Very occasionally in life you see a film or a show and the scales of world-weary miasma fall away from your eyes and you realise that you have just witnessed something that may change history. So it was for me when I watched The Cove – a very special film now having its première in the
Many people have been campaigning against the issue of Japanese drive hunts and their links to the captivity industry for many years, but this film may well make this a mainstream issue. Indeed, my prediction is that the wave of support and enthusiasm on which it is being launched will carry it a long way, and that this will be a good thing. The film will also have its detractors in due course. Some will deplore the ‘underhand’ way in which it was made. Others will claim it is biased or misleading. However, such criticisms will probably come mainly from those inherently opposed to revealing the bloody facts of what happens in this eponymous cove in a small town in
However, perhaps you have not heard about this film yet, so let me go back a step and describe this docudrama and bring you up to speed. This is the real-life story of a group of unusual film-makers facing an unusual challenge: to expose the dolphin slaughter that goes on carefully shielded from the eyes of the world in the town in Taiji in
I’m going to précis the film now, so if you don’t want to read this spoiler please skip this section in italics and go to the end:
The film has several interlinked themes. Firstly there is the story of Ric O’Barry (best known as one of the former trainer of the dolphins used in the Flipper TV shows and a long-time convert to the anti-captivity cause). Having seen the error of his younger days as a trainer, Ric is now dedicated to opposing the captivity industry that keeps dolphins locked away in miserable conditions for human entertainment. One particularly violent face of this is the Taiji dolphin hunt - where dolphins of various species (including bottlenoses like Flipper) are driven ashore to provide animals both for dolphinaria and to be slaughtered for meat. Indeed, as the film details, our desire to see them as captives in parks and shows not only fuels the international trade in live animals but also helps keep the meat trade alive by subsidising it. The animals for shows are worth an order of magnitude more than the meat carved from their dead bodies.
Ric is shown being confronted by the authorities in
The main theme of the film commences when funders and film makers are shown getting together and starting to develop technologies that can be deployed in a daring expedition to Taiji to document the hunt. Cameras hidden in fake rocks and cameras hanging from flying machines are fashioned for deployment and record-breaking free-divers recruited who can help stealthily plant underwater microphones to capture the sounds of the hunt.
The film progresses by showing us how the team takes the equipment into
All of these aspects are woven into a fast moving adventure, which if it was simply a thriller would probably be enough to keep the viewers gripped. However, of course it is more than this, it is ‘bearing witness’ in the old tradition of the environmental and animal welfare movement, but doing so using the most up-to-date technology and the most far-reaching modern medium – the movie film.
Despite the sombre themes of the movie, there is much humour there too. However, of course, when the killing scenes come there is no doubting the suffering of the poor dolphins. This is no swift clean death as the officials have claimed for them and ultimately it is these brief scenes of unspeakable cruelty which will fuel the outrage which just might lead to change. In fact the film will undoubtedly speak to the many Japanese nationals who have no idea that this callous slaughter even takes place and who will be as shocked and moved as their counterparts in other countries.
I watched The Cove in a small hotel room in
This movie is important. It is gripping, coherent, fascinating, funny and terrible. (Terrible in that it shows something so awful that many will find it hard to appreciate that this still goes on.) This movie can help make things change and I congratulate the film-makers and funders for what they have achieved.
WDCS has long worked in
To find out more about the Japanese hunts and the captivity industry and WDCS long term campaign to end these practices see our dedicated website Driven By Demand.
The Cove’s official website is here: http://thecovemovie.com/
Go and see the film when it comes to your country and take lots of other people with you, but be prepared for an emotional roller-coaster.
Mark Simmonds, WDCS International Director of Science