of people who criticize an entire nation for the actions of a very small minority know nothing about it other than what they've read on some friend's status on Facebook. I very much wanted to see this documentary, but I was a little worried it would descend into Japan-bashing, something that people who have seen it have tended to do.
Taiji is a small port town on the Pacific coast a couple of hours west of Tokyo by train. It is exactly like hundreds of other small Japanese towns, with nothing much to set it apart other than that it is the world's biggest exporter of dolphins for aquariums around the world. What the town doesn't like people knowing, though, is that those dolphins that aren't selected by the various representatives of foreign aquariums are taken around the corner to the secretive little cove of the film's title and slaughtered. Their meat is then sold, in some cases passed off as whale meat.
The aim of the filmmakers is to get footage of this slaughter happening, despite the best efforts of the entire town (literally) to stop them doing it. They eventually achieve it, and it is brutal to say the least. However, no more so than the slaughter of any other animal.
The film focuses a lot on dolphins as an intelligent species, and while it was interesting to watch at times it felt a little like propaganda. Yes, dolphins are recognized as intelligent. But so are horses, and I don't see anyone campaigning to stop people killing them. There were one or two harrowing scenes in the movie clearly designed to make the audience react with outrage, yet you can watch a thousand videos of slaughterhouses on Youtube and they are just as brutal, if not worse. How many people tucked into a steak while watching this movie?
A couple of very relevant points were raised, though. First is the fact that the Japanese government is turning a blind eye. However, anyone who lives in Japan knows (probably at first hand) that the Japanese government is full of idiots (there's a reason why there's been five prime ministers in six years, and cabinet ministers are regularly resigning) and that they turn a blind eye to a lot of things. Anyone who's been here more than five minutes can see the millions of loopholes that companies and individuals can step through to take part in any number of shameful or illegal activities. But that's for another review!
Also, the representation of the people of Taiji emphasizes this, such as the fact that even the police regularly attempt to stop the filmmakers from going on to what is actually public land. Obviously there is money changing hands somewhere, because otherwise, like the police in my city, they wouldn't give a damn what people were doing.
And finally the fishermen themselves ... how the film makers held themselves back from kicking some seriously obnoxious butt is a mystery to me. All I'll say, though, is that the vast majority of Japanese people aren't like that. Most of the people I know are civil, thoughtful and sensitive. You get d&&kheads in every country, though, and in every country there are areas or niches of society in which they tend to congregate.
Personally, I'm not against the eating of whale meat in general. Few Westerners seem to realize just how deep whaling is in Japanese culture, being a staple part of the diet for many years, particularly after WW2 when a lot of people were starving. That they shamelessly continue to hunt whales for "research", goes back to that whole government-as-idiots thing I mentioned before. Inside the country, they're shameless about the meat ending up on the table too. There's a whale restaurant in my town and it's not trying to hide itself - there's a big picture of a whale on the door (although that's not all it sells). While I disagree with certain methods of killing, and I disagree with hunting endangered species, I don't particularly disagree with killing a sustainable animal for food, providing it's done humanely, which it can be. If the whale population is sustainable and the animals are killed humanely, why should the Japanese stop hunting them? The British won't give up beef, will they? Yet they're quite happy to sit and home behind their computers and moralise about another country's actions, a country they know next to nothing about.
However, a big point of hunting dolphins is that their meat is high in mercury, something that the film talks about a lot. This is reason alone to not eat the meat, and the fact that the film documents how Taiji's council tried to make dolphin meat part of school lunch (students all eat the same thing in Japan, right up to the end of Junior High at 15) just shows how backwards they are. Again, it's a government thing.
Thankfully, the film does highlight that most Japanese people have no idea of what goes on in Taiji, and my wife, too, had no idea. Overall it's a very good movie on a pretty dark subject, one that's very worth watching. It doesn't stray into Japan-bashing territory, although it does rip on the Japanese government a bit, something that even most Japanese people would agree with. I'm aware that I've gone off on a tangent a little bit, so you probably should watch The Cove for yourself and make up your own mind.
I watched the whole movie on youtube. Not sure if this is legal or not but it was there so I watched it. If you want to hold it in your hands though you can get it on Amazon for not a lot.
Summary: A documentary about a yearly dolphin slaughter in a quiet Japanese town