Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Cove: The Killing Must Stop

I caught the movie "The Cove" last week.

There are good movies out there but few would leave me speechless at the end of the show. This one did.

Let me begin with a brief review.

The Cove is about the fight of a group of environmentalists to stop the ritualistic killing of innocent dolphins. It is a 92-minute documentary. That means that everything I watched was real footage rather than re-enactment. This is to be the main reason why the images ache me so much.

The setting is in Taiji. This is a little fishing town in Japan with a huge secret. There are adorable dolphin pictures and sculptures in this town and any visitor would easily be fooled to believe that it is a happy place for the dolphins. Every year, the fishermen would hunt about 23,000 dolphins. The 'lucky' ones would be sold to oceanariums while the rest would be killed at a secluded cove. The mass killing is to be a well-wrapped secret that even the local residents are kept out of it.

The hero is a former dolphin trainer, Ric O'Barry. He was the man who captured and trained the first five dolphins who played 'Flipper', an international television sensation during the 1960s. His relationship with the dolphins grew to become human-like and he decided to make a U-turn in his career. O'Barry spent 10 years building the dolphin entertainment industry but he now spends the next three decades trying to tear it down. What a great irony.

For this documentary, O'Barry g
athered a team of activists, film-makers, free-divers, underwater photographers, ex-military operation personnel and movie special effect experts to put the story together. Their mission: to expose the big secret of Taiji to the world. If you have watched 'Ocean's Eleven' played by George Clooney, you can easily picture the setting of this documentary. It is almost the same except that this time, it is real.

The narration is moving. The stories told are depressing. The heroes are courageous. Most of all, the killing scenes are disturbing if not, haunting.

'The Cove' is absolutely revelatory. I had to grit my teeth as it unfolded the cruelty of mankind (why do I even say man-KIND?) towards the screaming dolphins. I found my eyes welling in tears before many unbelievable scenes. Very heart-wrenching.

It is believed that dolphins are very intelligent and some suggest that their intelligence may even surpass ours. It is upsetting to imagine them screaming and pleading in a language which we do not understand, as the fishermen mercilessly slaughter them. They barbarically massacre the helpless dolphins with knives, spears and other sharp objects. The traumatized dolphins bleed blood like ours, struggle to escape to nowhere and die painfully with their signature smiles still on their faces.

Throughout the ordeal, the fishermen show no expression. What else would I expect them to do when all they can see is a-few-hundred-dollars price tags on each dolphin. Blinded by their profiteering motives, they sell the dolphin meat and pass it off as whale meat. The meat is often contaminated with mercury. Part of their senseless commercial outreach includes introducing the toxic meat to the unsuspecting school kids as their packed lunch.

After all the killing is done for the day, the cove is clear and quiet again. Everything looks the same except that the water has now turned dark red with dolphin blood.

The movie is rated PG13 in the US and PG in Singapore. I will advise parents who are planning to bring their children to watch the 'cute' dolphin show to think twice. While our children need to be told the truth that humans are the most savage and beastly species on earth, there is always a more appropriate time. It might be difficult for the young children to understand why men have to brutally kill the smiley dolphins. Not that the adults find it easy.

Not easy indeed. It is heart-breaking even as I pen my thoughts.

Singapore is also guilty of participating in the dolphin entertainment industry. The Singapore Dolphin Lagoon at Sentosa introduce themselves as:

"Home to the resident beauties of Underwater World Singapore, Dolphin Lagoon provides a priceless meeting with the lovely Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins or commonly known as the pink dolphins. Special care was taken in the construction of the Dolphin Lagoon to stimulate a natural environment similar to the dolphins' natural habitat.

Gorgeous and endearing, our pink dolphins are always eager to make new friends. Visitors can enjoy close proximity and be awed by their spectacular performances at our daily “Meet-the-Dolphins” sessions. Underwater World Singapore aims to increase public awareness and understanding of the dolphins in the hope of promoting the protection and conservation of these highly intelligent and endangered marine animals."
Just like many other oceanariums, dolphins at Sentosa Dolphin Lagoon are held in captivity in the name of education and conservation. This is what we think it is for but the dolphins may not agree. I accept that it is not easy to balance the need to educate the public on marine conservation while at the same time not doing anything to harm the marine environment.

It had been the plan for the upcoming Singapore Resort World Sentosa (RWS) to feature a whale shark in their proposed Marine Life Park. In March this year, I joined thousands others and petitioned for the decision to be reversed. RWS sent letters to the petitioners assuring them that they were still keeping the options open and that they did not take their undertakings lightly.

Two months later, RWS announced that they would "explore plans for an alternative to a whale shark exhibit,"

Up till now, RWS has not given their confirmation that the plan is indeed scrapped. I checked their official website today and there is no mention that there is going to be any whale shark in their Marine Life park. However, a picture of whale shark is prominently shown as one of the highlights.

I guess RWS needs to hear from more people. You can send in your petition at the
whalesharkpetition website.

Personally, I am also one of the millions of people who indirectly supported the dolphin entertainment industry. I have watched performances by dolphins kept in captivity and I have even swum with them in the sea. Such close encounters allowed me to really appreciate how special dolphins are. Their ability to connect with human plus the fact that they are naturally 'friendly' convinced me that I was dealing with highly intelligent creatures.

On 1 Sep 2009, O'Barry was in Taiji. Traditionally, that was to be the start of the six-month dolphin hunting season but this year, O'Barry reported that it was "a good day for dolphins". He was there with media representatives including those from Japan but they sighted no dolphins and no dolphin killers. The presence of the Japanese media representatives were of great significance as they had previously refused to cover the story.

I hope O'Barry gets
to report the same good news every year.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Awesome thank you for all your work on stopping the killings on dolphins! I pray that God rewards you for all you have done!