The Cove essay
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‘The Cove,’ a film directed by Louie Psihoyos, is a documentary that exposes the slaughter of dolphins in Japan as needless and beastly. Certainly, it is quite painful watching the dolphins die. The film evokes several emotions including rage, disappointment and wrath. Nonetheless, a keen analysis on the issues presented in the film leaves the viewer wondering why the director chose to approach the issue from one dimension only. In the film, the director presents the slaughter of dolphins for food by the Japanese as beastly. However, why is it alright for the Americans to slaughter cows or sheep for food whereas the slaughter of dolphins with a similar intention is frowned upon? Why does the film evoke double standards?
The movie approaches the core issue (dolphins being slaughtered for food) as a public awareness campaign. It is intended to raise the world’s attention towards the plight of dolphins. From an activist’s viewpoint, the film achieves its core purpose. However, I found the documentary human-centric and covering only one dimension of an otherwise intricate issue. Naturally, human beings value their lives as the most valuable and irreplaceable form of life on earth. Consequently, we attach value to all other life forms as we deem fit. It is a commonly accepted fact that cows are reared for beef, milk and other products. On the other hand, primates, such as gorillas, are viewed as closer to man and thus their lives are attached more significant weight. Nonetheless, what it is the defining yardstick that is used to attach importance to other forms of lives in a hierarchical manner?
The film completely ignores the context in which the dolphins are slaughtered in. In Japan, all forms of life are deemed as equally important. However, in the United States, some lives are attached more significance in comparison to others. Therefore, this documentary is hypocritical in passing judgment that slaughtering dolphins for food is bad and should be stopped. By displaying iconic dolphin images in the town, the film approaches the issue cynically. Consider how a person who practices Hinduism would find it insane that steak houses mercilessly slaughter cows which are otherwise considered holy. These steak houses or grilled chicken outlets have iconic images of cows or chicken respectively. Wouldn’t such a person be within a similar scope of rights in directing a similar film and calling the world’s attention to the plight of cows or chicken?
Whereas most protagonists would stipulate that one should not establish the reason behind their slaughter and that these dolphins are suffering, I believe this is an issue that is highly debatable. In the film, the cove is shown turning red as the dolphins are slaughtered; evoking emotions that depict the Japanese as beastly and ‘inhumane.’ Nonetheless, I believe these emotions are a result of the huge divide between the East and the West. A similar response would be evoked in the mind of a person who practices Hinduism after watching footage of cows being slaughtered in a steak house. Japan is constituted by a number of islands. Therefore, the people rely on fish as their main source of proteins. Since time immemorial, they have lived close to the sea just as Americans have lived in their farms since the Founding Fathers first settled in the United States.
In conclusion, I believe that the film is forcefully trying to shut down the Japanese dolphin industry through creating a personal relations (PR) hurdle. Instead of approaching the issue critically and attempting to establish a solution like a filmmaker should, the film (and the director) leaves no room for negotiations; and thus it is hypocritical and one-sided. This is not to prove that the Japanese are entirely blameless but is indicative that the film compounds the problem unnecessarily.