Food Ethics

The documentary film The Cove presents a convincing argument on the ethics behind dolphin hunting. A group of marine activists try to break into a secluded lagoon in Taiji, Japan to plant cameras within the site where Japanese fishermen murder an around 2,000 dolphins every year. What makes the film superb is its ability to make the audience really care about its issue. To achieve its powerful impact, the film mainly focuses on questioning the ethics surrounding Japan’s government. Throughout the documentary, we are presented with shocking injustices in Japan that keep escalating. We are presented with issues regarding dolphin slaughter and captivity as well as highly toxic dolphin meat that is sold to the Japanese public. As a documentary, The Cove not only drives home its points about dolphin murder but also educates the audience with the use of mercury-contaminated dolphin meat.

One of the most important issues presented within the documentary is the consumption of dolphin meat as a result of mass dolphin slaughter. As depicted in the film, the dolphins in Taiji are captured in a secluded cove each year. From there, the “best” dolphins are chosen and taken into captivity. The rest of the dolphins are murdered within the cove. As a result of this mass fishing of dolphins, the markets become flooded with dolphin meat. Later, we learn from the film that dolphin meat is actually extremely toxic with high mercury levels. The meat is very unsafe to eat because of this contamination. However, dolphin meat can be found in many markets in Japan; the meat is also sold at a very cheap price because its supply is abundant. These conditions will eventually cause a severe problem for the Japanese people.

The secluded cove in Taiji in which around 2,000 dolphins are slaughtered each year

The secluded cove in Taiji in which around 2,000 dolphins are slaughtered each year

On a physical level, the consumption of mercury contaminated dolphin meat is extremely problematic for consumers. The health risk of mercury poisoning is something that The Cove endeavors to expose. Dolphins are nearly at the top of their food chain, which makes their mercury levels higher because they accumulate it from all of the fish under them in the food chain. This process causes dolphin meat to have high concentrations of mercury that is higher than what is safe for humans to consume. In order to inform the audience, the film connects mercury tainted dolphin meat to Minamata disease, a health disease related to high-level mercury poisoning that was introduced in 1956 in Minamata, Japan. The problem is that Japanese people may have some of the highest mercury levels in the world. This runs the risk of possibly developing Minamata disease in the future and passing it to their offspring. In a simplified perspective, eating dolphin meat is almost equivalent to eating poison. The more poison consumed, the more likely problems will develop for that individual.

The toxic levels of mercury in dolphin meat and its consequences when consumed are explained by Tetsuya Endo

Tetsuya Endo explains the toxic levels of mercury in dolphin meat and its consequences when consumed

The most important aspect of The Cove is its argument about the ethics behind killing dolphins and selling the meat. Dolphin meat is extremely toxic, but the Japanese government has done nothing to prevent the consumption of it. The government has made no effort to stop markets from selling it nor has it attempted to inform the public about the possibility of mercury poisoning. The government isn’t the only party that has questionable ethics. Shockingly enough, dolphin meat has been intentionally mislabeled as whale meat in markets in an attempt to make more money. The fishermen and sellers of the meat are also just as responsible for this issue. They most likely know that the meat is contaminated, yet continue to bring more into the market. Because most people are unaware of risk of mercury-contaminated dolphin meat, the meat has been consumed both locally and globally. Most of Japanese public don’t even know about the incidents of dolphin slaughter and poisoned dolphin meat sold in Japan. Packages of dolphin meat can be found in many supermarkets in Japan. Mercury-tainted dolphin meat was even sold to Japanese schools at one point. Unfortunately, this caused the students to eat high concentration of mercury dolphin meat as lunch. The fact that fishermen and merchants value profit over their ethics is repulsive. Even the government has done little to prevent the possibility of mercury poisoning.

Richard O'Barry holds a package of cheap dolphin meat found at an everyday market in Japan

Richard O’Barry holds a package of cheap dolphin meat found at an everyday market in Japan

Overall, The Cove presents the audience with an extremely convincing argument through its presentation of food as an important ethical issue in Japan. The film does a superb job of educating the viewers of the dangers of consuming mercury contaminated meat and tying it back to the dolphin murder in Taiji. It also provides a convincing argument that has powerful impact due to the numerous examples of injustice in Japan’s food markets that keep mounting higher. Thus, the film inspires change in the way people look at consumption of food and questions what is truly ethical.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s