This Guy Really Hearts Flipper! Yeah! Yeah!
So last night my husband and I finally watched The Cove. I didn't want to watch it for a while, so I kept putting it off. It wasn't because I was afraid it would affect my inclination to eat sushi with my sake, and it wasn't because I hate documentaries. It was mainly because I knew it would make me cry. And it did, so I was right. But sometimes you just can't put off crying-and-watching-a-movie forever. It just had to happen.
It was kind of your typical moral-type documentary that seems to be pretty in these days. But, like Food Inc., I supported this team's moral agenda. I've always been a little creeped out and grossed out by Sea World, and the idea of training wild animals for our entertainment. More recently, while reading up on that Sea World worker getting mauled to death by a mentally unwell Killer Whale (and yes, there is such a thing as mental wellness in whales, it seems), right after a performance in front of hundreds of people, I've become even more creeped/grossed out.
Anyhow, to be quick about it, The Cove is about this place in Taji, Japan, where a handful fisherman catch some dolphins to sell to parks such as Sea World, and then slaughter the rest. Although there seems to be a discrepancy in the official number, the documentarians claim that approximately 23,000 dolphins are slaughtered in this cove in a seven month period. It's a secretive business, because the fishermen know people would be outraged if they were made aware of this.
This is what the cove looks like after the morning slaughter.
Part of the reason why people would be outraged is because of Flipper. It's a vicious cycle, because Flipper is the reason why this is common practice in the first place: we all love Flipper and want to see him on TV and at amusement parks, so this place in Japan has to do this, supposedly, to make some money.
And people like to anthropomorphize animals: Flipper's...er, I mean, Mr. Dolphin, is so awesome because he's so much like a person! He talks! He can play soccer! He'll let us pet him like a dog! He'll do weird, cheesy things, like waving! Yay!
So we get sad when we see Mr. Dolphin die, because he's our buddy. But that's what he gets for being so damn cute!
It's pretty horrible, the whole thing.
I'm not really going to go much further into the moral aspect of this whole thing. Enough has been written about that, and people on both sides of the fence can get kind of ridiculous about it without actually communicating with one another.
I think a lot of this film was dedicated to convincing us dolphins aren't just fish. Dolphins are self-aware creatures: they can recognize their reflections in the mirror, they play just to play, they recognize complex signals, and they have a complex system by which they communicate (and yeah, I'm hesitating to use the word "language"; blame Noam Chomsky). But dolphins are not the only creature in the world who exhibit this sort of behavior. Primates do as well. But primates look a little more like us, so it isn't so hard for us to accept their self-awareness. Dolphins don't like like us. Well, they don't look like most humans, anyway:
(Anyone who recognizes this guy gets 10 points.)
Anyway, I think it would be difficult to watch a film like The Cove and not feel some compassion for these animals. One scene was particularly heart-wrenching: one dolphin managed to escape from the cove and tried to swim away, but it had been stabbed already, and whenever it came up for air, blood just poured out of a gaping gash its side. Eventually, it just sunk below the surface and didn't come back.
When I watch something like that, I wonder how people can think evil does not exist.
And then, right after I think that I wonder: why the hell don't I wonder that when I eat sushi? Or squash a bug when it's about to bite me (or already has)? Or threaten to give my cat a one-way ticket to Guam after he's been scratching at my door for an entire night?
I think there are two reasons.
Reason One (and I know not everyone believes this): There is a difference between abusing an animal and using it as a food source. I think factory farms are disgusting, but I have the utmost respect for livestock farmers who raise their animals humanely. And yeah, I know that might not make a lot of sense to some people, but it's the conclusion to which I've come.
But Reason Two is a little more interesting, I think: I categorize. We all categorize. I know some Vegans who think this is just plain wrong, and maybe they are right. But I would also argue they categorize as well, in different situations, perhaps. We cannot live life without separating things into groups.
We do not value all movies the same.
We do not value all art the same.
We do not value all countries the same.
We do not value all food the same.
We do not value all music the same.
We do not value all cultures the same.
We do not value all animals the same.
We do not value all people the same.
And it has to do with connection.
I love my mom more than I love other people's moms, because my mom has her own special #1 Mom category. I am saddened when I see a dead cat on the side of the road, but I just go "meh" when I see a dead squirrel on the side of the road. Actually, the squirrel's lucky if he even gets a "meh," to be honest. Because I put cats into the "pets" category. I feel worse about a dolphin getting speared than a tuna fish because I put dolphins into the "interacts with humans and saves them from sharks occasionally" category.
Does this make me a bad person? I'm not sure. Is it something I can change? Not sure about that either. Maybe it goes back to the whole "humans are basically bad" kind of thing: as long as I'm a human, I'll inevitably favor some things over others just because of my connection to it, and its special category.
Even PETA knows this, hence the Sea Kitten Campaign!