International Bigotry in The Cove
The following is a guest post from Maria Rainier. If you are interested in guest posting at Geek Politics, check out the guidelines here.
Recently, I made a deal with a friend of mine that if he read the highlighted sections of my copy of The OmnivoreÃ¢â¬â¢s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, I would watch The Cove. For those of you who havenÃ¢â¬â¢t heard the cheerleader-esque rah-rahs from across the globe, The Cove is a multi-award-winning 2009 documentary by former National Geographic photographer Louis Psihoyos and FlipperÃ¢â¬â¢s trainer, the now deified Ric OÃ¢â¬â¢Barry. Michelle Orange of Movie Line said it best:
How much of this (The Cove) should we believe? As a piece of propaganda, The Cove is brilliant; as a story of ingenuity and triumph over what seems like senseless brutality, it is exceptionally well-told; but as a conscientious overview of a complex and deeply fraught, layered issue, it invokes the same phrase as even the most well-intentioned, impassioned activist docs: Buyer beware.
Mercury vs. Everything Else We Eat
In The Cove, OÃ¢â¬â¢Barry demonizes the Japanese government for feeding mercury-ridden dolphin meat to schoolchildren. LetÃ¢â¬â¢s clarify: the government does this because the Japanese have been eating whale and dolphin meat for centuries. Why? Because Japan is an island that doesnÃ¢â¬â¢t have enough land to domesticate enough cows to feed a nation. So, they get food from the much more bountiful ocean: fish, mussels, shrimp, and yes, cetaceans. ThatÃ¢â¬â¢s up until very recently, however, when whales have been banned and itÃ¢â¬â¢s become very unfashionable to do anything with dolphins but stick them in aquariums where they get to float in their own feces. Even America was a huge fan of whaling until it became faux pas. It would be naÃÂ¯ve to think that just because WWII is over that the Japanese government still isnÃ¢â¬â¢t a little butt-hurt. Being told by a bunch of white guys that something theyÃ¢â¬â¢ve been doing for years is immoral would probably grind their nerves enough to feed their own people that forbidden meat they believe to be harmlessÃ¢â¬âdespite many scientific findings they choose to willfully be ignorant of. Still, willful ignorance is hardly something of which America and the rest of the world is innocent.
Dolphins vs. Cows
Dolphins and whales are animals, like cows and pigs. The only difference is that the latter two have been domesticated for slaughter, which has somehow made it okay to kill them in incalculable rapidity after a whopping two years of being force-fed corn, which as ruminants is like humans eating feathers, and chicken feces, among other waste. Michael Pollan writes at great length about the misery the animals in urban farms, otherwise known as CAFOs, for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations. Cows are regularly fed a diet that would kill them if they lived a day longer than their slaughter date, which is when theyÃ¢â¬â¢re two-years old, significantly younger than most whales and dolphins are by their untimely deaths. At least cows are slaughtered somewhat humanely, but their lives can hardly be called humane. Americans lamenting the Japanese inhumanely slaughtering dolphins, therefore, are just pots calling the kettle black.
The things we find in American packaged meat are atrociousÃ¢â¬âI wonÃ¢â¬â¢t bother naming them all here because it would take me a novel, but e. coli and cow feces (remember Mad Cow Disease?) are the more memorable items in our McDonalds burgers that we so voraciously consume on a daily basis.
Dolphins vs. Wolves
While weÃ¢â¬â¢re talking about immoral slaughter, letÃ¢â¬â¢s talk about government-sanctioned gunning down of wolves that were just taken off the endangered species in 2009. Why does this happen? Because farmers in the area are concerned about their livelihoods being at risk because the wolves eat their farm animals. Hmm, this sounds familiar. Oh, yeah, Ric OÃ¢â¬â¢Barry says himself that a staple Japanese argument for dolphin slaughter is that theyÃ¢â¬â¢re considered pests that eat their crop: tuna. So, if the worldwide demand for tuna died down, then there would be no need to slaughter dolphins, right? Funny, OÃ¢â¬â¢Barry is too busy dehumanizing the common fishermen of Taiji who depend on fish for their livelihood to even consider the bigger picture of telling audiences to eat less non-sustainable fish species like tuna and Atlantic salmon.
Japan vs. Earth
As OÃ¢â¬â¢Barry says, Japan is harming the ecology by taking more than its fair share of what the ocean has to offer, but does OÃ¢â¬â¢Barry even once mention that cow farts amount up to more greenhouse gases harming the planet than do cars? Does he ever once tell people to stop eating as much beef so demand goes down and thus supply? Nope. Does he ever once mention the cesspools outside of CAFOs across America from which emerge two-headed toads and other accidents of nature? Does he mention that farmers wonÃ¢â¬â¢t even use fertilizer from CAFOs because the things they feed cows make them poop toxic waste? Nope.
East vs. West
The biggest problem with The Cove is that it treats the average Japanese citizenÃ¢â¬âwho is unaware of what goes on in Taiji just like most Americans were unaware of the wolf-slaughter until Sarah Palin waltzed into the media in 2008Ã¢â¬âlike suppressed victims of a tyrannical society. The reality is that Ric OÃ¢â¬â¢Barry is not a lone force of good versus the evil, dark government of Japan. This infantile, fictional contrast hurts efforts toward the ending of whale and dolphin slaughter by reinforcing Western-supremacist values and feelings. Whaling and dolphin slaughter is an activity thatÃ¢â¬â¢s responded to global censure and is today a diminishing endeavor conducted by a minority populationÃ¢â¬âit wonÃ¢â¬â¢t stand up to a well-reasoned and heavily backed movement unfettered by racism, but such a movement cannot be led by sensationalistic propaganda of bleeding hearts and blind-folded patriots.
Bio: Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education, researching various online degree programs and blogging about student life. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.