I finally got to see The Cove last week. If you haven’t heard about it, I posted a trailer for it back in July. It’s a documentary about the annual slaughter of 23,000 dolphins in a hidden cove in Taiji, Japan. After the best are cherry-picked by oceanariums around the world, the rest are stabbed to death. The meat, which is toxically high in mercury, is sold as whale meat, and even given to children in free school lunches.
I’d been looking forward to seeing the film since I first heard about it but was also bracing myself for a very harrowing 94 minutes. The crucial footage of the dolphins being killed – which had never been caught on film before – does not come until near the end but there are plenty of other weepy moments in the build up to the bloody finale.
One thing I didn’t anticipate was to find any humour in the film, but there were actually some funny moments, particularly the absurd Japanese official dubbed ‘Private Space’ who brandished his video camera at the activists like a crucifix at a vampire.
It was fascinating to hear how Japan has been paying tiny Caribbean countries to join the International Whaling Committee in order that they then vote in favour of Japan being allowed to continue whaling.
I’m a big fan of the Caribbean and they definitely need the money right now. But islands like St Kitts, Grenada, and St Vincent and the Grenadines try to promote themselves as birdwatching, diving and wildlife destinations, and selling their integrity to the Japanese is going to backfire on them sooner or later.
The film ends with some positive notes, including the removal of dolphin meat from school lunches. But the bigger victory has been since the film’s launch – in September, 70 dolphins were captured but not a single one was killed. Almost all were released again, with just some sent to aquariums.
That’s good news but there’s still more work to be done, to raise awareness of the risks of mercury poisoning and to stop Japan’s wider pursuit of whales and dolphins for meat and to put in captivity. The Cove’s website makes it really easy to sign a petition and write letters – you can also buy the DVD if you missed it at the cinema. It’s definitely the film of the year for me.