The Cove of Secrets & What caused the great impact to us? – Ryan Chan

The Cove is a documentary film which reveals the horrifying dolphin slaughter activity in Taiji, Japan. It showcases the mission of a group of dolphin-conserving activists led by Ric O’Barry, which aimed at capturing raw footage of Taiji fishermen killing dolphins secretly in a prohibited area, which is the Cove. The slaughtering of dolphins leads to selling their meat in local markets. It does seem logical, just like the better parts of the world that slaughter cows, pigs and chickens, and sell their meat through different means. However, the worst part of the story is that dolphin meat is used to substitute whale meat in a hidden manner, which leads to a series of problems.

Deputy Director Hideki Moronuki sharing his thoughts on consuming dolphin meat.

In most countries, selling whale meat is already bad enough to put you behind the bars, but the fishermen in Taiji have even gone “a step further”. By substituting dolphin meat as whale meat from the Southern hemisphere, the fishermen and officials have cheated on their own people in terms of money and trust. In the interview scene of Hideki Moronuki, the Deputy Director from Fisheries Agency of Japan, we may see how he emphasized that dolphin meat is still nutritious, hesitantly though. His uneasiness might just come from the fact that he was speaking in English, but it might also suggest that he was formulating a politically correct answer, in order to show that there is a need in hunting down dolphins. The director has also kept his response as short as possible, imposing his lack of reasons in support of their cruel actions. Then, another interview of Tetsuya Endo, a Professor from Health Sciences University of Hokkaido, is shown immediately. He examined the meat he bought in Taiji, and confirmed it was dolphin meat. He was surprised that it contained extremely high levels high levels of mercury (2000ppm), which is 5000 times more than the standard set by the Japanese government themselves (0.4ppm). These two interviews combined have created a huge impact in the film mainly because the interviewees are both Japanese: Deputy Director Moronuki was so defensive and supportive in consuming dolphin meat, while Professor Endo was stunned by something easily found in local markets of Taiji. The contrast between their expressions further exemplifies how ruthless the officials are in hiding such hunting activities. This might also be one of the reasons why the director has chosen to interview a local Japanese professor, instead of specialists in America that are capable of providing detailed explanations in English. His background and simple phrases like “very, very, very, high toxic” are strong enough to show the severeness of this mercury-poisoning issue.

Professor Endo explaining his findings from dolphin meat bought in local markets.

Dolphin meat being sold in supermarkets in Japan.

In Japan, dolphin meat is sold in markets and is supplied as lunch in some schools, mostly in Taiji. Surprisingly though, most Japanese are unaware of such uses of dolphin meat. How did the director present his findings about the harmful effects due to consumption dolphin meat? How did the director stress on the need for something to be done about it? No matter how intelligent the dolphins are, they are somehow hard to relate for the general audience. Therefore, the documentary included concrete examples of how mercury may harm our children by using footage from The Minamata: The Victims and Their World. It is natural to think of Minamata Disease when we talk about mercury poisoning, but there is another reason for using this specific documentary by Tsuchimoto. Watching Japanese kids, who have become adults now, suffer from mercury poisoning in the past reminds the current younger generation Japanese and the rest of the world not to repeat the same mistakes. This analogy also implies that the Japanese government might once again try to cover up this incident by censoring it from the media. As sea fish has its significant role in Japanese cuisine and is consumed both inside and outside of Japan, it is unwise for the government to discourage the world from eating it. Nevertheless, similar to the Chisso Factory, the business in the Cove harms its own neighborhood. Families of the fishermen may also be poisoned by the mercury-contaminated food. Therefore, the capturing, selling and slaughtering activities happening in the Cove cannot be solely explained as a tradition or culture to the fishermen. It is the business incentives that kept them doing all the work secretly.

Taiji Town Councilmen mentioning one of the uses of dolphin meat.


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