“The Cove” Debate — From the Japanese Perspective

By Dyske    March 12th, 2010

The Cove

So I finally watched The Cove, the Academy Award winning documentary about the slaughtering of dolphins in Japan. It was certainly painful for me to watch it. Even though I don’t think of myself as Japanese (nor American), other people certainly do, so there is no escaping of the impact this film has on my identity and how people perceive me. Because Japan is essentially the only nation that kills and consumes dolphins, this issue is clearly seen as a national issue, and the film certainly angles it as such also. When I saw the faces of the angry Japanese fishermen in the film, I could see how the Westerners see those faces and how the Japanese see them. Unfamiliar faces are easy to project negative feelings to, and the opposite is true of familiar faces. I can see both ways. The divide is so huge that I don’t have much hope for reconciliation. It’s like getting involved in a war where the people on both sides are actually your friends. A no-win situation.

I also watched some Japanese news clips about the reactions to the film in Japan, and also read some Japanese blogs. It appears that the Japanese are quite defiant about this. The issue that keeps coming up among the Japanese is this: Why is it OK for the Americans to slaughter thousands of cows and pigs, but it’s not OK for the Japanese to slaughter dolphins? What exactly is the criteria? After all, the number of dolphins they kill is a drop in a bucket compared to how many cows and pigs the Americans kill. The Japanese feel that the Westerners are imposing their own standards and values on the Japanese. One vocal intellectual in Japan calls it ethnocentrism. This is the question that the Japanese have been asking for decades, since the Westerners started complaining about the whaling in Japan. So, anyone who is familiar with the issue should know that this is the central question in the minds of the Japanese. I would therefore expect that this film would try to address it out of the respect for the Japanese, but it didn’t. This was a big disappointment.

The film does touch on it vaguely. It appears that the criteria for Ric O’Barry (the main activist in the film) is “self-awareness”. But this is a very human-centric way of looking at life. The only reason why we humans would value “self-awareness” is because we too are a self-aware creature. This view conveniently assumes that our own lives are the most precious and valuable form of life on this earth, and from that criteria, we conveniently put price tags on all the other forms of life in a hierarchical manner. But let’s think for a moment: how could we assume that we are in a position to determine the value of all the life forms on earth?

In the Japanese culture, there is a common belief that all forms of life are equally precious. So, by eating anything, we become guilty. That is, the Japanese starts from the assumption that we are all guilty. It’s quite different from the typical Western, particularly Christian, view where guilt is not something you accept as a norm. From this perspective, anyone pointing out the guilt of anyone eating anything is hypocritical. And, the defiant position that the Japanese is taking towards the anti-whaling activists is driven by this principal. Yes, believe it or not, they are acting defiantly out of principal, not out of their financial interest or their desire to eat dolphin. Many Japanese people are actually pissed about it, not ashamed. Most people have never even eaten dolphin meat. I certainly haven’t. Yet they are not coming out to support the activists. Many of them are angry because they see the situation as unfair and hypocritical, and they do not want to give into it.

Now, I would expect that some Americans would tell me, “Forget the reason; can’t you see the suffering of these dolphins?” That is, many people believe that this is not an issue open to a logical debate. Our heart should know immediately what is right and wrong by looking at the footage of the slaughter. The whole cove turning red from the blood of the dolphins. The assumption here is that these emotions are universal, not cultural. For those who have never grasped the huge cultural divide between the East and the West, it is inconceivable that such ground-shaking emotions are cultural. Yet it is.

After all, how is it possible for the Americans to slaughter so many cows and pigs? Would the average Americans have no emotional reactions to a video footage of the live cows getting slaughtered into pieces? The Japanese for a long period of their history ate just vegetables, rice, and fish. No animal meat until the West reintroduced the custom. During that period, the Japanese considered the Westerners to be savages for eating meat. If the Japanese had seen a slaughter house in the West then, they would have been horrified. If those dolphins could be captured without bleeding, they could freeze them before cutting them apart. If that was possible, the cove wouldn’t turn red at all, and it wouldn’t look any different from the slaughter houses in the US. How we react emotionally to these visual signs is indeed cultural. The Inuit people get covered in blood as they eat seals, but think nothing of it. Even their kids do it.

The film repeatedly makes fun of the fact that the town in which the dolphins are slaughtered have iconic images and sculptures of dolphins everywhere. That may be strange and surreal to an outsider, but just think of how American steakhouses might look to a complete stranger whose culture does not consume cows. Many steakhouses and fried chicken restaurants use iconic images of cows and chickens too. The only reason why this does not appear surreal to us is because we are used to it. It’s easy to point our fingers to someone foreign and make fun of these things because we are numb and blind to what we see every day.

O’Barry also paints the picture of the Japanese prison system as something uncivilized and unjust because they can detain people for no apparent reason. Let’s put this in a proper perspective: The Japanese incarceration rate is 48 prisoners per 100,000 people. In comparison, the US is 754 prisoners per 100,000. That’s over 1,500% of Japan. Is any American in a position to criticize Japan’s legal system?

This is not to say that the Japanese are blameless. Their politicians are just as corrupt as those of the Western world. How the Japanese essentially bought the votes from those poor countries to support whaling is the same political tactics the Americans used to form the “Coalition of Willing” to invade Iraq. I do not see Japan as any more corrupt than any other countries. And, it’s terrible that they were feeding dolphin meat contaminated with mercury to children, but that is not anything that any Americans should complain about. That is Japan’s own problem. There is much pollution in the US that can potentially harm American children (particularly junk food contaminated with chemicals which are served in school cafeterias), and imagine if some Japanese people came here to protest about that. I’m sure most people would say, “Hey, mind your own business.”

And also, it’s true that they could slaughter the dolphins more humanely. I think there is much room for criticism there too. But, the American cattle industry was not always humane either. In fact, I see an interesting parallel between this film and the film I saw about Temple Grandin. She is a Doctor of Animal Science who consults the cattle industry to implement more humane ways of slaughtering cows. She is autistic and has uncanny understanding of how animals feel, much like how Ric O’Barry understands dolphins well. The difference however is that Grandin does not stand on a moral high ground. She is just committed to treating animals humanely and does not make moral judgment about the slaughtering. Because of her modest attitude, she was able to make a significant impact on the whole industry and transformed the way cows are slaughtered in the US.

The secrecy of the Japanese fishermen were disappointing too. Now that the cat’s out of the bag, I would hope that they would stop hiding the slaughter. And, if they truly believe that they are not doing anything wrong (or no worse than what other cultures are doing), then there is no reason why they should hide. (Well, but the slaughter houses in the US aren’t exactly open to tourists either.) But unfortunately, that’s cultural too. The Japanese tends to reserve confrontation as a last resort. They prefer to smooth things out any way possible. So, I would not expect any public figures to come out and speak up about this to the West.

The irony of all this is that what the filmmakers are doing is ultimately prolonging this problem. They are trying to force Japan to shut it down. This is not about negotiation. They want to shut it down with the brute force of PR which relies heavily on the audience’s cultural ignorance and appeals only to knee-jerk reactions. This is what the Japanese are objecting to. They do not want to give them the satisfaction of winning. At the end of the day, they could careless about eating dolphins. Very few people are going to miss it, and the vast majority of them had never even had it in the first place. This is not about that.

When some of the Japanese in the film explained that this is a tradition to be respected, their point wasn’t that it is a nation-wide tradition. Their point is that any tradition, regardless of whose it is, deserves a certain degree of respect. It’s not something we should reject based on our knee-jerk response. It should require more careful consideration. O’Barry misunderstood that and called it a lie just because many Japanese people did not know about it. There are plenty of local American traditions that many Americans are not aware of. These filmmakers went to Japan and acted like cowboys (“Oceans Eleven” they called themselves), blinded by their own self-righteousness, wielding their cameras like they are guns, and showing no real desire to understand the Japanese culture.

As I said in my post about whaling, when you let the situation escalate to the point of emotionally wounding one another, all you are doing is guaranteeing the conflict to last forever. In this sense, I see this film to be quite unfortunate. As one Japanese said in the film, eating of dolphin is declining in popularity anyway. But if we wound one another in this fashion, it could go on forever. Some people might start eating dolphin meat for the first time in protest. The only real benefit of this film would be to boost the careers of these filmmakers. It is a perfect strategy for that purpose. If their objective was to convince Japan to stop slaughtering dolphins, they picked the worst strategy.

Indeed I often wonder if the filmmakers of this type of moralized documentary films are actually interested in resolving the conflicts they choose as their topic. Conflict resolution and winning (and becoming heros) are not one and the same; they require different strategies. This goes beyond the filmmakers; even the audience who advocates this type of film may not be interested in resolutions. Some may simply consume it as an exciting piece of entertainment, while others may use it to project their own guilt onto others in order to feel better about themselves (like a form of exorcism.). An effective conflict resolution requires respecting and understanding of both sides especially when it involves two different cultures. To use such a situation as an opportunity to be a hero is a form of exploitation, and it can escalate the conflict further. Given how angry many Japanese are about this, I would say the filmmakers of The Cove are guilty of this. I feel this is a very unfortunately situation.


A few issues/questions came up after I wrote the post above, so I’m going to address them below:

Regarding extinction: The whales and dolphins that the Japanese are slaughtering are not the species in danger of extinction. This is often ignored. However, even if the Japanese were slaughtering whales and dolphins in danger of extinction, addressing this particular concern, which is a practical problem (biodiversity), is different from the film’s main point which is moral. Practical problems are easier to resolve than moral problems because there are objective standards that we can agree to. Standing on a moral high ground and taking on a self-righteous attitude is not the appropriate way to address them. Such a tactics can only damage the very cause they are trying to support.

Depletion of marine life: If the argument of the film is an environmental concern, then let’s look at the whole picture, not just this small instance of dolphins. When we consider the amount of damage that each nation is causing and has caused in the past to the environment, the US is one of the worst (see the charts on this page). The Americans are in no position to point their moral fingers at any other nations. If they want other countries to conform to their own values and standards, they need to work on fixing their own problems. (Also, keep in mind Japan’s human population is rapidly declining.) The Japanese are certainly not ignorant of environmental concerns and have been better about it than the Americans. So, picking just a specific instance and standing on a moral high ground is not a fair way to negotiate and work together to resolve the environmental issues. I suspect that their tactics will someday backfire on them, and their cause would be severely damaged. Appealing to people’s knee-jerk reactions and exploiting shock-values never have a lasting effect. As soon as their effects wear off, people start to reconsider. At that point, it will backfire because people begin to realize that their emotions have been manipulated.

Seafood has always been a major part of the Japanese culture, so any change would not come quickly. The Americans face a similar problem with air pollution because automobile has been a major part of their culture, so the changes cannot come so quickly either. These problems should be negotiated and compromised. It’s not something we should pick on as an isolated problem and use a guerilla tactics for.

Tradition as an excuse: I agree that something being a “tradition” cannot be used as a justification to do anything you want. However, the point of bringing up “tradition” is to ask people to learn more about it, and not to rush to judgment based on the facade, because it has a long history and is not a simple matter to explain. The filmmakers of The Cove are clearly ignorant of the Japanese culture and show no real desire to learn anything about it. If they demonstrated their deep understanding of the Japanese culture, the film could actually be effective in achieving their goal.

I agree that it is sad to see these dolphins get slaughtered but this sadness does not give you the right to turn it into anger and point your finger at Japan when your own country is slaughtering cows and pigs every day in far greater number and causing much greater damage to the environment. Death of anything is sad but we should not use anyone else as a scapegoat to absolve ourselves of our own guilt. Hypocrisy and double standard are not effective ways to resolve any conflict.

Further Reading for the Open-minded

Response to this post from TakePart.com

And, my response to that response.

Here is another Japanese perspective. Beautifully written and argued.

Here is another Japanese perspective by someone who is familiar with the town of Taiji.

Excellent analysis of this topic by Christopher Carr.

For a little comic relief, check out a South Park episode on this topic.

151 Responses

  1. adamgn says:

    As an American meat-lover, I thought this film was a sham. I completely agree with the Japanese in that this film was one big piece of ethnocentric propaganda.

    As you said, the film never even attempted to address the issue that other nations (primarily America) kill millions of animals…

    And the fact that Ric O’Barry was one of their main supporters… he was a joke. His main argument was something along the lines of “I was on Flipper (the show) > I really liked Flipper (the dolphin) > Flipper was smart > we shouldn’t kill Flipper because Flipper was kind of my pet.”

    All that being said, I did think the movie was filmed brilliantly and it was certainly one of the most intense and edge-of-your-seat documentaries I’ve ever seen.

  2. wolverian says:

    As a vegetarian I can understand the indignation against pretty well. One difference between dolphins and cows though: the former are internationally protected, the latter are not. This kind of an agreement—that Japan is party to—is one reason to criticize the dolphin hunt.

    I did not know why the Japanese would feel defensive about this. The tradition thing is interesting. Thanks for the great post.

  3. JLRivers says:

    Always insightful..! Loved the contrasting of east versus west views on this matter, and specially the analogy to killing millions of cows and pigs in the US, under the same inhumane conditions depicted in the film, but nobody says anything.

  4. j.b. says:

    I’d say one of the bigger distinctions going on in the Westerner’s implicit perspective is that cows are one of a handful of domesticated food animals, raised in the hundreds of millions. Dolphins don’t mass-breed in captivity, and are not being farmed or raised in herds for the specific purpose of being eaten. They’re being hunted.

    I’m not saying this is logically consistent. Obviously, we all fish a lot of protein out of the sea that didn’t come to us via aquaculture. But because the dolphin is perceived to be more intelligent, a mammal, self-aware, cute, etc., it separates itself out from the tuna or even the manatees.

    There is a minor point to be made that, by and large, dolphin and whale populations are much more at risk of extinction due to overhunting than cows, sheep or goats.

    The environmental impact of raising all these food animals is an important question, but it seems more of red herring (ha) in the context of this specific conversation about subjective, emotional distinctions.

  5. Frank Luo says:

    “Yes, believe it or not, they are acting defiantly out of principal, not out of their financial interest or their desire to eat dolphin. Many Japanese people are actually pissed about it, not ashamed. Most people have never even eaten dolphin meat. I certainly haven’t. Yet they are not coming out to support the activists. Many of them are angry because they see the situation as unfair and hypocritical, and they do not want to give into it.”

    This paragraph can just as easily apply to countless issues and causes that the western media — primarily American media — have taken up. Take China for example — with all the publicity surrunding Tibet, you would think the American public knows the issues there very well, to think themselves entitled to make judgments about the matter. But no one ever seems to know that Buddhism is not the only religion in Tibet, that religion in Tibet has deep roots in shamanism in which the local shaman act as political rulers who mete out punishment such as gouging out eyes or dismemberment of limbs for offenses against their own code of conduct, including challenges against the shaman’s power. Some will probably say that this is just a myth propagated by the Chinese government for its own self-interest, to which the response would be: how do you know that the “oppression” of Tibetans is not a myth propagated by the American government for ITS own self-interest? If you require a negative proof of one, you should require a negative of the other.

    Similarly, during the Xinjiang riots, the truth is no one outside of the particular area really knew what the hell happened. The Chinese government called a terrorist attack by Islamic separatists, but media made it look like some sort of attack by the Chinese government on the local population, implying that it was some kind of racially motivated suppression of the Uighurs by the Han Chinese with Central Chinese government backing, ignoring the fact that a very large majority of the civilian dead were actually Han Chinese. So, instead of a picture of a bunch of Chinese soldiers marching into town and opening fire on defenseless Uighurs, the picture told by the number is more like a bunch of Han Chinese small business owners who were dragged out of their stores and homes and hacked and beaten to death on the streets by Uighur mobs while people looted and burned their businesses and homes. Add that to the fact that this would be unthinkable if there were Chinese troops on the streets, and the logical deduction is that the troop mobilization was AFTER and therefore in RESPONSE to the riots and widespread murders, rather than an unprovoked preemptive attack on the local populace.

    It’s a pretty familiar story that extends beyond China — I remember hearing complaints from my friends from the former Soviet Union about how American media was making the Soviet and then Russian actions against Chechnya into the same kind of belligerent invasion as the Soviet invasion of Poland, with the additional tinge of racism involved with its large muslim population, while in fact Chechnya was a sort of failed state that was was used as a base of operations by various criminal elements, many really just independent bands of armed bandits, that would frequently make forays into Russian territory and engage in theft, robbery, kidnapping, drug trafficking, and other criminal activities, completely ignoring national borders. This background of the history between the Chechens and Russians was never made knwon by a media that was more interested in fostering the paranoia that used to exist about the Soviet Union against the Russian Federation.

    It is very easy to jump on the bandwagon being promoted by media and think of those foreign to oneself as bugbears, icons of evil to be rallied against — for example the Russian government for attacking Chechnya, the Chinese government for mobilizing troops against riots in Xinjiang and Tibet (seriously — what would you expect a government to do against a riot of thousands? Send hall monitors?), or in this instance the dolphin fishermen. The reasoning is basically that:

    “We find what these people do morally repulsive” -> “These must be bad people” -> “These people must be doing this for some self-interested/greedy/malicious motive” -> “We must do something to stop them”

    …ignoring that the first and last pieces of it depend on the “We” — in this instance American mainstream culture — having the authority to make that determination, and going further, that it is somehow entitled to enforce this determination on others. The unquestioning acceptance of these premises is the core of ethnocentrism that should be challenged.

  6. woundedduck says:

    I tried to have this argument with a friend, “Killing cows is no different than killing whales,” but he argued whales are endangered. Which, of course, isn’t true of the species hunted by the Japanese. Same goes with seals in Canada. No worse than cows.

  7. UG says:

    Standing with one foot in the USA and the other in Japan I both hear and feel the pride.

    I feel growing up in the United States we were taught to be self righteous, unfortunately they also some how reinforce that the Americans are the “Most self righteous”

    I feel growing up in Japan we were taught to be self righteous , Unfortunately they also some how reinforced that Japanese are the “Most self righteous”

    Personally I grew up watching flipper but I don’t live on grub cereal with soy milk
    I enjoy a fat steak but hate the concept of farms and slaughter houses but don’t have the time to go hunt a roaming buffalo nor would I have the fridge space to store the entire carcass.

    If I lived on the ocean and the hunt of the day was dolphin I would savor every bite
    Living in the city I never thought about ordering dolphin, I usually order farm slaughtered cow meat

  8. Michael Kay says:

    Nice column, right on the money. I eat cows and pigs regularly; and I agree it is babaric. I have never eaten dolphin nor whale, but to classify the eating of one mammal as ok and another as not, just for what it is, is barbaric. Especially the way in many countries, the consumer’s relation to the cow or pig is sanitized by hermetic packages of reddish food.

    I have not seen the film, but what you mention about the Japanese fisherman hiding the slaughter is definitely a mistake, and probably did something to increase the wrath of the filmmakers.

    I also agree that it is a common crime of US international politics to impose its values on other societies with no attempt to understand the other culture. From right wing warmongers to leftist filmmakers.

  9. tea says:

    As a vegetarian, I think eating cows and pigs are just as savage as eating cats, dogs and seals. And eating tuna are just as savage as eating dolphins and whales. So I think 99% of the people in the world are barbaric, savage and uncivilized… As you can see that doesn’t do very well to my social life (that’s why no girl likes me)… So long ago I accepted the fact that self-righteous is not a very healthy mental state.

    In fact I think self-righteous is a mental disease. We treat love like the 1st law of thermodynamics. We all seem to think that in order to love something; we have to hate something at the same time. Like the conservation of energy, the amount of love given must be equal to the amount of hate produced. So in order to love dolphins and whales, we have to demonized and hate the Japanese. In order to love cats and dogs, we demonized the Chinese. In order to love seals, we demonized the Canadians… etc etc…

    Frank, I’m not sure how the topic of Dolphins relates to Tibet… but I can assure you Chinese (as I’m one of those) are just every bit as self-righteous as the Americans, so are the Japanese, Europeans and Ethiopians… In fact, self-righteous is a worldwide epidemic that no one is immune to… (as you can see I am self-righteously accuse everyone of you being self-righteous.)

  10. Melissa says:

    Trawling for some of America’s favorite seafood causes MUCH MUCH more environmental damage than killing a few whales. Americans just are too tied to individualism and too ignorant of ecology. They would rather destroy entire ecosystems than see a few charismatic megafauna die.

    I can respect vegans, but vegetarians have no high horse. Do you think Bessie the dairy cow gets retired when her milk flow slows down? Do you think her male calves get let free on the range? Drinking milk is ethically the same as eating veal or hamburgers, because those foods are the consequences of milk.

    Viewing death and killing as barbaric is a sad consequence of our alienation from nature and our own econiche. Are lions barbaric? Killer whales? Native Americans? It’s a very sad life and vitality-hating philosophy to view things this way.

  11. Frank Luo says:

    @ tea

    My main point was actually neither about Tibet nor Xinjiang nor Chechnya. The reason I wrote about those things is that the sentiment I see reflected as pertaining to them are the same as that Dyske wrote about. I read Chinese blogs and news sources, and speak to people from various parts of China, regardless of their current places of residence. And the sentiment I detect in them about Tibet and Xinjiang, and in the former Soviet/East European friends who talked to me about Chechnya, was uniformly anger. There is just this… Indignant fury that random people from other parts of the world are for whatever reason asserting the right to force them to conform to their values and judgment.

    On the self-righteous thing — you are completely right. People from every culture do do it. Along with the anger I see in the Chinese blogs about Tibet, I read all kinds of crazy stuff that seem to follow the same reasoning that I outlined, for example accusations that Richard Gere is an agent of the U.S. government, etc. There is a desire to assign motives or malice to others, especially in some familiar pattern, is the same.

    However, ask yourself this: when was the last time you heard about a foreign government official protesting, say, racial inequality in America with the American president in a state visit? Or some foreign celebrity creating a foundation dedicated to forcing the American government to tighten gun control, or even to allow Alaska to secede from the union?

    There is a cultural difference in there somewhere.

    As a final aside, I think whale is delicious and wish that I could buy it at my local supermarket. Anyone who thinks eating whale is a barbaric tradition that is below America needs to reread Moby Dick.

  12. tom says:

    Just for your information, there is controversy about the mercury issue, if it’s really harmful, please take a look at:

    And thinking about the Inuit people who also eat a lot of mammals with high levels of mercury and apparently, it’s not harming them.

  13. Dyske says:

    Hi Tom,

    That is interesting, but I would still argue that it’s better to leave dolphin meat off the school lunch in Japan (just in case) because some school lunches are mandatory in Japan. Unlike the Inuit people, there is no health risk to stopping the consumption of dolphin meat in Japan. There are plenty of other nutritious food products they can eat.

    Thank you for sharing that info.

  14. Christopher Carr says:

    Hey Dyske, thank you for reading my review of the film at: http://www.theinductive.com/culture/2010/1/21/the-cove-and-the-self-righteousness-of-activists.html and inviting me to join the discussion here. I agree wholeheartedly with the vast majority of what you’ve said and the vast majority of what’s been said in the comments. It’s good to find other people who considerably disliked this film!

  15. Mike Kato says:

    A very provocative post. I am a friend of Mike Kay’s. We went to school together in LA many years ago. I’m of Japanese descent and I’ve lived in Japan now for more than 23 years.

    I don’t agree with everything you, but I think you do make some valid points. I don’t like the slaughter of cattle and pigs any more than that of the dolphins. Although I do eat meat, I would very much welcome a world in which cattle and pigs are slaughtered in a completely different manner than now.

    However, the same slaughterhouses are used in Japan as well, although there are some extremely expensive operations which lead to extremely expensive beef and pork, which are outside of the budgets of most Japanese. I don’t think that there is a moral grounding upon which the Japanese stand, nor a cultural tradition for valuing the life of other living beings, but rather a mere general disdain for the Americans who have come to crucify the Japanese fishermen.

    I believe, too, that the general attitude towards the Japanese on this matter is rooted in the nation’s overwhelmingly antagonistic attitude towards any restrictions on fishing. Any time a nation with less than 2% of the world’s population uses more than 80% of the world’s annual accessible resources, others in the world will take issue with that. When the world’s scientists overwhelmingly insist that this is endangering multiple species, yet the nation questions this, even demonstrates complete disdain for the international laws enacted to protect these species, the attitude of many people in the world will be disdain – at best.

    I am particularly fond of dolphins, mammals that are capable of amazing feats of endurance and intelligence, and see no reasonable comparison between them and cows or pigs. This is not to make a claim that there should be a hierarchical system in the treatment of other species. I subscribe wholly to the primary importance of biodiversity. I am not only fond of a tremendous variety of plant foods, which form the basis for my diet, but also enjoy many land and water-based animal food products. I would much rather see many meats, dairy, and fish products cost more, consumed less, and handled more ethically. The quality of these is much more important than quantity availability.

    Sorry for the long post. But I will be pleased when the gruesome killing of the dolphins and whales, overfishing in general, and horrific practices in raising and slaughter of cattle and other primary table meats are all stopped – in Japan, the United States, and throughout the world. I don’t eat at McDonalds nor eat dolphin and whale. Tofu steak anyone?

  16. Jess says:

    Frank – you offer some bizarre comments about the Chinese invasion of Tibet and the subjugation, imprisonment, and torture of the Tibetan people – not to mention the stealing of their land.

    If you’re so willing to eat whale meat, my guess is that you’d probably eat ANY kind of meat, including Tibetans!

  17. Dyske says:

    Hi Mike,

    Thank you for your interesting comment. I agree with the importance of biodiversity and sustainability, but “The Cove”, in my opinion, does a disservice to these causes because they use these causes in a disingenuous way to support their cause which is fundamentally different. They are making a moral point about killing of dolphins and whales. Even if Japan were to implement a perfect plan for sustainability and biodiversity, it would not resolve their issue at all. So, it’s only a distraction and adds confusion to the whole debate. Besides, as far as I understand, dolphins they are killing are in fact growing in population and consuming other types of fish that have sustainability problems. So, from the perspective of sustainability, slaughtering of dolphins is not causing any problems. Correct me if I’m wrong here, because I might be.

    I have a few questions.

    “Although I do eat meat, I would very much welcome a world in which cattle and pigs are slaughtered in a completely different manner than now.”

    This surprises me. I thought the slaughtering of cattle and pigs was as humane as it could be. I thought it was a single shot to the head that kills them instantly. Is this not the case?

    Does the Japanese consume 80% of the seafood in the world? Or, do they export the seafood?

    Seafood consumption and sustainability is a big problem, and it is unfortunate because seafood is good for us humans. American consumption of seafood is growing which is a good thing from the perspective of our health, but not good from the point of view of sustainability. It appears that the biggest problem in this sense is the overpopulation of humans in general.

    But, on a positive note, I see a growing movement here in New York for local, sustainable seafood. My parents who moved here from Japan rave about how good the fish is here. The consumers should be just as responsible as the producers too. Each of us can make a difference in this sense by choosing how we consume food.

    “I don’t think that there is a moral grounding upon which the Japanese stand, nor a cultural tradition for valuing the life of other living beings,…”

    I’m not exactly sure what you meant by this but I was referring to Shinto religion in Japan where nature is worshipped, God is believed to exist in everything, and where the Japanese view humans merely part of that system not above it. In comparison, the Western (Christian) view pits humans against nature, and we humans are seen to be at the top of the hierarchy. Is your understanding of Shinto and Christianity different from this?

  18. Frank Luo says:

    What’s bizarre is to make a leap from eating whale to cannibalism. This is exactly the kind of nutty accusations that actually pisses people off and actually make them want to continue doing what self righteous people find offensive.

  19. Dyske says:

    I just found this on Wikipedia. It’s an interesting read about “Anthropocentrism” where the traditional Western view does pit humans against nature, but there is a different interpretation of The Bible that is closer to the Eastern view.


  20. Dyske says:

    I don’t want to go too far off topic here, but for the debate about Tibet, I found this book to be invaluable.

    The Dragon in the Land of Snows: A History of Modern Tibet Since 1947

    It is written by a Tibetan, and offers a detailed history of the whole conflict with China. Regardless of who is at fault, it is quite obvious that the mainstream American understanding of Tibet is overly skewed and romanticized. It’s essentially Hollywood-nized where Tibetans are presented as some sort of angels. They too are humans just like the rest of us, as such, their conflict is a human conflict with stories from both sides. Too many people are too quick to judge these kinds of conflicts based solely on how Hollywood depicts them. In this sense, this topic of Tibet is quite closely related to this issue of The Cove.

  21. Mike Kato says:

    Thank you Dyske. Great questions.

    First, I haven’t seen the Cove. I want to, but the movie is still not out yet officially in Japan. On the other hand, I’m not fond of spending money on movies in movie theaters. They are run by major studios in an extremely poor way, which I don’t condone. Thus, I can’t really speak for what message that they are trying to portray. I don’t think that the morality of killing dolphins and whales are the primary issue, though as I said in my first post, I have a very strong admiration for what I believe to be an extremely intelligent being.

    If dolphins and whales are making a dent against populations that are endangered, it is only because human activity are endangering them in the first place. If we change our habits that result in the assault against other life forms on the planet, one that places emphasis on domination and control or other species, then it is likely that nature will inevitably strike a balance between various species. Human intervention has proven historically to create, rather than alleviate most unbalances.

    Japan does consume more than 80% of many seafoods. Bluefin tuna, several other tuna species, sea urchin, some shrimps, and a few other fish are on the list. Part of the reason that most of these are imported into Japan is that the prices paid by Japanese importers are much higher than elsewhere. So naturally many fisherman worldwide are willing to export to Japan. Many in the ocean ecology community – founded or unfounded in science – think of this like prostitution – it is only because people are willing to buy at very high prices that the bad business prospers.

    There is definitely a relationship between production and demand. Seafood, too, can certainly be a more healthy alternative to meat, especially beef, but also other meat that is fed not just GMO grain, but also an incredible amount of hormones and antibiotics. But so, too, are fisheries. Raising animals – including fish – in captivity and in single species environments is an open invitation to predators of that species. In the real world, there are not enough of a single species in one place and time for the predators to become very prevalent. But just as single crops become susceptible to particular insects, fungi, bacteria, viruses, and other ills, so too are animal “crops”.

    Cattle, broiler chickens, pigs, and other animals are treated inhumanely throughout their lives. There is a plethora of writing about practices in the modern ranch and slaughterhouse. Though the times are very different from Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle,” treatment today is, if anything, worse. There have been a number of films and books about this, especially in the US, but attempts to make major investigative reports on this subject have led to murders and sabotage, in addition to overall harassment of the researchers and collaborators. Meat is, of course, big business, and its perpetrators are willing to protect it at all costs.

    What I meant on the “moral grounding” is that most Japanese are not happy with “The Cove” not because of some strong traditional moral stance for life, but just because they take it as a slight against themselves as Japanese. I think of it much like people in Japan who say that they are for Peace, that Japan is a Peaceful nation. But Japan is the world’s 4th biggest arms exporter. So, by not engaging directly in war, but selling planes, ships, rockets, bombs, and guns to countries that do, not only is the country being hypocritical, but is like a drug dealer that doesn’t smoke or shoot up.

    I am a Christian, because I grew up in a completely Christian nation with a Christian ideology deeply embedded in its culture. But I really like Shinto concepts. And, I don’t believe that Christianity necessarily puts humans above nature. I don’t have a hierarchical view of the world, including human organizations. I’ve never functioned very well in them. I like cyclical systems and system-based thinking. I love community-based organizing. I love life – all of it. So I do everything I can to protect as much of it as I can.

  22. Christopher Carr says:

    Anyone who wants can watch the Cove here: http://www.veoh.com/search/videos/q/the+cove#watch%3Dv19564718n3wWA6EZ

  23. Dyske says:

    Hi Mike,

    Thank you for that. Very informative.

    Since you seem to be very knowledgeable about ecology, I have one more question if you have time.

    Although I appreciate the idea of biodiversity and the “balance” of nature, the cause of the biggest imbalances in nature historically appears to be nature itself. For instance, a massive asteroid hitting the earth and causing the whole planet to go into ice age. Or, a large volcanic eruption that wipes out all living things around it. In other words, nature itself does not seem to be advocating for biodiversity. That is, shit just happens, and nature has no particular agenda of its own.

    If this is the case, human activities that severely damage the environment can simply be looked at as another shit that’s happening to the earth. If we end up making the earth unlivable for ourselves, it may ultimately be good for the earth because it will rid itself of the biggest polluters. This extreme view of ecology brings up a point that even the advocates of biodiversity are in the end advocating for themselves (for humans), not for mother nature or for the earth, which we are lead to believe. What do you think of this view?

    On another note:

    I just did a little research about the Japanese consumption of seafood because 80% seemed like an astronomical number for a nation of 127 million people. According to this report the per capita consumption of seafood in Japan is roughly 3 times that of the US. That’s a pretty big difference but for the nation of 127 million people to consume 80% of seafood world-wide would require each Japanese to eat roughly 210 times the average person eats in the rest of the world. That’s hard to fathom. Backing out the percentage from the ratio, if we were to assume that the American consumption of seafood is just about the average for the world, Japan would be consuming roughly 5.5% of all the seafood in the world, which is nowhere near 80%. Where did the number 80% come from? It may be possible that Japan catches 80% of all seafood in the world, but if so, the majority would have to be exported because they couldn’t possibly be eaten by the Japanese.

  24. Jess says:

    The reference to cannabalism is a joke! (obviously???). However, please don’t let it distract you from your comments on Chinese military suppression, takeover and ultimate subjugation of Tibet and its peoples – most of whom now live in exile. The Chinese have created a nice little ghetto – apartheid style – for those Tibetans who dared to remain.

  25. Mark says:

    I just abhor the idea of these Hollywood activists who ‘care’ about causes because it boosts their image. Half of these people are going to move along to the next cause after the bulk of the uproar has subsided. It’s like the actors/actresses who talk about environmental protection yet show up on the red carpet wearing ridiculous amounts of gold and diamonds. The effects of mining precious gems and metals has a much more significant impact on the environment than driving an SUV, yet these people think that because they drive fuel efficient Prius they are, in some way, above reproach. They will also be the first to complain if the Japanese do stop killing whales and dolphins, and the price of their catered sushi skyrockets.

  26. Dyske says:

    Hi Mark,

    I was just reading this article entitled “The Cove” and the Problem of Documentary ‘Solutionizing’. I think he makes an interesting point, and I left a comment there.

    I think the same mechanism is at work at a much more fundamental level. For instance, saying “I love you” seems to take care of the need to actually love that person. So your action would be lacking. In many abusive marriages, the word “love” is uttered frequently, as if to make up for the lack of true actions of love.

    Similarly, watching the film takes care of everyone’s need to do something. In other words, they don’t really want to do anything. They just want to feel good. These moralizing documentaries are ultimately just a piece of entertainment for the viewers which makes them feel good about themselves, and they are more than willing to pay for that rush of moral superiority.

    When the documentary films are objective and not moralizing, the filmmakers have a hard time finding any audience for it, because there is no feel-good value in them. In fact, in most documentaries that are objective, there is always a healthy dose of self-criticism where we are encouraged to question ourselves. So, I would fundamentally question the motives of the people who advocate these feel-good documentaries. Ultimately, they are just self-serving, and it shows in their actions.

  27. Frank Luo says:

    >Chinese military suppression, takeover and ultimate subjugation of Tibet and its peoples – most of whom now live in exile

    There are about two and a half million ethnic Tibetans living in Tibet. According to the Tibetan government in exile itself, there are about 150,000 Tibetans in disaspora. Since their criteria is not actually even based on ethnicity but based on the birthplace of the applicant or a parent being in Tibet, and the verification of this eligibility is accomplished by an interview. How scientific and iron clad.

    There are some “ethnic Tibetans” who have always lived in the rest of the world in neighboring regions, like Bhutan, India, and Nepal. These people never lived in Tibet to begin with.

    Assuming that there are some errors here and there, 150,000 is still a very, very small minority compared to 2.5 million. That most Tibetans now live outside Tibet is sheer make believe, just like the rest of your claims.

  28. Mark says:

    I couldn’t agree more. One of the fundamental problems is that people, especially in the west, are conditioned not only to think in absolutes, but also to believe in their own inherent superiority (although this sentiment is also expressed in the Chinese concept of Jung Gwo, the only difference being that the Chinese were content with their feeling of superiority whereas westerners sought to spread their ‘superior’ ideas to every corner of the globe). This combination makes it significantly easier to galvanize opinion and sway people based on emotional response. It’s also interesting to note that many people who are against dolphin/whale killing are the same people who in the next breath advocate cultural understanding and celebrate diversity; so long as it doesn’t offend their sensibilities I guess.

    I read through all the comments above and also thought that it was interesting that the topic of Tibet was mentioned. It always used to baffle me how many “Free Tibet” stickers and t-shirts that I would see worn by people who had only the most perfunctory grasp of the Tibetan situation. Like you said, buy a sticker and you can feel better. I myself have very little knowledge of the situation, but I would not rely on any western news source if I sought to learn. It always seemed to me that the attention paid to Tibet was more of a means of casting a negative view of the Chinese government. As was noted above, there are always two sides to a story.

    What always baffled me more, however, was that these same people had little to no opinion on the US government’s response to Waco, some even positing that the actions were necessary to stop this “insane religious cult”. And, these are the same people who denounce the Iranian government’s response to protesters without thinking that if the masses in any western country were out in the streets rioting and setting fires, their government would respond with the same measures, as was the case in Seattle in 1999, where protesters were gassed, beaten, and shot at.

    Sorry if that strayed far from topic, but I get annoyed when people form judgments about the actions of other cultures without realizing that their own culture acts in essentially the same way. Which I guess brings it back to topic. I joked earlier today about today being the first day of the Taiji Convention on the Banning of Selective Judgement and Good Guy Badges.

  29. Mark says:

    I also just noticed the tagline on the cover of the movie, “Man is their biggest threat and their only hope”. That is a perfect example of how people who make movies like this try to polarize an issue. Kind of like, “If you’re not a part of the solution then you’re a part of the problem,” or “If you’re not with us, then you’re against us.”

  30. haruko says:

    Who knows, it may only be Repablican propaganda. Here in Canadia, government is trying to see possible Seal meat markets. If people become acceptable to the idea that seals and dolphins and other sea creatures are alternate, safe, farmable and marketable food, there will be much less burger eaters. Actually, we see great increase of seafood eaters in North America for health reasons. Don’t stop there, if seal and dolphins market expands, there could be less starving population on earth. That means less importance of non profit organization, less donation, less underground financial market, less money in the pocket for the selected few. If you had some money to through around, why not brainwash large population with likes of this movie. It may be USA’s “Non-weaponary” war against changes.

  31. Mike Kato says:

    Thanks Dyske.

    2 quick responses:

    1. I agree completely about nature/human sustainability. The natural Earth environment will survive any catastrophe inflicted by humans on it. I am concerned about human inhabitance of the planet. I have two small children. I am very concerned about the quality of life on this planet in their lifetime. I believe that their quality of life is dependent on their expectations of quality of life for their children. The Iroquois tribe of North America used to consider the impact of their actions for something like 6 or 7 generations. I consider this to be the natural extension of good stewardship on Earth.

    2. On the consumption of seafood, I will repeat for the 3rd time, my reference is to specific species, not the overall consumption of fish. In particular, I have referenced specific species, which have been listed as either endangered or at-risk species. There are many specific varieties, including – I repeat – bluefin tuna, sea urchin, some shrimp varieties, whale, and even some varieties of squid or cuttlefish, as well as many kinds of fish roe, that Japanese consumption accounts for 80% or more of the world’s total. This does not even account for the amount consumed in Japanese restaurants overseas.

    Again, I care about the very long-term availability of these species, not only because I enjoy a variety of sashimi once in awhile, but because I believe that biodiversity is the primary reason that the Earth is an ideal ecosystem for human and primate life forms. As long as we fish for survival needs or sport – not for the quick-fix, high animal protein, high cholesterol, high fat, energy intensive, low human labor diets that make meats, dairy products, and fish the “main dish” at every meal, consequently creating a “surplus” of grains and legumes, which are fed to table meat animals or “recycled” into fertilizers, biofuels, or junk food fillers and not used as a primary food source for humans – I’m fine.

    I love fishing, but hate most commercial fishing. I love farming, but dislike most commercial farming. I don’t particularly like ranching or even raising pets. So I try to eat less meat, more fish, and even more organically grown fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, and herbs. I avoid dairy products, except some cheeses, and instead use soy milk.

  32. Dyske says:

    Hi Mike,

    Thank you for the clarification. I needed it because you said: “Any time a nation with less than 2% of the world’s population uses more than 80% of the world’s annual accessible resources, others in the world will take issue with that.”

    I interpreted “80% of the world’s annual accessible resources” as 80% of all seafood caught in the ocean every year. If this is true, yes, I would agree very much that the world would take issue with that. But according to the paper I found, each Japanese consumes roughly 3 times the amount of fish each Americans consume. While this is still large, American population being 307 million and Japanese being 127, it is only 24% more than what the US consumes. So, there is a big difference here depending on how you interpret what you said. That’s why I wanted to clarify it especially because manipulation of statistical data is another common method used for shock value.

  33. Ellie says:

    I’m a bit confused about the slant of this article, because while I agree ethnocentrism is a pretty disagreeable trait of almost every nation on earth, was the point here really that it happened in Japan? This seemed to me to be about some people who fundamentally believe that this shouldn’t be happening, for a variety of reasons. Yes, Ric O’Barry’s stance is one that dolphins are intelligent and he is possibly trying to assuage his guilt re Flipper and his experiences on that show. Others of the crew believe that oceanic biodiversity is important for all. Other points, possibly marginalised too much, were on the more directly human impact – mercury in the lunches of children and the inanity, both inherent and propagated, in any zoo/marine park display where a wild animal is treated like a toy for humans.

    I think your article possibly takes more of a tribalistic view than the documentary does. To suggest that this is ‘America’ attacking ‘Japan’ is way too simplistic, surely? There are many documentaries and books that have pierced through the walls to reveal the disgusting practices of abattoirs and meat production plants all over the world, and Jonathan Safran Foer’s recent book has done much to try to publicise the horrors of it particularly in America. The situation in Taiji seems to be one that has not been examined, and one that the film-makers feel very strongly about. Should they just ignore it because it is happening in another country? To what extent should you take that argument? Should we ignore anything beyond our own nose?

    I can’t even begin to understand all of the cultural issues that lie behind the decision to hunt these dolphins (and from my ethnocentric viewpoint the fact that Japan was buying nations into the IWC suggests that cold, hard cash might be at least something to do with it), but similarly I cannot understand what makes a farmer decide to breed chickens in depraved conditions. To say that ‘America’ does this and ‘Japan’ does that and other places do other things seems to be to miss the point, surely? The old adage that ‘two wrongs don’t make a right’ seems really appropriate here. The fact that these issues are still nationalised and made political is part of a very convenient propaganda for various people with a vested interest.

    Big business across the world has seemingly decided that the bottom line is more important than any other issue. If you are happy to accept that the constant plundering and rape of this planet is fair enough and that we are all going to hell in a handbasket – that we can become the first species to *knowingly* wipe ourselves out (while taking a plethora of others with us) – then that’s entirely your decision and fair enough. But if people have a different viewpoint, I’d suggest it is less to do with jingoistic certainties and more to do with a desire to try to restrain rampant and maniacal greed and try to make a stand for their own, personal ethics, and ones that don’t lie in a bit of paper with a number printed on it. These people find their ethics rooted in a sense that the environment is inherently invaluable and our destruction of it unforgivable. I can see why this film has caused upset in Japan as an attack on its culture, but I didn’t perceive it as that at all. I have no grievance with Japanese culture after watching it, but only with those people that defended it where they had something to gain, mostly monetary. I’d suggest at least some of the upset displayed by these people in the film sprouts from the same ground as the outrage of factory farmers when they are challenged about their practices: less a cultural indignation but more denial, and a revolt against an attempt to restrict selfishness and unmitigated desires that we are increasingly resistant to in an ‘I want’ culture.

  34. Dyske says:

    Hi Ellie,

    You are being quite disingenuous to say that this film was not about Japan. That is a big “slant”, I must say. Do you actually believe that the main theme of the film was “biodiversity”? If so, wouldn’t you say it is an extremely biased and narrow-minded view of the topic? How could the problem of biodiversity be reduced down to these dolphins? Why should anyone focus on such a small location for such a big problem?

    If we were to make a film about air pollution, do you think it’s fair to single out one specific factory somewhere in the US and use the name of the company all over the film as if they are the only guilty company? Don’t you think such a tactics would distort and confuse the whole issue?

    If that company happens to be responsible for the majority of the problem, I could understand, but when you look at the problem of biodiversity, the problem in Taiji is a drop in a bucket. It is like singling out a small local factory and making it look like it’s responsible for the global warming.

    If I followed your logic, I would be entitled to go into your house, find one small thing that you are guilty of in terms of carbon footprint, or any unhealthy food that you might be feeding to your kid (if you have one), criticize it as a selfish behavior, and have your name all over the film so that you could be shamed in public. And, not even bother to understand your position. And, on top of all this, how would you like it, if I happen to be guilty of the same thing in my own house?

    You then say, why are you attacking ME? Why just ME? I’ll then tell you, “I think you are taking more of a personal view than my documentary does. To suggest that this is ‘me’ attacking ‘you’ is way too simplistic, surely?” I then further argue, “Should I just ignore it because it is happening in your house? Should I ignore anything beyond our own nose?”

    I would have to be extremely dumb to believe that such a tactics would be effective in solving any human conflicts.

    I myself believe in biodiversity. I can respect those who believe that dolphins’ lives are more valuable than the lives of cows. I can also respect the people who are against whaling. In other words, it is not about WHAT, but about HOW the film was made. Just because you see a problem that needs to be fixed, it does not mean that you can solve it in anyway you want. We cannot ignore HOW we solve our conflicts. It is not just up to you to decide it. The Americans thought that the problem of terrorism can be fixed by invading Iraq. And, they went ahead with it unilaterally. Just like you suggest; they saw the problem. They were convinced of their solutions. So they went in and bombed the hell out of the place. That is ethnocentric.

    In order to have a large audience for the film, the filmmakers needed to moralize the film, pick an easy target for the audience to project their own guilt onto, and get the most visually shocking footage possible. In that process, the audience was able to feel all sorts of exciting emotions like thrill, suspense, horror, and best of all, a feeling of moral superiority. So, they are more than willing to pay to watch it. But this completely distorts what the true issue of biodiversity is. We need to get everyone to be aware of their own part in the problem, so that they can change the way they live and help resolve the problem. Instead, all that the film did was to let the audience point their fingers at Japan, and ignore their own part in the problem.

    In this kind of problem where everyone is guilty, the best way to resolve it is to solve our own problems first. If I could decrease my carbon footprint at my house, I should do that before I even consider criticizing you. The latter is not productive or effective.

    My wife is an American and some of her friends told her that if she watched The Cove, she wouldn’t want to be married to me. It is disingenuous beyond belief to me for anyone to claim that this film is not about Japan, and that it treated Japan fairly as just an example of the type of problem everyone has. What you are saying is extremely offensive.

  35. Jess says:

    Frank – the rest of my claims? And what are “the rest” of my claims? I’ll tell you what the subject of our little debate within the debate is. China invaded Tibet because they wanted the space and the resources. The Tibetans resisited (of course) which the Chinese expected, which is why they came armed. They used brute force to imprison and torture the citizens of Tibet into submission. Brute force won out as it usually does. Is there something about this that you don’t understand?

  36. Barracuda says:

    I am a Mexican- American woman living in an eastern influenced protectorate of the United States, Guam. Guam is very close to Japan. I have actually visited Japan before. Many sushi places here, I am not a fish lover though I grew up eating ceviche (equivalent mexican sushi) my husband is a fisherman, if you were a fish lover you would love the fish my husband catches. My husband respects the oceans and releases larger fish that are coming close to extinction, for example blue fin tuna, which JAPAN CONSUMES 90% OF. Now being said I understand American ethnocentrism and the notion we seem to be telling Japanese people in Taji that they are wrong. They are doing what they know culturally, who are we to tell people how to live and what to eat…. Slaughtering self aware, intelligent dolphins is absolutely appalling. Slaughter is slaughter, I have watched my grandmother slaughter animals on our ranch in Mexico. We never slaughtered highly intelligent mammals. Then the argument of pig and cow slaughtering. Well I understand the perspective. Many of my friends cringe when I tell them I eat cesos and thripas (cow brain and pig intestine) it is my just two of my culture’s delicacy. However, to say that American’s are being ethnocentric again is wrong. ALMOST EVERY OTHER NATION IN THE WORLD WOULD AGREE SLAUGHTERING DOLPHINS is an inhumane act and I basically read that Christians are hypocrites, all religions are hypocritical, people are habitually this way. We as Westerners do consume a lot of cow and pig we raise them to slaughter, which I believe the way we do it is disgusting because the impersonal killing of these animals and mass production, but that is our world…faster and got to have it now. Imagine that we can shop online and talk to strangers without even seeing their faces. Well I think it is wrong because the intelligence of these creatures and well the high mercury levels are unsafe, really unsafe. When my husband catches marlin or sailfish we have to get them tested. If the Japanese want to consume mercury engorged intelligent mammals and consume most of the fish in the world, have at it…what culture has the right to tell another culture they are wrong…You know Fijians were still practicing cannibalism in the mid 1900’s. Food for thought.
    I was never conditioned to feel a certain way as an American, I don’t think in absolutes, I think for myself. I have been torn between two cultures. I know my heart and mind. I do want to say I respect every culture. We all are socialized differently no culture or way of life is better. Just search your conscience.

  37. Barracuda says:

    Their are plenty of misspellings and fragmented sentences I do apologize, especially about my tone. I wanted to clarify that this addressed to the people who advocate and turn a deaf ear to slaughtering highly intelligent creatures dolphins. I am not trying to attack the people, culture, or country of Japan. JUST THE FACT THAT I FEEL AS HUMANS IT IS WRONG to kill highly intelligent species. The same goes for the people who slaughter and distribute BUSH MEAT, the meat of apes, gorillas, and chimpanzees.

  38. Tea says:

    “ALMOST EVERY OTHER NATION IN THE WORLD WOULD AGREE SLAUGHTERING DOLPHINS is an inhumane act” is a claim to universal moralism. Universal moralism, like Plato’s form,is assuming somewhere in the Universe, there exist a perfect form of universal value that is eternal (maybe divine) and should be agreed by all human… To claim “Universal” there must exist consistency… let’s see how consistent is our human moral values….

    1) Intelligent prejudice – Dolphin is more intelligent therefore we should not eat it => living things with more intelligent has more rights than living things with less intelligent => So if we have a person with mental disease and is prove less intelligent than a cow… than it is OK to….well… let’s just say “mistreat” him/her?

    2) Aesthetic prejudice – If Dolphin looks as ugly as a cockroach, is it more OK to kill it and eat it? Our “moral” value seems to prefer beautiful thing than ugly thing. We save the butterfly from the spider because butterfly is prettier and we care not if the ugly spider starve to death. But when it apply to our own species, do we think beautiful people has more rights than ugly people?

    3) Majority prejudice – If most people think it is right it must be right… All Countries agreed eating dolphin is inhumane (except Japan)… All Countries agreed eating cats and dogs is inhumane (except China & Korea)…. All Countries agreed XXX is inhumane except country YYY…. A few centuries ago, “All Countries” in the world thought slavery was OK…. And a decade ago, “All Countries” in the world thought Y2K was a big deal… Well… I don’t think that guy call “All Countries” is as reliable as everyone think he is.

    Food for thought: Cannibalism must be Universally wrong, right? A cannibal chief once commented, “is killing a deer for leisure more humane than hunting a deer for food?” “Those civilized people seems perfectly fine to kill a million in war… and call us the savage?”

    So do I think killing dolphin is wrong? Yes, definitely but more in pragmatic issue than any arbitrary moral values. I think everyone is already aware of the pragmatic issue so I’m not going to repeat that.

    One thing about biodiversity: nature is blind it does not prefer nor hate diversity. Diversity give better chance of group survivability. Like diversifying the stock investment will generally give better return and less risk.

  39. Dice says:

    This is sort of OT, but Mike Kato mentioned this and it probably needs to be clarified.

    “I think of it much like people in Japan who say that they are for Peace, that Japan is a Peaceful nation. But Japan is the world’s 4th biggest arms exporter. So, by not engaging directly in war, but selling planes, ships, rockets, bombs, and guns to countries that do, not only is the country being hypocritical, but is like a drug dealer that doesn’t smoke or shoot up.”

    Japan currently does not export any weapons that they manufacture specifically for military use. Rockets and bombs made in Japan are specifically for the use of the SDF. And unfortunately Japan does not have a thriving airplane manufacturing industry. The guns and ammunition that Japan export are for hunting. Japan does have the 7th largest military budget in the world which is the budget of the SDF.


    There’s an interesting discussion here, so it would be a waste if it went to the wayside because of sloppy numbers. . .

    With regards to the film, I’ve been to Taiji a few times over the past thirty years. Dolphin hunting was not a secret, open or closed though I’ve never eaten any dolphin meat (knowingly).

    Japan relies heavily on the riches that the ocean provides them and us Japanese definitely need to take care of the limited resources that the ocean has to offer. The disappointment with the Cove is that the filmmakers chose the sensationalism of vilifying the people of Taiji and Japan as opposed to presented the issue in a light that we actually care about, the proper management of our oceans.

  40. Dyske says:

    Hi Barracuda,

    Tea has already done a great job of explaining this matter (“anthropocentrism”), but I’d like to add a few more to it because this problem goes far beyond different species. The formula is this: The more similar something is to yourself, the more you feel it deserves to be treated better. A good example of this is the American media coverage of child kidnapping. When a Black child gets kidnapped, the media hardly pay any attention to it, and even if they do, nobody pays attention to the coverage. But as soon as a White child is kidnapped, it is all over the front page of every newspaper. In some instances, they even get international coverage (among the White dominant countries, that is). People are just reacting to their sense of self-preservation. That is, they are just being self-serving, and not being fair to others who are not similar to them. So, this isn’t actually about intelligence. In fact, many intellectuals have been executed in history because the majority of the people around them could not understand them and therefore felt foreign to them. This made it easier for them to distance themselves and kill them. This is also why we do not think anything of killing plants. They are at the opposite end of the spectrum, and we can hardly identify ourselves with them.

    When you see dolphins get killed, your sense of self-preservation kicks in because they behave very similarly to us, but by treating them preferentially, you would be unfairly treating others. When I search my conscience, it tells me that privileging dolphins is unfair to other life forms on this earth, and I cannot justify defending dolphins on this moral basis. Prejudice manifests in many different forms and we are all prejudiced. I’m no exception. So, I try my best to detect prejudice in myself and try to be fair and just to others. So, I ask you to search deeper into your conscience and see beyond your own prejudice.

  41. Dyske says:

    Hi Dice,

    Thank you for the clarification.

    I share the same sentiment you have. This finger-pointing of Japan is a huge distraction from the primary issue that we should be discussing and learning. Thanks to the film, the Internet is now filled with people leaving comments on various sites saying things like “I hate Japs”.

    Even though I do care about biodiversity, I cannot ignore the injustice of the moral finger-pointing, vilification, and scapegoating.

    To use Barracuda’s position, suppose my child was killed by a Mexican American person. And, suppose someone came along who is very eager to help me prosecute the killer. But suppose what is motivating him to help me is his hatred for Mexicans in the US. I’m not going to accept his help even if it means that nobody else will help me. I’m not going to fight injustice with injustice.

  42. Frank Luo says:

    @ Jess:

    Oh I understand it alright. You are the one who don’t know the facts and is just making up numbers in the ridiculous attempt to justify your position.

    Given your position in “our little debate” you obviously think it’s wrong to invade another country. I guess your country has never invaded another country then? Or gone to wear to prevent some member states from seceding?

    If you think that invading other countries is wrong, why are you working so hard to prevent another country from doing it, while your own country is still benefitting from the resources of other those that it has invaded and/or prevented from seceding? As a voting citizen of a nation, is not your first obligation to ensure that your nation is acting in accordance with its own stated moral norms, instead of going around wagging your fingers at others in complete ignorance demonstrated by your number being are off by a factor of twenty-fold, which only demonstrates that your knowledge of the subject is next to nothing? If you were really outraged by invasions you would be working to stop your own country from doing it. But instead you are here, complaining about China and dolphins. With nerly zero knowledge of the facts.

    Your reaction demonstrates the typical unexamined, ignorant self-righteousness that is ultimately an act of self interest at the expense of others, because the effects of this fake moral outrage are only that it makes you feel good about yourself, justify your actions, and antagonizes those you accuse of various things. Your numbers are wrong, your assumptions are wrong, yet you refuse to examine your position and why you think that way, because you would actually have to admit that your self-righteousness and arrogance might not have a legitimate basis.

    On the subject of animals and intelligence:

    I question the argument that people should not kill dolphins because they are so intelligent. I believe that reactions to whether or not it is abhorrent to kill (and eat) animals of any species is generally emotional, and shaped by cultural and personal upbringing.

    For example — it is generally agreed upon that pigs are as intelliget or more intelligent than dogs (go ahead — Google it for the facts). There are some variations between species — for example, pot-bellied pigs are especially intelligent, a part of the reason that they are sometimes kept as pets, but on the whole, pigs are more intelligent than dogs.

    So why are there people who find the killing and eating of dogs aborrent, and yet eat pork? Because they have an emotional attachment to dogs. But if you ask them why they will probably tell you that they think it’s abhorrent to kill and eat an animal as intelligent as a dog, because they would like to create a universal, moral basis for their personal emotional response, and strengthen the position of their egos. The same exact argument will sometimes crop up when it comes to other animals, such as horses.

    I argue that the same principle is at work with dolphins. Most people think of dolphins as cute and cuddly and so have a sort of emotional attachment to them, and use the intelligence of dolphins as a rationalization that only adds moral grounding to a position they already hold, not as a reason for arriving at the conclusion.

    Obviously, not everyone who base their abhorrence of killing dolphins thinks this way, but many are. And I believe that people should know why they feel how they feel and do what they do, especially when they are trying to change the behavior of others.

  43. Frank Luo says:

    And one more thing:

    Denmark mass-slaugters dolphins once a year as well, so any argument that includes the phrase “all nations” are flat out wrong.

    As to why the filmmakers targeted Japan instead of Denmark when they decided to “expose” the mass slaughter of dolphins to the world — that’s a different issue altogether.

  44. Jess says:

    For all of you who are carrying on with sane, rational discussion, I apologize for this inanity ……

    “Oh I understand it alright. You are the one who don’t know the facts and is just making up numbers in the ridiculous attempt to justify your position.”

    I have not even mentioned a number …. If you are going to debate with me, you need be honest, otherwise you discredit yourself.

    “Given your position in “our little debate” you obviously think it’s wrong to invade another country. I guess your country has never invaded another country then? Or gone to wear to prevent some member states from seceding?”

    I am not my country. What politicians do in the name of power and greed is unfortunte and usually tragic.

    “If you think that invading other countries is wrong, why are you working so hard to prevent another country from doing it, while your own country is still benefitting from the resources of other those that it has invaded and/or prevented from seceding? As a voting citizen of a nation, is not your first obligation to ensure that your nation is acting in accordance with its own stated moral norms, instead of going around wagging your fingers at others in complete ignorance demonstrated by your number being are off by a factor of twenty-fold, which only demonstrates that your knowledge of the subject is next to nothing?”

    Again, I have not even mentioned a number and your post is absolutely full of assumptions. Do you even know what country I am living in? Do yoiu know that I support my own country or any other country in invading other countries and robbing them of their resources, killing and torturing their people in order to get at those resources? Why would anyone, in their right mind, support such actions? What country has as its “stated moral norms” to invade a country to increase its own power and wealth? My country states no such thing. Does yours?

    “If you were really outraged by invasions you would be working to stop your own country from doing it. But instead you are here, complaining about China and dolphins. With nerly zero knowledge of the facts.”

    Again, you make more assumptions. You have no idea what my education and background is. How can you say I have “zero knowledge of the facts”.? What a bizarre claim! As for one country invading another …. I am consistently outraged when I hear about such invasions – especially when based on greed and power. The same would have held true for me if I had been living in in Europe between 1944-48, for instance.

    “Your reaction demonstrates the typical unexamined, ignorant self-righteousness that is ultimately an act of self interest at the expense of others, because the effects of this fake moral outrage are only that it makes you feel good about yourself, justify your actions, and antagonizes those you accuse of various things. Your numbers are wrong, your assumptions are wrong, yet you refuse to examine your position and why you think that way, because you would actually have to admit that your self-righteousness and arrogance might not have a legitimate basis.”

    You couldn’t be more off the mark, but considering the litany of assumptions you’ve made throughout this post, I am not the least surprised that you actually wrote the above paragraph. There is nothing either ignorant or self righteous in my post, and definitely my writing is not without self examination. My outrage about what China did to Tibet is indeed a case of moral/ethical/spiritual/environmental/social justice and is completely authentic. I am not interested in antagonizing anyone. I find it much more simple to just speak the truth. As for “my numbers” being “wrong” and my “assumotions” being “wrong” – wow! One needs patience to speak to the likes of you, but worry not because I have loads. Again, I have not mentioned numbers – a bit of dishonesty on your part which you have now multiplied by 3. Assumptions? You are actually accusing me of making assumptions?

  45. Frank Luo says:

    What numbers?

    In the quote “Tibet and its peoples – most of whom now live in exile” you make the claim that more Tibetans live in Exile and not in Tibet. Yet the Dharamsala Tibetan government in exile itself places the number of the exiles at only a hundred odd thousand while the Tibetan population in Tibet is well over two million. No you did not state a number yourself, but you made an assertion about the number of Tibetans living in exile exceeding the number of those living in Tibet. A claim that is factually wrong, and demonstrates your profound ignorance on the matter — it’s one thing to be off by a couple of percentage points, but it’s another thing altogether to be off by a factor of twenty like you did. That this thoroughly inaccurate claim — which I call ignorance rather than dishonesty only to give you benefit of the doubt — forms a part of the basis for your outrage only shows the merits of your arguments.

    But why stop there — let’s look at the rest of it. A nice little ghetto? That would indicate that the Han Chinese are keeping the Tibetans in small segregated communities of some kind. The truth is that the Han Chinese are actually very much in the minority in Tibet, and are almost entirely concentrated in just two cities. If anything the Han are the ones living in ghettos in Tibet. To say that again demonstrates your ignorance (or dishonesty), and bringing up unrelated issues like ghettos and Apartheid without actually showing any connection between the issues is just a pathetic attempt to appeal to bad feelings people might have about those things, and is also dishonest.

    And as long as I am on the subject of honesty — did I actually say you supported the war actions of your country?

    Answer the question.

    You decided to respond to that claim, WHICH I DID NOT MAKE, because it would be easier than to answer the charge. Standard strawman tactic which only discredits you. Want to put this point to rest? Easy. Answer the questions wihch I posed:

    1. Is your country completely innocent of invading other countries, or going to war to prevent them from seceding?
    2. (If the answer to 1 is “No”) Is your country (and by extension you yourself) still benefitting from those actions?

    I specifically made no assumptions about the country you live in, because that point is immaterial. Only the answers to the above two questions, and a third question below, are of interest to this discussion:

    3. Why are you not spending your time working to change that (i.e. that the answers to the above two questions are “no” and “yes” respectively) instead of complaining about Tibet and the dlphins?

    Your being “consistently outraged” when you hear these things only confirms what Dyske has mentioned — that people talk about these events to feel good about themselves, as a substitute for actually doing anything about it. So you complain about Tibet, complain about dolphins, complain about everything, all the while enjoying the benefits of the actions that you decry in other nations, but which your own nation commits or has committed.

    But wait there is more:

    Your statement: “I am not interested in antagonizing anyone”

    Did I say that you were interested in antagonizing anyone?

    Answer the question.

    What I said was that posts like your antagonize people and actually gives them a motivation to continue the behavior. It’s the same point that Dyske made. By antagonizing the Japanese, this film will ensure that some people will continue to hunt dolphin even if they don’t want to eat them, and some others will continue to eat dolphin even if they did not really enjoy it that much to begin with, and probably even motivate some people to whom it would never have even occurred to eat dolphin, nor have ever heard of the practice, to do so in protest of this kind of fake moral outrage.

    But wait there is (still) more, that allows us to explore the issue more thoroughly:

    “Self examination”? Where did I say “self”? Point it out.

    I’m waiting.

    Didn’t think so.

    The reason why you are only *questioning* my assumptions is because you can’t even try and make a case for my having made them. If I had made any assumptions, why did you not point them out?

    Let me show you how that might work:

    You stated that “[your] writing is not without self examination.”

    This indicates that you ASSUMED that by “unexamined” I referred to a lack of self-examination, specifically your self examination.

    When I said “unexamined” it referred to the type of self-righteousness you are exhibiting, and the things you have listed as at least in part their basis — for example, the assertion that most Tibetans live in exile. That is factually wrong by a factor of twenty or so, and since the information is so easily available to anyone who obviously has access to the internet, that there are only two explanations for you getting it wrong: 1) That you are knowingly lying about it, or 2) that you heard it somewhere or assumed it or just made it up, without ever actually looking it up, i.e. HAVE NEVER EXAMINED THE BASIS OF YOUR SELF-RIGHTEOUS CLAIM.

    Furthermore, you ASSUMED that it even referred to you personally, which is not only wrong but arrogant and self-centered. I spefically stated that this is “typical” because many people exhibit this behavior, just as the other posters have noted. It is a class of behavior that I assert to be antagonizing. While I certainly include you as one of those people who exhibit it, I did not mention your “self” in any way, shape, or form in the sense of “self-examination”, and your reaction of ASSUMING that it referred to YOUR writing and YOUR self examination amply demonstates your self-centered arrogance and — what’s that phrase? Oh yeah DISCREDITS YOU.

    If I made an assumption, it was in assuming, in an effort to give each person the benefit of the doubt, that you had heard the information somewhere instead of knowingly and intentionally made it up as a lie. Perhaps I was wrong. Perhaps you are not ignorant and self-righteous, but just dishonest and malicious. That would be the other explanation.

    But I think you’re just another case of those who just want to make themselves feel good without actually doing anything about it, with your unexamined, ignorant, and dishonest self-righteousness.

    Yes I added dishonest based on this last post from you. It is clearly shown by what you have posted. Starting your post with a dishonest combination a priori and ad populum appeal did not help.

    And yes I AM accusing you of making assumptions. Actually. No really I am.

  46. Frank Luo says:

    So I went looking for stuff on the mass killing of dolphins in Denmark and found that they kill both dolphins AND whales! A two-in-one! It really makes you wonder why the filmmakers targeted Japan? Maybe it’s because O’Barry worked with Flipper and not Willie?


    Interestingly enough, though, while looking up this information, I ended up finding something that spoke of the Danish view:


    …which speaks quite eloquently of certain aspects of whaling that I think applies equally well to the the Japanese practice, and this discussion: I particularly liked this quote:

    “The fact that people still… you know, in modern western society, with all the modern conveniences of the globalized world, are still prepared to do this — they are still prepared to kill their own animals for food, and they are conscious of the need to maintain the knowledge and the skill you need to be able to do that.”

    There was another quote that highlights a few other issues — first of all, that the letters that protest this practice come primarily from the US, with Britain and Australia being numbers two and three on this “protest index.” This goes to confirm the point that this is partially cultural, that some cultures either encourage its members to protest or somehow influences them and makes them feel entitled to do so.

    The other issue would be racism. The woman interviewed stated that part of the outrage directed at the Faroe Island whaling was due to the fact that this was people who looked like the letter writers i.e. caucasians doing something perceived as “aboriginal.”

    This clearly shows that some portion of ethnocentrism is in fact racism — the anger being directed at the Faroe Islanders is not just that they kill whales and dolphins, but that they are in a sense embarrassing other caucasians by showing that caucasians also have traditions that western society thinks of, in a sense, to be below them. To me this seems a clear case of racism as a component of ethnocentrism — that the ethnicity of the people involved is an issue, and those who are not caucasian are thought of as being inferior in some sense.

    I believe that this is part of the reason that O’Barry et al. decided to target Japan — to take advantage of the existing sense of cultural/ethnic superiority that exists in the west, and maximize the impact of the film by playing up to its prospective audience. That an animated film about the Faroe Island whaling only received a minor British award may have convinced O’barry et al that it would be more profitable to highlight the Japanese practice rather than to make a case against other caucasians.

  47. Chisa Hidaka says:

    Great commentary. We need more Japanese and Japanese American voices on this. I think the Japanese American are particularly important as I think the makers of The Cove are most likely to read and understand these.

    I am in agreement with you…and have some points of my own to add. Please read

    If we believe that this is an important issue, it is up to us to take advantage of the publicity placed on the situation and try to make it right by coming up with some culturally appropriate solutions.

    Personally, I think The Cove should be shown by activists at or around all marine parks that buy dolphins from Taiji to encourage potential customers to boycott any marine park that would participate in the killings. That would spread the blame to the many countries that are, in fact, supporting the dolphin hunt from an economic point of view – clearly, dolphin meat is NOT the reason the fishermen are killing dolphins.

    In addition, everyone – Japanese and otherwise – need to become more educated about the sad, depleted state of our oceans. Hopefully, this will help the Japanese Fishing Ministry understand that subsidizing the killing dolphins as a means to try to preserve fish stocks is a total waste of time and money.

    Thanks for your comments, and for this forum.

  48. Vegan Society of Japan says:

    Chisa Hidaka,

    with all respects, you fell immediately into the same, simplistic trap as those Japanese in the slaughter industry, supporting government department and heavily censored media. That is to say, you fell into the nationalist trap.

    The individuals motivated to save dolphins and whales are not motivated by nationalism. They probably even do not association themselves nationalistically. Certainly, within Japan, many of the individuals supporting the banning of dolphin and whale hunting strongly disassociate themselves with nationalistic self-identity. Without researching this, I would guess this is true of the Caucasian activists.

    Nationalism, like whale hunting, belongs to an Age of Barbarism, an Age of Exploitation, that should be long forgotten.

    It is not a nationalist issue. If anyone is blinded by the nationalist issue, if anyone is dragged into or engages with the nationalist debate at all … they are missing the point entirely and likely being manipulated into a position desired by the tiny minority of individuals financially benefiting from this exploitation.

    It is about the money. It is only about the money … and it has reached a ridiculous point because ‘Japan, Inc’ is now losing far more money, incurring far more expensive negative PR, than the tiny few are gaining. We understand that we are talking about 26 individuals in Taiji.

    Yes, let us remember that it was the Caucasian whale hunters who exploited the whale species. Yes, let us even remember that it was as a direct influence of the demands of the American whaling industry that Japan was forcibly, violently and unethically opened up by Commodore Perry and the Black Ships. Yes, let us even accept that the Japanese people of today are frequently the target of unjustifiable, endemic and institutionalized racism from the Americans and others.

    But … it has nothing to do with those of us which wish Japan would return to it traditionally near vegan diet. A diet it ate for 1,000 years until, again, the influence of the American came. A sustainable diet suited to its land, climate and body type.

    The defenders of dolphin hunting are correct when they point a finger back at the Americans over America’s diet and environmental record. It is not about America versus Japan.

    And it is strange, when all of these great defenders of “Japanese Tradition” are confronted with Japan’s vegan tradition, that they turn out not to be “traditional” at all … in short, it is all the farce and lies the like of O’Barry accuses.

    Recently the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture refused to support events promoting veggie diets, despite the clear evidence of its health and environmental benefits, on the grounds that it would “offend” the livestock farmers.

    It is not only the inedible dolphin meat that is stinking.

  49. Dyske says:


    “Tradition” as you define it is a strange way to argue this. Firstly, Japan did eat meat at first until Buddhism was introduced and meat eating was banned. At that point in time, what was the “tradition” in Japan?

    Secondly, if doing something for a few hundred years cannot be considered tradition, then what tradition does America have?

    Third, diet “suited” to its “body type”? Now, because of eating meat, the Japanese are getting taller and stronger in general. Are you suggesting that they should remain shorter and weaker? Are you saying that’s what they are meant to be?

    Also, please elaborate on this too, because it appears self-contradictory:

    It is about the money. It is only about the money … and it has reached a ridiculous point because ‘Japan, Inc’ is now losing far more money, incurring far more expensive negative PR, than the tiny few are gaining. We understand that we are talking about 26 individuals in Taiji.

    If it’s only about the money, why would “Japan, Inc” allow this? It would be far cheaper to ban the slaughter of dolphins and stop whaling.

    Regarding “nationalism”: if speaking from a perspective of a nation is a “trap”, why is your society called “Vegan Society of Japan”? Why use a name of a country for your society about veganism?

  50. Dyske says:


    Although the topic of vegetarianism or veganism is off-topic here, I’d like to clarify my position on it.

    I respect vegans and vegetarians just as much as I respect the Inuit who eat seals. The problem arises only when they preach to others about their own diet on the basis of cruelty or barbarism. Suppose you succeed in stopping all human beings from eating meat. If your moral basis is cruelty, why stop there? We should keep going and stop lions from eating zebras, dolphins from fish, fish from plankton.

    If we were to stop at the human level, not stop other species from committing “cruelty”, we would have to believe that we humans are more “civilized” and less “barbaric” than other species. Here, we would create an anthropocentric view of life. So, there is no moral justification for stopping at the human level. The same moral justification you have for stopping other humans from eating meat would apply to other species.

    So, what would happen if we stopped animals from eating other animals? Insects from eating other insects? Fish from eating other fish and plankton? The earth as we know it would cease to exist, including the vegetables you love. In other words, the “cruelty” and “barbarism” that vegans often criticize is an essential part of the ecological cycle of this earth, and even the vegans benefit from it. The only difference between you and I is that you don’t like to get your own hands dirty. But you are in no position to tell anyone else what they should eat and what they shouldn’t. Indirect involvement does not make you any less guilty.