About a 'nonfiction?' movie "THE COVE"

When I started to study about whaling issue, one person described the anti-whaling propaganda as based on mixture of "some truth, half-truth, and total lies". The movie "THE COVE" seems not to be an exception and looks like a propaganda movie which is made from dolphin fundamentalist's point of view.

In Japan, take of about 20,000 small cetaceans (such as dolphins, pilot whales) are permitted annually, and about 1,500 are taken at Taiji these years. Until Sea Shepherd tried to free dolphins in 2003, the Taiji town was open to visitors from outside, but it looks the movie this time has strengthened distrustfulness to certain activists.

For people in Taiji, the word "COVE" may remind them of image of Cunning, Overweening, and Vicious Evangelists.

Here is some supplementary information about this movie, which may not be known outside Japan.

  1. First of all, the killing method (called "Tsukin-Bou" in Japanese) which appears in the movie is outdated. In Taiji, another less time-consuming method (the same one as used at pilot whaling in Faroe Islands) has been used since 2000.

    The movie does not tell when the killing scene was filed, and in the movie Ric O'Barry did not answer when he was questioned by Mr. Moronuki of Fisheries Agency of Japan about "when and where" the scene was recorded.

    By the way, against the allegation in the movie that above Mr. Moronuki was fired later, he still works at the Fisheries Agency. The movie reports that mercury was found in his hair, but it never shows how much was detected. It is quite common that people who have no medical problem caused by mercury contain some amount of it in the hair.

  2. Claim in the movie that Japanese government is trying to hide about mercury contained in dolphin meat is far from truth. For example, result of research on whale and dolphin meat was made public in 2003 as follows (in these Japanese tables, rows correspond to species, and sub-rows correspond to parts of bodies), as well as guidelines on amount of consumption.


    According to a study of 1137 Taiji people, which was made public this year, average mercury concentration was 11.0 ppm for men and 6.63 ppm for women. Although these figures were about four time larger than those of other 14 regions in Japan, none of Taiji people showed sign of mercury intoxation. According to WHO, concentration of 50 - 125 ppm can cause nervous symptoms to 5% of people. Although 43 people exceeded 50 ppm, none of them showed medical problem.

    Regarding effect of mercury, selenium is known to weaken the effect of mercury to human body, and selenium is contained in various foodstuff we eat.

  3. In the movie, associate professor Dr. Endo shows an example that dolphin product contained mercury of 2,000 ppm. However, the movie does not tell us which part of body of how old aged dolphin contained that.

    By its nature of contamination, mercury is accumulated gradually in the body, thus old aged body tends to contain much mercury, and data shows red meat (muscle) contains less mercury than other parts such as blubber and innards. This is one of reasons why Japanese research whaling program explot whale body since innards such liver is good indicator of environmental contamination in whale bodies.

    In this context, the movie is quite uninformative and seems to resort to sensationalism.

    Since his image was used in the movie for anti-whaling purpose, which was against his will, he filed a lawsuit againt distributing agency of the movie.

  4. It is pointed out that film crew used various factitive ways as follows in order to make up scenes which give impression of rough fishermen, or tragic situation in the cove.

    As shown in the movie, behavior of film crew were witnessed by Taiji people, and some of interviews with Taiji people are available on the Web.

  5. In the movie, it looks crew think that dolphins are very peaceful creature and friendly to human being.

    But reality is not that simple. If you search on internet about "infanticide" or "aggression" of dolphins, you will find many examples.

    Also, many people seems to interpret reported cases of drowning people being pushed to shore and lives saved as result of good will of dolphins. However, noone has ever observed in the sea to which direction dolphins push people, i.e. only toward shore. If dolphins push drowning people to various direction, what we know about those consequence are only cases that people were moved to shore. Dead people never tell us what happened. It means, by its nature, reports of people saved by dolphins are biased in sampling of cases. To say the least, many cases are reported about people swimming were attacked by dolphins.

    Without clearly agreed definition of animal intelligence, it looks propaganda about cetacean intelligence had carried general public into the world of myth and pseudoscience. When some politicians express their view about cetaceans, I find they are not exception and it means whaling policies in those countries are at least partly based on myth or pseudoscience.

  6. Regarding voting in IWC, it is a good idea to review how whaling moratorium could obtain 3/4 majority.

    One article which depict that is "The Not So Peaceful World of Greenpeace" .

By the way, in your country, can anyone freely enter slaughterhouse and film the scenes to disclose as movies? I believe not, and for example, if people who believe cows are sacred animals enter the slaughterhouse and try to free animals, then the house will take measures to avoid that. That was what happened in Taiji.

In Japan, there were intense debates over the movie which contained false information and was partly filmed illegally, without taking care of human right of fishermen. Among them, a comment by Hiroyuki, a well-known person in Japanese internet world and who personally is fond of dolphins, was somewhat cool. He said that he had expected this movie was a seriously made documentary film, but in fact he found the movie was like a grade-B comedy (such as spy-movie with hammy dialogue, etc.).

28/Jul/2010 (modified on 12/Apr/2014)