Inside a bloody cultural tradition.
August 6, 2009 12:49 PM   Subscribe

TV star. Amusement park attraction. Mine sweeper. Stew meat. Funded by SGI & Netscape founder James Clark, award-winning documentary The Cove goes undercover for an inside look at the brutal slaughter of dolphins in the Japanese town of Taiji. Previously.
posted by kanuck (20 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I have a problem with killing animals that are at least as intelligent as a human 3-year-old.
posted by kldickson at 1:14 PM on August 6, 2009

You're gonna have to specify a particular 3 year old, kldickson, because I've met some that would require you to go wholly vegan.
posted by rusty at 1:35 PM on August 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

I have a problem with Michael Vick being ostracized while everyday millions of chickens have their heads ripped off. And I have a problem with arbitrary guidelines that determine which animals are okay to kill.
posted by trueluk at 2:17 PM on August 6, 2009

And I have a problem with arbitrary guidelines that determine which animals are okay to kill.

Arbitrary? Then I guess it's okay for you to fuck your own mom, dad, brother or sister. I mean. That's an arbitrary guideline, right?
posted by tkchrist at 2:52 PM on August 6, 2009

I saw this at Hot Docs earlier this year, and it really is a great film, which surprised me, because I usually hate one sided "this is WRONG!!!!111" docs. The high tech cover of darkness sting operation is exhilerating, and Ric O'Barry's feelings of guilt at the industries he is somewhat responsible for are extremely poignant.

Plus, you get to see Hayden Panettiere cry, which made me happy.
posted by yellowbinder at 3:00 PM on August 6, 2009

Plus, you get to see Hayden Panettiere cry, which made me happy.

Yeah. I saw it. It was pretty damn good.

And of course The Big Derail on this topic is that "the Japanese are killing dolphins to eat them", which they aren't, which also gets us into these absurd reductionist "but Amricans eat chickens!" arguments.

They kill dolphins to eliminate the competition for fish the Japanese do eat. Which the Japanese fishing fleet has over harvested the shit out of in the first place. They harvest the dolphin meat for fertilizer and pet food as mostly a waste-not procedure and to make some cash.
posted by tkchrist at 3:06 PM on August 6, 2009

Hotbutton issue for you tk? Your rejoinder to trueluk makes no sense, and the filmmaker discussed the toxicity of the meat and that it is finding its way into the japanese food supply on a recent npr interview I heard (fresh air?).
posted by Manjusri at 3:20 PM on August 6, 2009

Not to get into The Big Derail, but the film does discuss people eating dolphin meat at good length. It is actually not a much sought after meat due to the high mercury content, and is often covertly disguised as other meats. Another thread of the film concerns an effort to get dolphin meat into schools as mandatory lunches.
posted by yellowbinder at 3:26 PM on August 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

Hotbutton issue for you tk?

Nope. Not at all.

But if you seriously think that slaughtering dolphins is simply akin to eating any other meat and the delineation of them as food is simply an arbitrary cultural guideline then equally so is the delineation of incest an arbitrary cultural guideline (birth defects due to genetic recessive not withstanding since sex no longer implies reproduction).

The fact is the slaughter of dolphins is part and parcel of the unsustainable rape of the oceans on a systemic level that has reached critical mass which endangers all life. The animal cruelty element simply only a minor facet. So moral comparisons to domestically raised animals for meat eating in general are tenuous at best.
posted by tkchrist at 3:32 PM on August 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

No. Opposition to a specific arbitrary guideline does not imply opposition to another arbitrary guideline. Not that either example is particularly arbitrary. I do agree with your last paragraph, perhaps that would have made a better first reply than the crass derail.
posted by Manjusri at 4:27 PM on August 6, 2009

Manjusri, opposition to an arbitrary guideline on the grounds that it is arbitrary, which I took to be trueluk's position, does imply opposition to other arbitrary guidelines.
posted by hattifattener at 4:34 PM on August 6, 2009

There is a 'don't miss' back-story on the making of this film, here on the Japan Times website. The story was - of course - ignored by the Japanese vernacular press.
posted by woodblock100 at 7:11 PM on August 6, 2009

The point im making, tkchrist, is that outrage over the Japanese dolphin slaughter--or over Michael Vick's dog-fighting ring--just reveals westerner's arbitrary preferences for some animals. How is it that people who eat chickens, pigs or cows can possibly feel outrage over a dolphin slaughter? It is because of arbitrary cultural preferences.

Why are pigs ok to eat and dolphins not ok to eat? Why is what happens in the cove any worse than what happens on a Tyson farms chicken ranch or a Smithfield foods CAFO operation? In fact, you can argue, as the Japanese do, that what happens on our farms is far worse than what happens to their dolphins--and the number of animals killed is many orders of magnitude greater in the US.

Where is the documentary on pig farms and the outpouring of empathy? Why is pork advertised at the bus stop but then I'm supposed to feel outraged about dolphins being killed? It doesn't add up.
posted by trueluk at 6:49 AM on August 7, 2009

Where is the documentary on pig farms and the outpouring of empathy?

Right here.
posted by HumanComplex at 10:48 AM on August 7, 2009

Maybe the difference is that "the slaughter of dolphins is part and parcel of the unsustainable rape of the oceans on a systemic level that has reached critical mass which endangers all life," as tkchrist said. eating pigs, cows, and chickens doesn't have the same impact on the food chain or the natural environment because those animals are all being raised to be slaughtered. It's more akin to the overhunting of Buffalo in the American west. (The impact of waste runoff from pig farms etc is also a valid issue.) The inhumanity of it all is a separate issue.

As for why pigs are okay and dolphins aren't, I'd give three reasons:
1. Dolphins are a lot smarter than pigs. Obviously it's arbitrary where you draw the line about animals being to smart to eat, but for me it's somewhere between pigs and dolphins.

2. PIgs are far more plentiful than dolphins.

3. Dolphins are neither nutritious nor delicious.
posted by donkeymon at 4:02 PM on August 7, 2009

trueluk you didn't spend one single second even thinking abut what I wrote did you.

You are making a farcical false equivelency. Combined with some particularly egregious moral relativism.

If we were bitching that the Japanese were slaughtering domestically farm raised dolphins for meat you might have some sort of point.

The fact is the comparison between a wild animal like the dolphin, that borders on endangered and is an indicator species for an environmental catastrophe of biblical proportions befalling our life giving oceans, to a farm raised chicken is... well... it's fucking stupid, okay. If you take five seconds to think about it before you post you'd see that.

Yes. We kill billions of chicken every year. And there are trillions more where those come from. Becuase we raise them. But there are ever shrinking numbers of wild dolphins. And the real reason Japanese fisheries kill wild dolphins is eliminate the competition for fish species both humans and dolphins eat.

The fact is fishing fleets all over the world have decimated the oceans to the breaking point. And one of the chief perpetrators of some of the most abusive and damaging fishing practices are the Japanese. They have over harvested the pacific fisheries so much that are taking to killing any and every species that is either edible and/or competes with them.
posted by tkchrist at 7:34 PM on August 10, 2009

No. Opposition to a specific arbitrary guideline does not imply opposition to another arbitrary guideline.

It does if your opposition to it is BECAUSE it is arbitrary. And that is exactly why he opposed the "guideline" as he articulated in his last goofy post. It's fundamental logic, man.
posted by tkchrist at 7:38 PM on August 10, 2009

One can oppose arbitrariness in one context, such as application of the law and desire it in another, such as movie reviews. Like Donkeymon, I have no problem with drawing an arbitrary line at some point on the scale of sentience and environmental damage, but I'm a lot more reluctant to condemn anyone's choice of consensual sexual partners.

There is some validity to Trueluk's argument in that the line I draw would likely be lower if pork weren't so damn tasty. Your response was just a thinly veiled excuse to say "Fuck your mom". You're surprised he didn't give much consideration to the rest of your words?
posted by Manjusri at 2:40 AM on August 13, 2009

I have seen the film and it is very effective.

I can only assume there is organised crime involvement with the dolphin cull, due to the way the local council, police and government are so fervently protective of the practice (as if they have someone breathing down their necks). That and the money.

The fact that SeaWorld et al are taking wild animals from the ocean and pimping their intelligence for their own profit hadn't occured to me. I stupidly assumed that the animals they have were bred in captivity.

The title of the thread is misleading, as the dolphin drives are not a cultural tradition. The Japanese claim it is such, but I have yet to see any evidence of this. The selling of animals to marine theme parks is clearly not a cultural tradition.

Thanks for the backstory link woodblock. said there is no appropriate way to hunt animals as smart and complex as dolphins.

Hal Whitehead, who studies whale and dolphin social systems at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, said dolphins are among the few animals known to live in multicultural communities, in which groups of individuals that have been taught to do things -- such as catch prey -- in different ways live together.

"Whales and dolphins are at least as sophisticated as the nonhuman great apes," Whitehead said, noting that Japan has been a leader in gaining protections for monkeys and apes.

Because dolphins learn from one another, he said, major cullings can have a serious impact on surviving individuals' ability to persevere. "When you remove a bunch of animals, you remove not only them but the knowledge that they have."

The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which represents more than 12,000 zoos and aquariums globally, passed a resolution in 2004 prohibiting the procurement of cetaceans from dolphin drives. But a number of smaller enterprises, many of them in Asia, have reportedly continued to do so.
posted by asok at 4:15 AM on August 17, 2009

posted by asok at 4:16 AM on August 17, 2009

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