You’re going to feed my child WHAT?
Is probably the first thought that would run through an American mother’s mind if the LAUSD Board stated that they were planning on feeding school children mandatory (but free of charge!) lunches featuring dolphin meat.
In Louie Psihoyos’ Academy Award-winning documentary The Cove, the residents of Taiji, Japan seem to display no concern or worry whatsoever concerning what type of meat goes into their children’s mouths, even when that meat is toxic.
Though the slaughter of such an adorable marine mammal in itself could be considered a tragedy, the more important, frightening issue with the consumption of dolphin meat is that the meat is absolutely toxic to human beings. The meat’s toxicity is caused by the heavy amounts of mercury that dolphins are exposed to in the water, which ironically exist due to human industries dumping wastes into the sea. Those set to lose something if dolphin meat’s poisonous nature is exposed, like Hideki Moronuki, the Deputy Director of the Fisheries Agency of Japan, would like to believe that there are some “variable nutrients” in dolphin meat. But as a professor at the Health Sciences University of Hokkaido so kindly proves, dolphin meat should not be eaten, period.
Tetsuya Endo, Ph.D., provides us with concrete numbers which demonstrate that dolphin meat is, without even a shadow of a doubt, toxic to humans. In his scene, we are presented yet another Japanese man behind a desk, far away and self-assured, poised perfectly to deny – yet again – that the consumption of dolphin meat leads to mercury poisoning — when suddenly we are whisked away to a lab, where we see him getting up close and personal with the issue; he handles dolphin meat from Taiji, which he tells us contains 2000 ppm (parts per million) of mercury. Though the expert immediately recognizes the horror of such a statistic, to the layman, this is number is made shocking only by Endo’s words in the previous scene, where he informed us that the recommended intake is around 0.4 ppm.
Thus in one go, Endo proves that eating dolphin is not a very desirable action, and that the entire population of Japan is not totally unaware of the horrors of eating dolphin. However, the few random individuals from Tokyo who were interviewed for the documentary appear to be completely ignorant of the egregious acts being performed in Taiji. One woman is appalled by what she hears, but none of the interviewees strike the viewer as the activist type. And every interview scene can be taken at face value – the interviewees are so normal, so representative of the typical Tokyoite in all his diverse forms, that the viewer begins to get the sense that the population of Tokyo as a whole has no idea that people are killing and eating dolphins. The background of each scene also gives no reason to question the assumption that the interviewees represent the whole of Tokyo well: the roads are urban, orderly, and spotted with unconcerned passerby; the interviewees are only paying heed to the documentarians because they have been stopped and asked for an interview.
Mercury poisoning be damned! Regardless of the opinions of others, the people of Taiji seem to be perfectly fine with eating dolphin meat. Though the next generation of Taiji-ans may wonder to themselves why there were born with birth defects, or why they have such great difficulty in performing basic functions or even retaining things they have learned previously, they will receive no answer but the sound of dolphin meat being masticated.