The movie, The Cove, illustrates the importance of animal protection by showing the grotesque and inhumane killings of dolphins in Japan. Using the medium of a documentary, Psihoyo, the director of The Cove can show candid shots of people’s reactions when confronted with the fact. We can see the ignorance and stubbornness of the fishermen as well as the shocked and appalled reaction of citizens walking along the street in Japan. In an attempt to understand the situation, we ask ourselves: Why are the dolphins being killed in the first place? Of course, it isn’t okay to capture dolphins and sell them off into entertainment slavery, either, but at least there is a reason, no matter how selfish and cruel, behind it. Psihoyo’s take on the issue begs the question: What is the point of killing the dolphins, if we can’t even eat them?
In the beginning of the film, Psihoyo records Ric O’ Barry, the dolphin activist, describing the statistics of a dolphin kill. A live dolphin can fetch millions of dollars in the entertainment industry, but a dead dolphin only fetches 600 dollars. There are much more, productive, and ecologically friendly ways to make a pretty penny than to kill dolphins for a living. In fact, the dead dolphin is sold for its meat, which is not even edible in terms of nutrition. Psihoyo introduces a sequence dedicated to the toxicity of dolphin meat with an intertitle that simply states, “mercury is the most toxic, non-radioactive element on Earth”. The title is followed by a shot of a beautiful dolphin immersed in clear, sparkling water, foreboding the exact meaning of the title and appealing to our compassion with an aesthetically pleasing picture of the dolphin, our friend.
The sequence continues to a grocery store, where they film packaged “whale” and introduce a specialist with a DNA testing system who deems that most of the whale products, are in fact, dolphin. Psihoyo makes us trust the claim by showing multiple shots of the man’s portable DNA lab with close ups of his vials and labels, making him seem like a legitimate scientist.
If this is indeed true, not only does the selling of dolphin violate food laws of mislabeling, it also tricks consumers into inadvertently supporting the slaughter of dolphins. This revealing of truth makes the viewers indignant and repulsed that they are being fooled, and that the killers know that dolphin meat isn’t profitable yet still continue to slaughter them.
The sequence continues into a relation with Minamata disease, which we have watched in a film earlier in this class. We know how crippling and disheartening the effects of Minamata disease was, and by claiming this is, in fact, the same mercury poisoning as before, Psihoyo compounds the urgent nature of stopping the slaughter of dolphins. In case the viewer had not previously watched the documentary on Minamata disease or known what it was, Psihoyo includes a few scenes from the documentary in his own film, particularly the Minamata hospital scenes to invoke pity and compassion for the sufferers.
To end any doubts we had about having dolphin for dinner, we are introduced to mercury specialist Dr. Endo who bluntly tells us we should only have 0.4 parts per million of mercury in our bodies, and dolphin meat contains 2000ppm.This onslaught of terrifying fact after fact forces us to make solving this issue a top priority, as we feel responsible now that we know what is happening.
So if dolphin is so bad for our bodies, why are the fishermen in Taiji slaughtering them for meat? Psihoyo effectively portrays the whole issue as nonsensical and simply an assault on human ethics. He makes the decision for us: don’t kill the dolphins if you can’t even eat them. By revealing to the viewer shocking facts, and appealing to emotions with visuals, Psihoyo proves that there is, in fact, nothing to gain by destroying our sea friends.