Tis’ the season of giving. With the multitude of charities that exist, I decided to donate to one called SaveJapanDolphins.org when I was recently introduced to a documentary film, The Cove. Released in 2009 and directed by former National Geographic photographer Louis Psihoyos, The Cove boasts an enviable number of awards and critical acclaim, namely an Academy Award for Best Documentary and audience awards at Sundance and the Directors Guild of America just to name a few.
This film follows former dolphin trainer Ric O’Barry in his quest to document and publicize the hunting and subsequent slaughter of dolphins in Taiji, Japan. The Cove received conflicting reviews to say the least. Some call it a shocking exposé of one of the biggest environmental cover-ups in the world, whereas others shrug it off as a piece of propaganda with a grossly racist portrayal of the Japanese.
Social engineering in Japan has long created the culture of nurturing obedient, hard-working factory and white-collar workers to fuel the economy. There is no doubt that eating whale and dolphin meat has been a part of Japanese culture for hundreds of years. And it is not surprisingly that some people may view this film as being critical and lacking tolerance of a more conservative culture.
Putting the issue of racism and politics aside, we cannot deny that fisheries all around the world are being depleted rapidly, and the whale and dolphin meat being consumed by the Japanese contain unsafe levels of mercury. I will add that the Japanese are unaware of this fact, and because of this, the controversy of whaling and dolphin slaughter has become not only a humanitarian concern, but also an ecological and public health concern.
However there is a lot of money to be made off the exploitation of dolphins and other cetaceans. One live bottlenose dolphin can be sold for more than $150,000 to any dolphinarium or exhibition center. SeaWorld alone, which owns 20 of the world’s 42 captive orcas, made $1.4 billion in profit last year. As long as these numbers keep going up, we can be sure that the problems of depleting marine life and increased numbers of mercury poisoning are only going to get worse.
We live in an era that believes that money makes the world go round. Trying my utmost to avoid sounding like a hippie environmentalist, taking a moment to look away from the glare of greens, sometimes the other things we see may shock us. Hate him or not, we’ve got to give it to Ric O’Barry. The man has a drive to fight and work for a cause he so passionately believes in, a trait lacking in our society today.