The slaughtering that stains our sea a ghastly yet beautiful crimson red. The lingering stench of spilled blood that fills the atmosphere. The eerie stretch of silence that ensues the cacophony of heart-rending cries of the dolphins after every slaughter. The unsettling presence of death that haunts our sea where there used to be none. The manipulation of the society that leads to the consumption of mercury beyond the people’s knowledge. What does it take for us to be reminded of humanity? Louie Psihoyo’s documentary film, The Cove manifests the ugly reality behind the conspiracy revolving around the dolphin meat and entertainment industry situated in Taiji, Japan.
Centered to emphasize the ramifications of human actions on the environment, The Cove reveals a team of American activists from different modes of professions coming together to expose the deadly slaughter of dolphins in a secret cove and the consequences of eating mercury-laden dolphin meat among the Japanese people. Throughout the film, the audiences are left to ponder about the idea of food as a manipulative tool and the role dolphins play in our natural lives: are they our food, friends or neither? It is indisputable that in this film, food poses itself as a powerful yet ironic reminder to us that we are human. We rely on food to survive and nourish our body but at the same time, food ironically can also be the culprit of our sufferings and diseases, which may bring upon death to ourselves. In other words, food is presented in this film, simply as it is, food. It can give us life, sustain our living and also kill us. It is merely an instrument often manipulated by us, humans in pursuit of power, wealth and status. In the village of Taiji, where 20,000 dolphins are captured and slaughtered every year with the government’s permission, the activists reveal how dolphin meat, though containing toxic levels of mercury are secretly sold as food in Japan, often labeled as whale meat.
In a particular scene in The Cove, Psihoyo conveys the public’s reaction towards the discovery of how dolphin meat is distributed as food to the society through a series of documented interviews.
The Japanese society, oblivious to the fact that they are being fed with dolphin meat poisoned with high-level of mercury, are being denied the proper right to consume healthy food, even so when fish is regarded as the vital main source of food in Japan. This food injustice inflicted upon the Japanese people is then associated with the Minamata disease, a degenerative neurological disorder caused by extreme mercury poisoning that may result in coma, insanity, paralysis and even death. This scenario reflects distinctively how food is manipulated solely for the benefit of the distributors despite the detrimental effects it brings to our health and environment.
Through the projection of vivid images as well as footages of the dolphin slaughters and captivity in the film, Psihoyo accentuates the need for a change to bring awareness about humanity, food injustice and animal cruelty among the people. It is evident to see that the film portrays dolphins as victims of the situation, underlining the fact that food deliberately becomes the victims of the society’s unbecoming actions. Food in this case, plays the role as victims of traditions and customs. In The Cove, the dolphin hunting in Taiji was argued to be an ancient tradition of the Japanese and the fishermen merely defended themselves by claiming that they are only killing dolphins for the preservation of tradition. Food too has become victims of the industrialization and modernization of our society, demonstrated through the toxic-level mercury found to be in the dolphin meat due to pollution. Playing the role of victims of human’s boredom and lack of entertainment, dolphins are too captured and held in captivity in marine parks as a form of entertainment that became famous after Ric O’Barry’s 1960’s television series named “Flipper”.
The pain and suffering that the dolphins went through in captivity was depicted in the film through O’Barry’s painful recollection of how one of his dolphins committed a form of suicide in his very own arms by closing her blowhole voluntarily in order to suffocate herself to death. Reifying the ugly truth of humanity or rather what has become of it, The Cove identifies food as victims of our own actions, conveying a powerful reminder that we are human after all. What we do to our food, our nature, we do to ourselves.