“The Cove” Debate — Activism as Entertainment

By Dyske    March 24th, 2010

The Cove winners at the Academy Awards

This post is a response to Laurel Angelica, the content editor for TakePart.com (owned by Participant Media which produced “The Cove”), who kindly responded to my original post about the documentary film “The Cove”. Before you read this post, you might want to read her response. This response is co-authored with my friend Frank Luo, but we decided to use “I” to express our opinions because we did not want the readers to get confused that our opinions represent the opinions of the Japanese people in general. We’ll begin with the “most important point” Laurel raised:

The most important point we want to respond to – and it’s the heart of your entire piece – is that this film is NOT meant to be an indictment of the Japanese people. Completely the opposite. We’ve tried to make that clear in the film and in all of our marketing materials. It is very specifically exposing a small group of people – we maintain throughout the film that the greater population is unaware.

This argument is entirely indefensible. The signs to the contrary are everywhere. The film squarely attacks Japan as a nation, their policies, customs, and values, which is particularly apparent in its coverage of Japan’s whaling policies. The attack is not just directed against a small group of people while paying no attention to their nationality. Far from it. The Internet is now rife with hostile comments like “I hate Japs” in direct response to the film. My wife, who is an American, was told by her friends that if she watched “The Cove”, she wouldn’t want to be married to me. This cannot be unique to my wife, as the very reason why Richard O’Barry would find it necessary to write an article telling people that “boycotting Japan doesn’t make sense” must be because many audience members came out of the theater wanting to boycott Japan. So the effect of the film has been to incite anger and punitive actions against Japan. If this is “completely the opposite” of what the filmmakers intended, then they must be incredibly incompetent, because they have achieved an effect that is “completely the opposite” of what they intended, and their Academy Awards should be stripped from them.

But that is obviously not the case — these filmmakers could not possibly have achieved the effect they did by sheer accident. They had to have known exactly what they were doing. To say that the film is not trying to point their fingers at Japan is disingenuous at best and a complete lie at worst. In order to maximize the film’s impact, the filmmakers needed to sensationalize and moralize, and they did this by picking an easy target for the audience to project their own bad feelings onto, then showing the most visually shocking footage to inspire the greatest amount of guilt and anger possible. In that process, the audience was manipulated to feel all sorts of exciting emotions like thrill, suspense, horror, and best of all, a feeling of moral superiority. Afterward, they feel entitled or even obliged to attack Japan. In fact, this is consistent with your company’s stated goal:

TakePart.com’s parent company is Participant Media, which believes that a good story, well told, can make a difference. Participant’s films seek to entertain audiences first, and then invite them to participate in effective change.

Your company’s primary goal is to entertain your audience first, not to report objective and balanced facts. For the purpose of entertaining your audience, which is better? Simplistic polarization of good vs. evil where the heroes and the villains are easily identifiable? Or, reporting of balanced facts that challenges everyone to question their own behavior and assumptions? If the filmmakers wanted to avoid pointing fingers at a nation, the better approach would have been to show a variety of slaughters in different countries, so that the suffering of dolphins would be the one overriding theme. (In fact, penetrating the slaughtering site in Faroe Islands, Denmark would have been much easier with their predominantly Caucasian film crew.)  But instead, Japan was singled out to maximize the effect of moral superiority, because it is better for Hollywood.

Take a look at this video about the slaughtering of dolphins on Faroe Islands, Denmark:

In this video above, the government spokesperson defended their practice in this manner:

It was rather disturbing to see so many very angry letters. Some of them quite abusive in fact. Mostly they came from US and UK but also Australia. People responding to some sensational images and not bothering to consider the context and the culture… I think a lot of people reacted to it because people who are doing it looked like you and me. These are blond hair, blue eyed Western Europeans behaving in the way people would otherwise consider something that aboriginals do.

I agree with the idea that there is a strong racial factor here. In order for certain people to feel superior about themselves on the basis of their race, they convince themselves that only “uncivilized” people, “others”, engage in practices they find barbaric. Evidence contradicting this perception then becomes a challenge of their sense of superiority. I believe this was a big part of what generated such anger toward the people of Faroes. In other words, the abusive anger expressed against the Faroes is primarily an emotional response to the perceived challenge against their own egos, and the actual activist cause is secondary, which is why they end up choosing a counter-productive method of picking a fight.

A good example of how Ric O’Barry himself looks at the people in Taiji as barbaric and uncivilized comes at the beginning of the film when he says: “Today they would kill me if they could. I’m not exaggerating. If these fishermen could catch me and kill me, they would.” Also, later on, he says with an air of superiority: “The way the law works in Japan, they can keep you in jail with no charges for 28 days. 90% of the convictions in Japan are obtained by confessions during those 28 days because they can torture you legally.” Again, the idea is to depict the Japanese as uncivilized, while completely ignoring the fact that the murder rate in the US is roughly 8 times higher than it is in Japan. Obviously O’Barry is not interested in being objective or fair. He just cherry-picks facts that suit his needs to support his ethnocentric values. The Cove is now making the Japanese people feel angry and defensive, which is not productive in stopping the practice. Even those who may have been sympathetic to O’Barry’s cause before the film would probably be against it now. How ironic would it be if another Hollywood product that O’Barry stars in were to undermine his own cause. “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”

The filmmakers’ primary assertions

this group of fisherman is brutally and inhumanely killing dolphins, a highly evolved species that is beloved worldwide (including in Japan)

I have already explained that this is not a valid justification for attacking the people of Taiji. Some Hindus may consider killing of dolphins to be more acceptable than killing of cows. You happen to have your own reason or priorities. This is cultural, and to demand that others conform to your own values is exactly what ethnocentrism is, and it is nothing more than an expression of prejudice. Furthermore your argument is anthropocentric, which basically comes down to this: The more similar something is to yourself, the more you feel it deserves to be treated better. The reason why you respond so strongly to killing of dolphins is because they behave similarly to we do. This prejudice goes far beyond different species. A good example is the American media coverage of missing children. When a black child goes missing, the media hardly pay attention to it, and even if they do, nobody pays attention to the coverage. But as soon as a white child goes missing, it is all over the front page of every newspaper. In some instances, they even get international coverage. In other words, the strength of response is a function of how similar something is to yourself.

When people see the suffering of others who are similar to them, they end up reacting to their own sense of self-preservation. In doing so, they are unknowingly treating others unfairly. So, this isn’t actually about intelligence or self-awareness. Many intellectuals have been executed in history because the majority of the people around them could not understand them. This made it easier for them to 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.

we are more than happy to shine a light on ourselves and have done so often.

“We” in this statement refers to TakePart.com. Perhaps that is true about TakePart, but we are criticizing the film here. The film should stand on its own merits. Aaron Copland being a great American composer does not make Britney Spears a great musician. Does “The Cove” shine a light on the inhumane slaughtering of cows and pigs in the US? Does the film shine a light on the fact that the Americans are one of the worst offenders of the environmental pollution that led to the higher level of mercury in seafood? No, that would take the enjoyment away from the audience who was feeling good about themselves by pointing fingers at Japan.

You might now ask: Shouldn’t we be allowed to criticize what is happening in other nations even if we are guilty of it ourselves? The answer is yes, but my question is this: How effective is such a strategy in actually resolving any conflicts? Are you interested in feeling good about yourself, or are you interested in solving a problem? If such a strategy was indeed effective, I would be able to go into your house, find one small thing that you are guilty of (according to my values), post thousands of flyers criticizing you so that you could be shamed in public. And, I would not even bother trying to understand your perspective or values. On top of all this, how would you like it, if I happen to be guilty of the same thing in my own house? Do you think this is an effective way to resolve any conflict? No, and I think your film proves it. Your film has incited anger on both sides. The Japanese would have to be incredibly self-critical and ego-less to be able to accept such a morally charged attack on their nation. I doubt that they would be able to. They are only humans too. Inciting anger is not an effective way to resolve any conflicts. In my opinion, a better way to resolve this type of issues is to first focus on our own problems, then inspire (not force) others to do the same. Instead of taking part in finger pointing, modify our own behavior that could improve the world.

they were deceiving the Japanese public by disguising the meat, which is highly toxic, as whale meat and serving it to children

Again, if this were really the filmmakers’ intention, did they choose the right approach to solve this problem? Suppose a group of Japanese doctors are very concerned about the obesity problem among American children. How would you imagine they should approach this problem? Suppose they decided to make a sensational documentary film called “The Junk — A Big Country with Big Fat Kids”. They then expose the lies and hypocrisies of the junk food industry in the US through a team of all Japanese doctors who call themselves “Seven Samurais”. They try to film what goes on in the labs of these junk food companies, but they are stopped by angry security guards and employees. They visit diabetic children in a hospital, and one of the female members of Seven Samurais starts crying on camera. The Japanese audience relates to her and think, “Oh, how cruel and uncivilized Americans are.” They also visit a fried chicken restaurant where they have cute mascots and cartoon characters of chickens to attract children. They condescendingly ridicule the irony of adoring the chickens while eating them. The camera zooms in on an obese American parent with bacon grease and ketchup dripping from his mouth, and he is trying to stuff the same junk to his children. The camera then moves to the Japanese doctors and shows their expressions of despair and hopelessness.

What would probably happen if such a film were to be made, is that it would put the Americans in a defensive and indignant mode. Unless these Japanese doctors are utterly oblivious to the impact their own nationality would have on their criticism of the American culture, they would not make such a film. It would be a serious disservice to their own cause, unless all they are interested in is to win prestigious film awards in Japan by giving the Japanese audience an easy way to feel superior to the Americans.

if the Japanese public knew this was happening they would want to stop it

Perhaps this may have been true if the filmmakers approached the problem more appropriately. Instead, your cause was essentially exploited by the Hollywood filmmakers whose careers would now be booming.


we are not West vs. East, we are activist vs. inactivist

This point presupposes that everyone is against the killing of dolphins, or would be if they knew about it, and that anyone who does not do anything about it either does not know that it happens, or has some self-interest in preventing it from being stopped. What is not being considered is that maybe their reason for not wanting to stop it is just as genuine and legitimate as the filmmakers’ belief that no dolphin should be killed for any reason. So, “inactivism” is not, in my opinion, a fair label for those who do nothing about it. I believe that this is also a manifestation of ethnocentrism. If you don’t know enough about something, giving it the benefit of the doubt and making the effort to learn more about it with an open mind is a responsible and respectable thing to do. This attitude of “You’re either with us, or against us” manipulates people by forcing them to rush to judgment for fear of being labeled as “inactivist”, and by the use of this manipulation, you are in effect promoting ignorance. Furthermore, these self-righteous activists who are just looking for a quick way to get a dose of superiority are harming our human relations and creating unnecessary conflicts which can lead to physical confrontations and even wars. Those who love to polarize issues are usually not interested in solving any problems; their primary interest is to win, to be right, and to prove their own worth by asserting their superiority to others. The fact that “The Cove” provoked people to boycott Japan shows the utter ignorance of the incredible amount of damage that the Americans have caused to our environment including the mercury emission. If they knew, they would have understood that they are in no position to call a boycott on any nation, and their action would have been more respectful, understanding, and pragmatic. The sensational style of the film exploits their ignorance. Truly objective, honest, and intelligent people would not fall for it. If you want to make a lasting change in the world, it is not the quantity but the quality of support that matters.

This exploitation of ignorance is consistent with the stated goal of Participant Media (the company that produced “The Cove”), and it is an alarming trend in the entertainment industry. Many actors, filmmakers, and musicians associate themselves with various causes as a way to market themselves. Much of activism today is a form of entertainment where objective and balanced views are discarded in favor of sensationalism and instant gratifications. For these self-serving people, these causes are nothing more than fashion statements. They just jump from one to the next to boost their own identities and to maximize their marketing effect. This frightens me: After all, the same method of exploiting ignorance was used by various dictators in history to convince their people to act. It is the easiest and most effective way to mobilize them.

The biggest problem we face in terms of ethnocentrism is vividly reflected in this comment I found:


This is exactly the type of audience “The Cove” is optimized to appeal to. In other words, reason or intellectual integrity does not matter. Their feelings override everything else, so justification is not needed. This is the same force that allowed many wholesale injustices in history. People became aware of the injustice only after the cooler heads prevailed, when they realized how distorted our “feelings” can be. Activism threatens to cross the line into bigotry when the sense of reason and fairness is ignored in making judgment, and there is no more rationale to one’s actions than just because a group of people “are no good in [one’s] book.”


Again, we need to distinguish the film from you as a person or your organization, since we are criticizing the film here. You personally might respect the Japanese culture but the film certainly does not. Just the fact that the filmmakers made no attempt to learn anything about the Japanese culture is a serious expression of disrespect. As I wrote in my original post, I agree that tradition cannot be used as an excuse to do anything we 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 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. But the film instead attacks without demonstrating any effort to understand. It is also interesting to note that the spokesperson for Faroe Islands points out the same problem. Those who sent them hateful letters were just looking for an easy way to feel good about themselves. They are not interested in learning about Faroe’s culture.

does it make sense to perpetuate a brutal ‘tradition’ that has no real benefit to the greater population?

These dolphins are now eating the fish which is in short supply. Yes, I understand that the depletion of the ocean was caused by us humans, so blaming the dolphins would not make any sense, but unfortunately what happened, happened. We cannot go back in time and fix it. Given that the fish is in short supply, and some of them are in danger of extinction, slaughtering the dolphins to prevent them from eating the fish is actually benefiting the “greater population” from your own human-centric view. If you do believe that human beings are superior to other species and deserves to be treated better, then it follows that a species like dolphins should come close to humans in terms of how they should be treated (because they are “intelligent” and “self-aware” like we are), and cows and pigs would be lower down your list. But this would also means that whatever benefits the humans should have the highest priority, which would justify the killing of dolphins to protect our seafood. The Shinto religion in Japan, on the other hand, does not see any life form to be superior to another. It worships nature in general and sometimes even trees have a divine meaning. In this light, even humans are not above getting killed by other species as food.

Regarding the article by Kevin Rafferty on The Japan Times

My view of this article is far more negative, and parts of it can be called textbook examples of ethnocentrism. To wit:

The dolphin slaughter and reactions to it should also flag some awkward questions for Japan and its foreign relations. To be blunt — which planet does Japan live on? Taiji is angry that the filmmakers used underhanded spying methods to expose the killing. It also argues that outsiders should respect Japan’s freedom and special culture.

Here you see ethnocentrism in one of its worst manifestations — the externalization of the subject of ethnic/cultural demonization to such a degree, that the language actually implies that the subjects of said demonization are not of this planet, i.e. are not human or even terrestrial in their way of thinking. The obvious assumption being that the way that the writer thinks is the way all of humanity/all life on this planet thinks.  Considering how much life in general is destroyed year after year by the developed nations’ practices, especially the consumption of fossil fuels, this is an untenable, hypocritical position just like most ethnocentric positions.

But reading the whole article, it goes even further. The author denounces the Japanese hesitance to allow foreigners with permanent residence to vote. This is ridiculous. Election eligibility is determined by each nation, and most choose to use citizenship as the criteria:


…which is a nation’s sovereign right, as is the determination of what rights it might grant to non-citizens. “Permanent resident” as a status is not even defined in the same way in each country, much less the rights conferred by that status. Nations that have granted voting rights to non-citizens have only done so recently, and are very definitely in the minority among nations in the world, so the assertion here is not that this is a universal right but that “because we decided to implement this policy in the last decade or two, you must also do so whether you liked it or not”, that the author’s culture is automatically the norm for all humanity, and whatever changes it decides to make in the laws of its own nation must be accepted by all other nations immediately.

Another example of ethnocentrism is shown in this quote:

Whaling is even tinier in its contribution to employment and the economy, and only a minuscule minority of Japanese eat whale meat, even once a year. Yet the industry has managed to capture the government and present itself as the flag bearer for Japanese civilization — which is nonsense. Japanese civilization and culture are far richer than whaling.

I believe that this paragraph reflects a very non-Japanese conceit — that an industry or tradition should be only as valuable and significant as reflected by such factors as the number of people employed in it etc. That is a Darwinistic, survival-of-the-fittest sort of view that essentially uses economic impact as the primary or even only criterion by which the worthiness of traditions to receive respect is measured, and is not necessarily the way everyone thinks. It disguises a value judgment as an accepted fact — the author’s own society may use economics as the main criteria in valuing traditions, as the example of his hometown shows, but does that necessarily mean that the Japanese feel the same way? Not at all — the Japanese place a high value on just about any tradition, even ones that are economically insignificant in terms of the percentage of GDP produced.

For example, while I (Frank) lived in Japan, I knew someone who was a maker of Japanese swords. I asked him how he learned (expecting that he might have come from a family of swordsmiths), and he surprised me completely by telling me that he went to college on a swordsmithing scholarship. Yes, the Japanese government sponsors the study of many minor aspects of Japanese culture to such a degree, that it not only has such things as available programs of study in university, but is willing to go so far as to pay full university scholarships to some people to preserve such traditions.

I have no idea what the trade of swordsmithing generates in terms of the nation’s GDP, but I would bet good money that it is smaller than that generated by whaling. Yet it is respected to such a degree that the government (and society at large) goes to enormous lengths and expense to preserve it. I am surprised that someone who writes about Japan regularly (for Japan Times, no less…) and so must be to some degree a student of Japan and its culture would fail to appreciate this aspect of Japanese culture.

Japan has much to give Asia and the rest of the world, but if it keeps putting its head in the sand over minor issues, Japan will be the first to suffer.

This reveals the author’s fundamental misunderstanding of the Japanese position. The literal issue at point may indeed be minor from an economical point of view, but what is at stake here is ethnocentrism. Asian cultures in general are still foreign, mysterious, and incomprehensible to the Westerners. So, if the Asians were to give into this type of “minor issues”, it could open a floodgate of ethnocentric attacks from the West. It’s much easier and more effective to stop it at this stage before the Western values can be established as the de facto standard of human values. In fact, Western values have already dominated the world. The East has eagerly embraced Western values whenever they made sense, but this has emboldened the West to the point where they feel it’s okay to unilaterally force their values on the rest of the world. The American invasion of Iraq was a prime example of it. This tendency of the West must be kept in check, and this is no “minor” issue.

Towards the end of the article, the author appeals to practical concerns, essentially by stating that if China were to flaunt the dolphin lovers of the world, it might get away with it because it is powerful, but that it would be unwise for Japan to do so. Again, this appeal is made in a highly counterproductive manner — by bluntly stating that Japan should give in and forfeit one of its institutions because it is simply not powerful enough to resist the foreign influence that demands it, this argument further reinforces the impression that this is an instance of outsiders forcing Japan to accept non-Japanese values, which will only further inflame them. Making the argument by comparisons against China complicates the issue even more, framing it as an instance wherein Japan is not only called upon to assert the equality of its values with those of the West, but its place in the world against that of China as well. These two points can only further entrench the Japanese in their position by making the issue into a matter of identity and national pride.

This also leads me to think about the psychological impact of “The Cove” on those Westerners whose primary interest is Japan. Since the film is so polarizing and morally charged, I would imagine that these Westerners, especially the ones living in Japan, would feel a significant amount of pressure to defend the film. I actually find this unfortunate. These are individuals who could help reconcile the cultural differences between the East and the West, but because the film has such a strong polarizing effect, each side responds with strong emotions. This in turn will wound each other deeper and deeper until the conflict leaves scars on both.

We should be a “learner” before becoming an “activist”

My main criticism of the film is how they approached the problem, not so much what they stated. Once the sensational effects of the film wear off, I believe people will see right through the trickery and manipulations of the filmmakers. I believe, in 10 to 20 years, when we watch this film again, we would be shocked by the blatant ethnocentrism, and I suspect that you would regret your association with it. If you and Ric O’Barry truly cared about the cause, I would suggest that you denounce the film now. I believe that it would contribute greatly to the resolution of this conflict. In particular, if O’Barry denounced the film, the Japanese would probably drop or ease their defense, and be more willing to listen to him. From a practical point of view, not many Japanese would care whether slaughtering of dolphins continued or stopped. This means that if you approach this conflict appropriately and respectfully, with some patience, it would probably be possible to have your way regardless of whether your cause is justifiable or not. Again, what is more important to you? Your cause or “winning”? If you are not willing to concede to the fact that your sensationalizing, moralizing, and polarizing approach was inappropriate, then fighting ethnocentrism becomes a higher cause for the Japanese to take part in. If they give into this, what else would the West impose on their culture and on others? So, don’t expect the Japanese to concede. They are humans just like you are; they wouldn’t want to give you the satisfaction of winning either. So the fight will go on forever.

I found a useful article on ethnocentrism by Ken Barger, professor of anthropology at Indiana University. What is particularly relevant in this context is his chapter titled “So what can we do about ethnocentrism?”. He argues that we are all ethnocentric, and there is no way around it. So, he says, “The first step involves an attitude: we are the learners.” This attitude is utterly lacking in The Cove and its supporters. Barger also suggests: “One of the most effective means for recognizing that ethnocentrism is inhibiting our understandings is to watch for reactions.” There are plenty of reactions that we can observe in the film, but the filmmakers are completely oblivious to them, so convinced that their own values are superior. Barger writes: “We can also observe their reactions. If we blissfully go on in our misconceptions but they don’t respond the way we would, this is also an important clue that our assumptions are not working in the situation.” He then continues “We need to be careful, however, in how to be involved.” [The emphasis his.] And, “Before we act, we need to evaluate several issues: What is our basis for becoming involved?” and “What are their meanings and functions regarding the situation?” Please read the whole article for yourself.

What we are debating here calls into question the very foundation of our existence, and so it is no easy matter to resolve. But from the sincere tone of you and O’Barry, I have hope that you guys can recognize the inappropriateness of the film. I believe that would be the beginning of the true resolution.

Further Reading for the Open-minded

My original criticism of The Cove

Response from TakePart.com

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.

72 Responses

  1. S. Onosson says:

    In regard to one of your points, on voting rights: my country, Canada, restricts federal voting rights to citizens (there are some provincial historical exceptions for “British subjects”). I’ve never noticed the U.S. picking on Canada over this before!

    Thank you for your articles on this subject. Whaling in general gets a fair bit coverage in the media but is so often presented from a one-sided view. Your discussion has been very fair and detailed – I’m going to recommend your site to those interested in the topic.

  2. Larissa Santos says:

    Loved your post and your point of view but I’m still disagree with you at the part that the ‘film squarely attacks Japan as a nation, their policies, customs, and values’ – but as you put in your own header ‘The difference is in the eye of the beholder’. It certainly is. I’ve put in my blog: ‘Also, about my point of view of all Japanese people. I know… We CAN NOT BLAME all Country (well, some of these problems exist because the majority – at least the politics – allow it)’ and I said with all my heart – not thinking about any other points of view or database or any statistics about whaling/dolphin hunt.

    My blog it is very personal, I talk about my points of view from movies to own experiences in life although I used to call myself as a ‘human being in progress’ – as we all don’t know everything about anything… Always living and learning. As you can see my English skills are not that great as well (because I’m from Brazil) and as a Brazilian I feel very ashamed about many things that my Country is doing with the Nature and also their own people (poor people are almost killed everyday for many reasons that I need to do a post about it! lol). My post was not to blame Japanese people or sustain any flag about politics or activism but was only about my point of view and my feelings about something I watched, that is it. Nothing more.

    I really loved the film and totally recommend to other (friends, family…) and as human being I still think that we all should do something about it. And not only about dolphins or whales or sea life, but about the whole world and even more about our own way to live our lives – even though you should be aware that humans are very unpredictable and trend of mistakes. 🙁 But this is how life is. We can not change our essence but we can try to fix our manners (with others, with the world, with everything that circles us).

    But this all is just a piece of my thinkings… and as I said ‘we all are human beings…’

    I will read your blog because you really have strong ideas – and I liked it! Thank you for your comment in my blog.


  3. Dyske says:

    Hi Lara,

    My point is that we should “learn” before we “do”. We shouldn’t “do” things just for the sake of doing something because that is what creates even more conflicts and problems.

    Not knowing something does not make us “ignorant” (we all have a lot of things we do not know about), but “doing” something when we don’t know anything about it does make us “ignorant”. It’s like accusing someone of stealing your money when you don’t have all the relevant facts. It creates more problems and conflicts, not solve it. By acting without knowing, you become “ignorant”. So, if you don’t want to be ignorant, don’t act until you have gathered enough knowledge on the matter. Naturally, “enough” is a subjective matter, but just watching a one-sided film like The Cove is certainly not enough. After all, the film is meant to be a piece of “entertainment”.

    If I see something evil going on in Brazil, before I sign any petitions or do anything else, the first thing I would do is to learn more about Brazil and try to see it from the point of view of the Brazilians. Would you suggest skipping that step and go straight to “doing”? What if I’m wrong? What if I’m not seeing the big picture? What if there is something I’m not understanding?

  4. Chisa Hidaka says:

    Thanks for adding my blog to your update!

    And thanks for keeping up the excellent debate!

    I sincerely hope that posts like yours will help guide people to be fair minded and to do the right things.

  5. Dice says:

    Sorry, I made this comment before reading this post.

    This post makse the point I was trying to make a lot more eloquently, thanks.

  6. Pandonodrim says:

    You obviously are very passionate and have a lot of justification for writing some of the things you have written here (people resorting to racism against Japanese people or people of Japanese descent) – but that is the failure of those individuals, not this film.

    You are constantly making arguments here that are based in your world view, no in the facts of this situation. You respond to that reply but it is clear you have never really listened to what they said. You twist and condemn the meaning and purpose of many of the statements.

    Even if the modern Japanese dolphin hunt (or whale hunt for that matter) were really “tradition” (which they aren’t) that would not justify what is being done. Nor does “for the sake of tradition” justify slavery, human sacrifice, or cannibalism. Trying to turn this into a west vs east or a “racism against Japan” argument really just turns you into the racist – or at the very least proves that you are completely missing the point.

    Again, I’m sorry you have been the victim of racism simply because there are idiots out there who watch “The Cove” and instantly condemn all Japanese people. I would certainly never do that. I don’t really see much purpose in breaking people down into racial or even ethnic or cultural stereotypes. They are not meaningless, but they are not important as who people are independently. People are individuals, and they are responsible, as individuals, for their actions.

  7. Dyske says:


    If you want to constructively discuss the film, please qualify your statements. You are just making didactic statements about my criticism of the film, calling it “twist”, accusing me of not getting the “point”, and of not listening to what the filmmakers are saying. And, you somehow think that you have the authority to decide what is a Japanese tradition and what is not. You then twisted my arguments and accused me of being a racist, even though I never said the film was racist. I didn’t even use that word once. And, I’ve already explained that “tradition” cannot be used as a justification to do anything you want. You obviously didn’t read it or did not understand what I was saying.

    If you are not willing to discuss it constructively and reasonably, please keep your didactic pronouncements to yourself, because they are nothing but insults when you don’t explain or qualify.

  8. Japanese People Are Sneaky says:

    Even if by some miracle the Japanese agree to stop slaughtering dolphins they’ll just do it when no one is looking. The Japanese as a people are sneaky and traitors. I say traitors because anyone or anything that’s helped them they brutally and sneaky kill those that have helped them in the past, whether it be the Chinese, America or Dolphins. Then they deny it ever happened. Japanese people have been known to break treaties as well as many other sneaky things. By the way My grandfather was a civilian who was forced to build places for the Japanese Army which they later used those same places to rape my people (infants included by slitting their vaginas) steal our food and made my people succumb to cannibalism. Then they say Chinese people are liars that never happened, when their own soldiers can testify the atrocities they have committed in China as well as other parts of Asia.

    You my friend are wasting your time in your blog, as I’m sure as I’m wasting mine. People are stubborn, especially Japanese people. Don’t blame the film for the Anti-Japanese sentiments, the truth is for some people the seed of hate started somewhere in the persons past, that’s how mine started, I didn’t hate Japanese people, only when I heard of what the Japanese people did to my people or pearl Harbor then I hated Japanese people. Much like how someone can hate someone in their family one moment then the next or the husband that calls his wife names but the next day loves her. If your people were more honorable this would not have happened.

    By the way The Faroe Island is not as big of an offender as Japan, it’s not because they are white, so please stop being Japanese by twisting the truth

  9. Dyske says:

    @Japanese People Are Sneaky

    Thank you for demonstrating my whole point. I believe most people who watched the film feel the same way. It’s not about the small group of people; there is something fundamentally wrong with the Japanese people, and that their hatred toward the nation is justified.

    My belief is that people are the same everywhere. I do not think the Japanese are better than any other people. China killed their own people and are still denying/suppressing those facts too. Americans slaughtered native American Indians and enslaved black people. I believe in the banality of evil. We are all capable of it. Although most Americans think Tibetans are some sort of saintly people, I do not believe that at all. They too are just like the rest of us, capable of doing evil things. Pointing fingers at others would only make us blind to our own potential to do evil. While I think it’s beneficial to recognize that evil things happened in history as you point out, presenting it with hatred toward a nation will only do disservice to your own cause.

    As for The Cove, those who are more reasonable recognize that attacking Japan as a nation is misguided, yet the film was made in such a way that people like you are encouraged to attack Japan as a nation. So the real issue gets lost in the noise of hatred and anger. That is, the cause that they supposedly care so much about was undermined by the method employed by the filmmakers. Hatred and anger towards Japan becomes the primary issue, and dolphins secondary.

    If the size of offense is what matters to you, then why pick the dolphin slaughter in Taiji? Why not go after the slaughter of chickens, cows, and pigs? The number of dolphins killed is a tiny fraction of the number of those animals killed every year. You are the one who is not thinking factually.

  10. Japanese People Are Sneaky says:

    Different people are more passionate about certain things, The same person who fights for dolphin rights might feel other issues may be more important such as equal rights, rape etc. But the person may not feel the compelled to do anything about the issues he/she feels is more important.

    Everyone is capable of evil, we hate those that have done evil to us, we don’t love the Chinese government or Bush or anyone who has done evil to others or their own people. Imagine if America denied to this day about the bombing of Japan how u might feel towards Americans and calling you liars and imagine if you lived in Japan right now and not America and America STARTED the war with you and bombed Japan how would you feel. Imagine if your grandfather went through what my grandfather went through with the psychological emotional and physical scars and damage how you would feel about the people that did this to them. There are newspapers talk shows and other media outlets to this day that deny what Japan did in world war 2 and say Chinese people are liars. That adds insult to injury to us. I’ve seen many videos of Japanese people calling America to apologize, never have I seen a video calling for Japanese people to apologize for starting the war or, killing the 16 pilots (doolittle’s raid) who bombed Japan, or what they did to my people. I will say I saw one video of Japanese people visiting a place in China and wept at what Japan or their parents did and I’m sure they said sorry. But it’s too little too late, my grandfather passed away many years ago.

    I don’t know if it was in your other article or this or the 2 links you posted that said Japan does not hunt endangered species which is entirely bullshit, What gets me upset is who the hell kills someone or something that has helped them or willing to help them. It’s not Chicken or Cows might save you from a shark or if you are drowning, Dolphins help people, but Japanese people killed them, Chinese people have Helped Japanese people they raped and pillaged them, after they got their culture language and everything from us. I don’t know if japan got their technology for planes and battleships from America, but if they did that’s how they repaid America in pearl harbor. That’s why I hate Japanese people anyone or anything that has helped them or would help them they killed.

  11. Dyske says:

    @Japanese People Are Sneaky

    I do not want to deny or minimize the suffering you and your family had to endure because of what the Japanese did. I’m sorry for that as another human being. But I think you are blinded by your own anger. It may be a bit crass to bring up a Hollywood movie in this context, but it’s like Luke Skywalker giving into anger; even someone with good intensions can turn to the dark side, or become evil, if you let yourself be consumed by your own anger.

    I agree that the Japanese have done atrocious things in the past, but attacking the entire population of Japan indiscriminately would not achieve anything of value. The vast majority of Japanese people had nothing to do with the atrocity you are talking about. Your statement like “That’s why I hate Japanese people” is no different from saying “I hate black people because my mother was robbed and killed by a gang of black people.” Your indiscriminate hatred of Japanese people would make it difficult for those who are sympathetic to your cause, because they would not want to be associated with that kind of hatred.

    I understand that you are angry. I get angry about many things too, but giving into it will do more damage to yourself than it would to your enemy.

  12. Dolphins are Absolute Evil says:

    Yeah some random bloke with an excuse thinks the ‘Japanese are untrustworthy’ so that makes it OK to demonize them as being ‘villains’. Uh, no. Sorry. I don’t care what excuse you got. Racism is racism and nothing condones it. Dehumanizing people to make a point about saving dolphins isn’t just irresponsible it isn’t sane. The Cove is typical white North American spoiled rich kid entitlement wrapped in Orientalist garbage trotting around as social commentary. It’s by Rich White People for Rich White People. This Flipper guy exploits dolphins for his entire career and suddenly starts caring after his meal-ticket dies and dolphin hype goes the way of the Dinosaurs. How convenient. And now he’s still exploiting them for his career, only it’s under the veneer of ‘animal rights’. Meanwhile groups like PETA kill more animals a year than the people at the Cove. Meanwhile thousands of people in America are eating veal (that’s baby meat) and nobody says boo. Meanwhile China just wiped out an entire species of Dolphin (the Chinese River Dolphin) and nobody says boo. They drive a whole race of dolphins into extinction but the Japanese are bad for keeping dolphin numbers down in their waters without threatening any endangered breeds? And this movie’s about saving the dolphin. Bull. It’s about racism and imperialism. It’s about a bunch of exploitative, greedy and extremely arrogant people thinking they can make a quick buck and a name for themselves at the expense of the Japanese people and if they engender hatred towards the Japanese or racism? That’s OK. If they put entire families out on the streets cause they can’t support themselves because they lose their jobs due to loss of the hunt, that’s OK too. Because they’re outsider perspective of morality is more important than actual human lives. And these people claim they care about animals so much. Yeah, right.

  13. Ally Maxwell says:

    Thanks, Dyske, for your fascinating posts.

    I was reading a newspaper article the other day in which the star from the TV series “Heroes”, Hayden Panettiere, visited Taiji;

    “She visited the quiet Japanese fishing town of Taiji to call for an end to its annual dolphin hunt, but was given a cold reception.”

    “They (Panettiere, boyfriend and small group of activists) asked to meet the mayor and representatives from the local fisheries union but were turned away from the town hall by officials.”


    It really made me cringe. From a charitable perspective, she may be a well-meaning actress trying to make a difference and going about it in completely the wrong way, since she has neglected the need for understanding of the local culture and values, as well as wider Japanese culture and philosophy. This is ethnocentrism at its worst. She is also (albeit unintentionally) perpetuating the “good vs. evil” theme in this debate, where “good” is cute and blonde, and supports cute, smart dolphins, while “evil” gives her a “cold reception”, is dark- haired, foreign, barbaric, and likes to kill cute, smart dolphins for personal gain.

    What does this “raising awareness” actually achieve, apart from, as you so aptly put it, a feeling of moral superiority from the audience/readers?

  14. Ally says:

    On a related note, I felt the same discomfort after seeing “Sharkwater”. In one part of the documentary, a large Greenpeace activist boat actually chases and rams into the side of the smaller, poorer boat of the Filipino shark hunters. This completely outraged me. These “activists” had no humanity, engulfed and blinded by their own ethnocentric moral outrage. They didn’t give a damn about the social and/or cultural context which lead to the poverty of these “pirates”, motivating them to take up “finning”, or that this might be their only way of making a small income to feed their families. They were completely narrow and biased in their perspective. The Chinese were also portrayed as barbaric, old fashioned and superficial, since they consume shark fin soup for the pathetic and morally repugnant reason of displaying their wealth. That film also won a slew of awards. Did anyone else see the film? Does anyone else think it’s comparable to the “The Cove” in it’s barely disguised racism?

  15. Dyske says:

    I just checked out the trailer. It does look like a similar story. Another film that won an Oscar which has also been criticized for its ethnocentric view is Born into Brothels. This one is more subtle, but the most damning part is that the interpreter who worked on the film came out and said that the kids who were in the film actually ended up worse off because of what the filmmakers did.

    This is a disturbing trend in Hollywood. They are churning out documentary films that exploit these causes to “entertain” people, give them a sense of superiority, and an instant gratification (that they did something worthy). There should be a label for this particular genre of films. Maybe “feel-superior movies”.

  16. Chisa Hidaka says:

    @ Dyske…or maybe you already named it quite accurately in the title of this blog…Activism as Entertainment

  17. Kathee says:

    I don’t think the film was racist, ethnocentric, morally superior, ignorant, or any of the other terms you have used to describe it.

    I think it was a group of people dedicated to protecting dolphins – one group of animals out of ALL of the animals and plants that exist – and thought it was important to expose what they thought was the wrongful killing of them.

    They didn’t “attack” the city of Taiji, they exposed a truth that they were trying to hide. If everyone finds out about it and is fine with it….then the chips will lie where they fall. If they are outraged, or uncomfortable then maybe the practice can be changed.

    They weren’t making the moral accusation in order to suggest that somehow Americans are perfect and without flaws or faults in the same kinds of areas. But I also don’t think it is necessary to address every single transgression when fighting against a very specific thing. It wouldn’t have been pursuant to the point of the film (which by the way was to bring awareness to dolphins and how to save them) to include cows and pigs etc. in America. The film was about a specific place that went to great lengths to hide a practice that they undoubtedly knew would make people uncomfortable. It was exposing this tradition and showing how it happens. It makes the claim that it shouldn’t happen. That’s not moral superiority….EVERYONE has an idea of what they think is right or wrong. The filmmakers sought to present their point of view (which is what everyone does with film and art in general):

    1. They have a passion for marine mammals
    2. They are against dolphins in captivity (something that they did address that occurs in the US)
    3. They are against the inhumane herding and slaughtering of dolphins
    4. They are against the fact that in addition to the killings, they lied about the toxic mean and gave it to kids in their compulsory lunches. Yeah it makes them look bad….the specific people that were doing it. I hardly think that EVERYONE that watches the film now hates Japan. There were a few, but there is always going to be a range of opinion about this kind of thing.

    That’s not an ignorant point of view. And it doesn’t mean they weren’t “learners” either. You think because they “did” something that they went in there without regard to the traditions of the Japanese. I think they went in to challenge it. What do they get out of the tradition if the hunt produces meat which is toxic, and puts the dolphins in captivity? I don’t always think that standing up for what you personally think is right is necessarily ethnocentric!!! I happen to think that female genital mutilation is a practice that should be stopped worldwide, and that’s a tradition amongst a lot of international groups. Should the fact that circumcision takes place worldwide devalue my point of view that it is wrong, inhumane, disfiguring and should be stopped? Does the fact that I’m white mean that I have no perspective on the rest of the world? Even though I would be imposing “my” moral value in support of such causes, I think that acting is better than not acting. The end result of this film was not to make these people more famous or garner awards. It was to bring awareness to a cause that they have dedicated their lives to. You don’t have to agree with it. But to call them ignorant and racist and unintelligent is not a very “open-minded” response.

  18. Chisa Hidaka says:

    Your 4 points are true…and I also support them all.
    Yet, those considerations do not take away the fact that The Cove very sadly missed an opportunity to reach out to and inspire Japanese people and the community in Japan who could actually stop the hunt.
    There are many good reasons to support the movie. It has really raised awareness and ire in the international community.
    But based on the reactions it has gotten in Japan, it is difficult to say that The Cove has been effective in getting Japanese people to support the goal of ending the hunt. That is sad, because it is really up to the people and government in Japan to make these kind of changes.
    Please read my blog

  19. Kathee says:

    (read this with a metered tone in your head….none of these words were written in anger, but in a tone of genuine discussion) In terms of effectiveness, that may be true to a point. Do you really think that NOT exposing this tragedy would have been a better way to reach out the Japanese people? Do you think that them knowing about it now is really the negative thing? Or do you think that creating this kind of secrecy about it was more damaging? The thing about these kinds of documentaries is that they raise A LOT of issues. That’s part of the point. To start the discussion. When its displayed on such a large scale, they have to deal with it in the daylight and can’t sweep it under the rug. It may be uncomfortable but supporters of the cause there and abroad now have evidence (evidence that the local and national governments tried to keep from coming to the surface) and they can demand change if they want it. There are a lot more issues at stake for the Japanese (and other whaling nations) than simply killing these animals. And you said it….its up to the people and the government in Japan to make the changes. When you have a government so invested in the secrecy of these practices that are ultimately harmful to their people, putting it in out in the open where they can’t lie about it certainly presses them to make those changes. That might hurt their national pride a bit, but that’s a by-product and not the aim of the film itself.

    Your blog doesn’t really go into how YOU would have made the film, how you would have interacted with the locals, whether you would have believed the lies and/or kept out of the restricted areas within the national parks, how you would have dealt with the fact that the Japanese government didn’t want the film to be made and why…..in their effort, what would you have done differently EXACTLY to make the film a success at not only alerting the international community while at the same time creating an environment for change among the Japanese people?

    One more point I will make is that part of why I think the team felt they could march into someone else’s country and start pointing fingers, is because the dolphins are wild….and from the ocean….so it’s a common feeling to consider them as part of a global “property” or responsibility. Its the same feeling we got when the elephant poaching in Africa was exposed on a global scale, and why people now have a stigma about ivory. Does the fact that ivory dealers feed their families make it ok to murder elephants? No. Did many governments act out against it? Yes. Too late? In some cases, yes. Its not about nations at its essence. Its about the world and protecting nature. Protecting nature has SO MANY facets, that if you want to make a real change you have to pick a direction and pursue it. Some people pick saving the marine mammals, some pick cleaning up the oceans, some pick reducing emissions….Japan’s decisions in this regard don’t just effect Japan. Just like the US’s decisions don’t just effect the US. We all need to be held accountable, and I hope that exposing this to the world sparks an interest in learning about the slaughter of whales and dolphins worldwide and what we can do to stop it. And Japan has a big opportunity to be an example because they ARE one of the leading offenders in this case.

  20. Kathee says:


    apologies…..i thought you were the original blogger. i did read YOUR blog and it was quite insightful. thank you for sharing.

  21. Dice says:


    I’m not pro-dolphin hunting or anti-dolphin hunting, and I can’t really comment on whether the movie was racist or not (I grew up in the States but having spent most of my life in Japan, I’m at best confused about the issue).

    However, some of the films contentions were just not true or were distortions of fact. I’ve stated before that perhaps the filmmakers did this deliberately in order to enrage armchair activists and pressure places like Sea World, in that they were perhaps effective. However, this documentary is about entertainment and not about bringing the “truth” to this issue.

    I want to clarify one point, dolphin hunting isn’t a BIG SECRET, it’s just a little known practice being engaged in at the town of Taiji since the Edo period (there’s no hidden meaning in my sentence either). Most Japanese don’t know about it because it just isn’t that interesting as news goes or people just don’t care. While it helps the narrative of the film that the Japanese government is behind a big coverup of dolphin hunting, this isn’t the case. . .it just isn’t that well known (until now of course). Now of course in the movie people are shown trying to hide the hunt from the filmmakers and other activists. This doesn’t mean there’s a big coverup or secret, the filmmakers and the activists know what’s about to happen. The people in Taiji just want the filmmakers and the activists to bug off.

    To your points.

    1. The filmmakers do make the claim that they care for marine animals. It is quite possible this is true.

    2. Same as above.

    3. Same as above but. . .surely people can understand that the inhumanity of certain things can be based on perspective. Right or Wrong. . .these are values that differ from person to person. Let’s not bring in other things into this that are so wrong to compare dolphin hunting to, the fishermen of Taiji truly do believe that what they are engaging in is a craft, so while it’s tough work, dirty work and bloody work. They probably don’t see it as being inhumane.

    While you do not specifically bring it up, an animal being intelligent doesn’t mean automatically to all people that it should not be hunted. In some instances it could just raise the value of the game.

    4. I wouldn’t want to feed food with high mercury content to children. And if there were people covering it up, then that’s a serious issue, however looking at the movie I’m not convinced that anyone was hiding anything, I am glad that children are no longer being fed the meat. And as Chisa points out, there’s a bigger issue there, where we have to be concerned about our whole marine food chain (dolphins included).

    As you also state, documentaries like this really do raise awareness and get people to start talking. That I understand. . .but, the movie does remind me of the film Wag the Dog. Except in this case there really is dolphin hunting going on in the town of Taiji. The filmmakers however go every which way to distort what is actually going on (and again the central truths of the hunt are still there, the fishermen herd the dolphin into a cove and slaughter them) to fit their narrative. While this creates a sensational film it also turns off a lot of people who view the film and know that some of the assertions of the filmmaker are just not true, or just don’t make sense (because believe it or not they might identify with the dolphin hunters).

    Having said that, there certainly is an issue that the filmmakers could have wanted to address (that I would have been interested in seeing).

    1. Mercury poisoning. Comparing it to Minamata is exciting for sure, but Minamata was a sudden and extensive poisoning of seafood by mercury dumped by companies. Large marine life do have high mercury content, but we are not talking about Minamata levels (the differences are ten to fifty times here). That does not mean that there is no issue there, but the filmmakers could have done better than comparing it to Minamata and leaving it at that. Perhaps mercury poisoning is not interesting but the Japanese love their big fish, so they should be concerned.

    However, if mercury poisoning is the reason why dolphins should not be hunted, then it stands to reason that once we solve the issues with mercury poisoning that dolphins could become fair game again.

    2. The state of our global fisheries is something that the Japanese are concerned about. You mention elephants in your argument, the issues that some countries have had with the endangered species list is that once a species is classified endangered, it’s hard to get it declassified as endangered. Perhaps this is a good thing, but once species are thriving then again it stands to reason that they are fair game again.

    The Japanese live off the sea, so they do know that they need to be concerned about all the treasures that come from the sea. Quite frankly, they are starting to get scared stiff. Similar (and I’ve been trying to avoid comparisons in my comment, but please forgive me), to the efforts surrounding global warming and countries wanting to avoid global warming yet still burn all the fuels that they can get their hands on, the Japanese would love to save the fisheries around the world from depletion and contamination, but. . .they also would love to keep eating fish. It might not fit into the filmmakers narrative, but approaching the issue from this angle could have created more resonance.

    As stated above I grew up in the States but I am Japanese and live over in Japan. While it pains me to say so, I can see how the Cove could be an effective movie by rallying people around an issue through entertainment, especially in this era of easy Internet activism.

    The filmmakers should have problems rallying the Japanese behind the cause. Like any culture, the Japanese don’t like to be told what to do or how their culture is wrong, an effective way to get to the Japanese would have been to take out the BS from the movie, get straight to the facts and make the arguments that you made (that we all share the fisheries of our planet and we need to all take care of them). That would be something that would make more sense to the Japanese and not seem like an attack. . .except it would mean that we all need to get involved wherever we are no the planet, right? 😀

  22. Dyske says:

    Hi Kathee,

    Firstly, thank you for your interest in trying to discuss this issue in a constructive manner.

    Since two people have already responded, I do not want to overwhelm you, so I’ll try to keep it simple and address the issue that I think are at the core of this conflict.

    The film and you both brought up multiple reasons for stopping the dolphin hunt, but I’m not at all clear or sure if those reason are really why you oppose the dolphin hunt. I need you to be honest about this, because this is part of the reason why Japan feels indignant about the whaling ban. The original reason for the creation of IWC and the ban was sustainability, but even though some of the whales are no longer in danger of extinction and have been proven to be sustainable, anti-whaling nations still insist on the ban. In other words, sustainability was never their real “issue” in the first place. They were being dishonest about the true reason. It’s understandable that Japan feels annoyed by this because they listened and addressed the opposing concern, yet the opponents have now changed their tune.

    You cannot just throw any reason that you can find at the cause; you need to be honest about your reason for stopping the dolphin hunt. What is really motivating you. Is it really the health of the Japanese people? Is it the sustainability of dolphins? Is it because dolphins are intelligent? Which is your real reason?

  23. Kathee says:

    Those are all fair questions.

    I would like to mention that the people involved in the film are really activists. They dedicated their lives to saving these animals and they are not cheap entertainment seekers. There is a reason that Ric goes back every single year.

    With that said, if people were going to watch, it needed artistic direction, as most films do. They didn’t really have to do much to sensationalize it though….the situation pretty much spoke for itself. I can see how people would gravitate to the excitement of gathering the video. Video that exposed exactly what was happening and how. Those things weren’t known till they did that. They knew the dolphins were hunted and killed but they had no hard evidence of it happening or of how they did it. There are a lot of Japanese people speaking out against it too.

    And it is sensational. It is bloody and its brutal and it’s unnecessary.

    You mention people being dishonest about being against the Taiji hunt. The fishermen are being dishonest about why they do it.
    1. its not about the money – those 26 men and the town have been offered the same amount of money to CEASE their activities. In addition, they have been offered assistance from global organizations to help with sustainable fishing practices, whale/dolphin watching and tourist endeavors that would help the town itself while creating a positive image at the same time.
    2. Its not about hunting for the meat, from my understanding not that many people eat dolphin meat in Japan and those that do, find it to be “trashy” in comparison to more expensive whale meat. PLUS if it were about the meat, you’d think the mercury thing would be important as it is much more traditional to look after one’s health in Japan.
    3. Tradition. Well, you may have me there. It is delicate business asking a culture to throw away 400 years of tradition, but I tend to think that the tradition is based on 1. and 2. and is no longer as relevant. So now it is simply tradition for the sake of tradition. And at what expense (cruelty aside, the mercury content)??
    4. Pest control. The permits to slaughter the dolphins are obtained legally under the guise of pest control. The assertion that the dolphins and whales are eating the fish they want to have access to. The real issues are overfishing and pollution, and if we address these the fish would be more plentiful, and less contaminated. Maybe dolphin meat would then be more desirable, but then you get into MY PERSONAL issues with being against the hunt (which are simply added to those of the film and a simple love of the earth).

    I am 100% against the inhumane treatment of animals. Anywhere. I’m against the Korean dog trade. I’m against elephants in the circus. I’m against shooting wolves out of helicopters. I’m against all of it. The Cove shows a group of people that are specialized to be effective. You can’t be going in 9 million directions at once and be effective. I may be an “armchair activist” but I know enough about the issues to be afforded an opinion. And if given the opportunity, I’d be right there with them, peacefully protesting against a horrific act.

    I’m not against fishing. I’m not against hunting for food. In the US I’m a big proponent of meat-eaters choosing to purchase food from companies that humanely treat the animals. I’m against foie gras, veal and any other kind of “meal” that is obtained through the torture of animals. Those dolphins are tortured. And their meat isn’t even safe to eat!!!! And there really ISN’T that strong of a market for it!!!! I strongly believe in our connection to nature and its creatures and the need to be respectful within reason. I’m not going to get the world to stop eating meat. But will I support a cause to stop this specific kind of thing from happening? Sure.

    The answer to all of your questions as to why I am honestly against it is that if you believe something is wrong, you can’t sit by and do nothing. While I am not as fortunate to have the ability to leave my job to go to protests around the world (you’re next Faroe Islands), I can applaud those that do. And yes….there will always be a discussion about what is right and what is wrong. If people can continue to “fight” peacefully about it, then so be it. This isn’t a Japanese issue…..this is a global issue.

    The cultural implications are vast. But nothing that was said in the film was a lie, as you suggest. They really do brutally and inhumanely slaughter 2500 dolphins and small whales in the drive hunts every year. They really did try to keep photographers and journalists out to keep it under wraps. They made the film for the sake of information and wish to empower the Japanese people with that information (which the fishermen said they had no right to know anything about despite Article 21 of the Japanese constitution which affords them that very thing) to change….or to not change. Yes, the protests have annoyed the town, but there are global implications as well, and that’s why it enrages viewers from across the globe. It never set out to win awards. That simply happened once word got out…..that’s how activism works. And the coalition seeks to solve ALL the problems surrounding the hunt including emissions (most of them support stringent EPA regs imposed to US companies as well) which led to the mercury poisoning, as well as unsustainable fishing practices.

    This matter is close to my heart because I lived in Hawaii for several years, swimming and existing with whales and dolphins in a natural habitat. A habitat that is 75% percent of our planet and is being destroyed by those issues mentioned above. These mammals are a barometer for our oceans and so many things need to change. Not the least of which is the unnecessary mass killing of dolphins and whales in this and other areas of the world.

    To conclude, I can throw any reason that I find at the cause because there are MANY reasons why this should be stopped. The closest to my heart is the condition of the ocean, the second the humane treatment of animals, the third the health of people who choose to eat those animals (or who, in this case are tricked into eating it), and the sustainability of the dolphin and whale populations. The connection I’ve had with dolphins has led me to believe that they ARE self-aware, that they are intelligent, that they feel pain, that they experience anguish….and you would have me believe that simply because a group of 26 fishermen refuse to give up a needless task, that those things somehow don’t matter because it isn’t MY culture? Because they don’t AGREE that those things are true? I think the town could thrive without the hunts, I think the Japanese tradition could remain intact and that global issues could be addressed with the ceasing of the drive hunts.

    One more thing about the film is that they are also advocating the cessation of the marine mammal display industry which is one of the driving causes of the hunts. This effects most countries in the world.

    Those things do not make me ignorant, racist, ethnocentric or any other divisive term. I think they make me a responsible citizen of the world. You could probably cite tens of reasons why my opinion is invalid, like I am not campaigning for every single injustice on the planet (oh if I only had the time and resources!), or that I responding to a blog instead of on a Greepeace boat. I can still be part of the solution even if I can’t leave my job to do it. The activists that went to Taiji did everything they could to be peaceful. The didn’t lie, they presented people with facts, which they may or may not care about….but they are giving them reasons to consider caring. And they also wanted to engage in peaceful and open discussions with the local government and were turned down. They weren’t the violent ones. And I get that they were annoyed at the protesters for disturbing their customs. But like I mentioned in my first response, not all customs should be allowed to continue when they do harm. I believe with the evidence presented not only in The Cove, but in other publications (prior to the film’s release) that this practice does more harm than good to the Japanese people, and certainly more to the dolphins.

  24. Dyske says:

    To conclude, I can throw any reason that I find at the cause because there are MANY reasons why this should be stopped.

    If you believe in resolving this issue in a constructive, reasonable, and productive manner, you cannot just throw any reason you find. Here is why:

    Suppose I saw someone dump a plastic bag on a beach. Suppose I felt I should tell him to pick it up and put it in a trash can instead. But, suppose I wasn’t stopping there, and I started following him around and criticizing him for every little thing that I think he did wrong. I just would not leave him alone. What do you think that person would say? I think the most obvious response would be: “Hey, what is your issue?” What if the real reason is that I just don’t like him personally? This is the problem of throwing every argument but the kitchen sink. If you were this person that I’m going after, how would you resolve this conflict? Addressing individual reasons that I bring up actually does not resolve anything because that’s not what is ultimately motivating me to go after you.

    So, unless we really dig down to the real heart of the matter, addressing these individual and practical issues would just be a big waste.

    I am NOT suggesting that you hate Japanese people, but as you can see in the comments above, there are others who support the film because they hate Japanese people. So, everyone has a different reason. This is why I need to understand your motivation before we can be constructive here.

    Suppose the following happens:

    1. They came up with a gun that shoots out an injection that instantaneously knocks them out unconscious.

    2. They scientifically prove that the number of dolphins they hunt every year in fact helps to balance out the ecosystem.

    3. They start labeling the dolphin meat with a huge sign that shows exactly how much mercury is in it. (Like the cigarette warnings about cancer.) So the only people who are eating are those who consciously choose to eat it despite the adverse effects on their health.

    Just to remind you that these are completely hypothetical. I just want to know if these issues were addressed, you would support the dolphin hunt in Japan. Would you?

    From your comment above, I suspect that you would not. I think your real issue is that you think killing of any “self-aware” animals is wrong for any reason. If so, this is a plain case of ethnocentrism and anthropocentrism as I explained in my post.

  25. Chisa Hidaka says:

    @Kathee and Dyske

    I think there is no question that most American people who oppose the dolphin slaughter do so because of the moral belief that dolphins are intelligent and self-aware and should therefore be treated more like ‘persons’ than ‘animals’. Even if Dyske’s 3 hypothetical conditions were met, the killing would remain problematic.

    In fact, I think it is a quite reasonable to say that dolphins should be protected on the basis of their cognitive abilities and I do not think it is ethnocentric to offer this view to the Japanese people. HOWEVER, it is quite ethnocentric NOT to consider the moral values of the Japanese people generally and the Taiji whalers specifically in discussing the issue of whether dolphin slaughter should continue.

    Most Americans do not realize that that Japanese traditional belief is that ALL life is precious. From this point of view, the intelligence of an animal does not make it worthy or more or less protection.

    This is the reason why many Japanese offer the example of killing beef cows in comparison – but that the comparison does not ‘track’ from the American point of view. American people don’t understand that when Japanese people bring up the example of killing of beef cows, they are asking,

    “Isn’t it just as bad to kill an innocent, dumb and helpless animal as it is to kill a smart one?”

    I think that non-vegetarian dolphin lovers are often not willing to admit that in fact, they feel exactly that – that killing an innocent, dumb and helpless animal IS acceptable even if killing dolphins is not. They will justify eating beef based on considerations such as the painless killing of beef cows and the fact cows are domesticated and not wild. These arguments are irrelevant to the argument and do not change the fundamental concept that by embracing the killing of one animal but not another, Americans presume to be able to be wise enough to make a judgement about which animal lives are ‘worthy’ and which are not, and what criteria should be used to make that judgement.

    This type of thinking reminds me of early Christian thought in which God gives Man dominion over the earth. In contrast, Shinto and Buddhist traditions in Japan have led to a different moral point of view: All life is precious – it is not Man who decides what is precious – but Nature.

    You might argue that this should result in vegetarianism – as many Buddhists are. But there is also a pragmatic aspect. If lives have equal value, it is also OK to eat what Nature offers. It is not as if Japanese whalers don’t appreciate the special qualities of whales compared to other animals. Whaling towns usually have shrines to the spirit of whales, not unlike shrines honoring human ancestors. There is deep gratitude when such a majestic animal offers itself for sustenance.

    When you are in an argument with someone, it is much easier to ‘give in’ when the other person clearly shows they understand your point of view, even if they disagree.

    Many people in this debate American and Japanese are not showing this kind of understanding and so they are perpetuating antagonism instead of opening pathways to a solution.

    Instead of incessantly discussing what is wrong with dolphin slaughter, we need to start understanding what is valuable and worthy about the morals and values underlying the activity. Once we understand the moral values of the Taiji fishermen and of Japanese people generally, we can start to come up with solutions that are in line with those values.

  26. Kathee says:

    I think the main argument actually does come from understanding the moral argument of the fishermen that they are using the dolphins for sustenance, and that’s where the mercury levels are brought up. If they are using the dolphins for meat, but the meat is toxic….there is a lapse in logic there. That’s why they have to disguise the meat as whale meat or serve it to kids or unlabeled (as in without warning of contamination) in supermarkets. Also, it does appear that while that town (and town’s like it) may get the majority of their protein from the dolphins (where many have tested positive for Hg poisoning) that it might not be the best source of their nutrition.

    The argument sort of plays like this:

    (Activist): We’d like you to stop killing the dolphins because we believe they have a higher consciousness and we find your hunting practices cruel and inhumane.

    (People who condone dolphin-killing): We are surviving on the meat from these animals, as has been our custom for centuries.

    (A): The meat you are surviving on has toxic levels of mercury that is harming your community

    (P): …

    (A): It sounds like both our problems could be solved by the cessation of the drive hunts

    The solution that Taiji took on was to HIDE the mercury levels and create a media blackout of anything that detailed the slaughter. They mislabeled it as whale meat or didn’t report mercury levels…this doesn’t sound like a responsible way to feed your community.

    See, people like me WANT to respect people customs and cultures. The problem is the solutions will be against one or both of the conflicting value systems. I haven’t been convinced that the Taiji citizens are getting any GOOD out of the dolphin killing. And that’s the point that the documentarians are making. Yes their primary interest is the dolphins, but pursuant to their goal is pointing out the flaws in the arguments FOR it be it tradition, sustenance, money or “pest control.”

    So….with all due respect (and I mean that) if you could present this understanding of the moral differences and outline a suitable solution, I am all ears!!! Until someone manages to do that, I am on the side of the defenseless dolphins.

    To the cow/pig argument (both animals I do not eat), I think that people like Temple Grandin did a lot to assure that those animals were slaughtered quickly, humanely and with a relative amount of dignity. Those animals seems to have a lower consciousness, but can still feel pain and endure stress. However, if those animals produced poisonous meat, I guarantee that steakhouses in the US would quickly go out of business or that the Ag Lobby would find a way to make them clean again.

  27. Kathee says:


    and i explained that it is NOT ethnocentrism because it is not about superiority. these people aren’t going in and saying hey we’re American and we have a corner on morality. they are going in and challenging a harmful practice with valid evidence because they are advocates for dolphins. like i mentioned, this is a global issue. and Taiji was targeted because it is the largest offender. Not because Japanese people are evil. No one thinks that. The people who made the film have said over and over it is a small fraction of a small population that are perpetrating these acts. And the others are actually SUFFERING as a consequence.

    I cannot say one way or another if i would support a dolphin hunt as you describe it, although i am not 100% against hunting for food if the meat is used, not wasted and the animal was not traumatized in its killing. there is valid argument (that even some Japanese hold) that dolphins’ level of consciousness and the display of traditionally human traits such as altruism are reasons to NOT eat them, and i do lean more to that (but i’m a vegetarian). But I still maintain that that is not ethnocentrism because I do not feel that my passion for environment and animals makes me a more superior person. I simply wish to protect these animals from such a nasty end. To me, it is a pointless end, as their meat is poison to humans and it seems we would all be better off enjoying them alive. Swim with them in the wild. You’ll see.

  28. Chisa Hidaka says:


    Activist: We want you to stop the inhumane killing of intelligent self aware animals

    People who want to support traditional Japanese culture: We want to uphold our own values regarding the value of animals

    (These people are not surviving on this meat…Nobody wants to eat it.. that’s why they tried to foist it off on the school system…Horrible, but not worse than selling sugary soda and sloppy joes in school cafeterias in the US which has created a childhood obesity epidemic)

    Activist: Why can’t you see that our moral position is superior? Intelligent animals must be treated in a special way.

    People…: Why can’t you understand that imposing your values on us does not solve the problem? We are highly moral people who respect and revere cetaceans, creating shrines to them when they give their lives to us. We believe all life is precious. We are not morally inferior. We do not want to have your morals imposed on us. Why can you not acknowledge the value of our moral view point? We are offended that our love for Nature is not being acknowledged.

    Activist: (ignoring the question of acknowledging moral differences)…we need to educate you poor ignorant people…you are eating tainted dolphin meat.

    People…: Actually, our own councilman exposed the school lunch problem and addressed it. Our own scientists have measured and reported the mercury levels. That is what was shown in the movie. Why are you shifting the conversation and accusing us of being ignorant?

    Activist: ???

    Many people in Japan support the end of dolphin slaughter. For example, a former dolphin fisherman in Futo, where such dolphin kills are now banned went on record in the Asahi newspaper to say that the time for dolphin fishing is past


    Most American activists ignore this reality, preferring to demonize Japanese whalers and Japanese people generally. This is the kind of insensitivity that is understandably angering many Japanese people and undermining the good intention of the American activists.

    If you want to accomplish something in a foreign country, it is important to understand what is culturally important and appropriate. Consensus building is very important in Japan. Confrontation is very bad. It causes great discomfort culturally. The Cove is extremely confrontational. Activist are almost by nature confrontational.

    The activists who are interested in this issue should try to accomplish their goals quietly, in a non-confrontational manner by appealing to the people of the Fishery Ministry or others who can make a difference in this matter. They need to say – we understand that whaling is an important part of Japanese culture. We also allow our native people to hunt one or two whales per year because we understand the importance of tradition. We admire Japan’s reverence for Nature. We believe that an end to dolphin slaughter is in keeping with the best of what your country stands for. Dolphin killing is unnecessary and wasteful. (Wastefulness is considered very bad in Japan). I am sure that Japan, a country whose people are so deeply connected with the ocean can come up with much more elegant and less wasteful ways of protecting your own coastal fisheries than killing dolphins. Please JOIN the international community in protecting cetaceans and our shared oceans.

    Something like this would be a good start to the conversation…conducted without sensationalism or emotionality…with appropriate scientists or government officials taking the lead (not TV actresses, if you know what I mean?).

    As soon as you ACTUALLY understand Japanese culture, you will understand that this is NOT an argument about pro-dolphin Americans and anti-dolphin Japanese. It is not a conversation between American Activist who wants stop dolphin killing and Japanese people who condone it (as is framed in your last post. There are pro-dolphin people on both sides of the Pacific. Unfortunately, because of the angry, confrontational style of the American activists, many Japanese (even pro-dolphin ones) are alienated, and have taken an anti-foreigner or anti-American position. Instead of recognizing this dynamic, American activists are misinterpreting the Japanese resistance as ‘anti-dolphin’ and even, ‘morally wrong’. That is only escalating the problem instead of solving it.

    I don’t think Japanese people are blameless in this. But the problem is not – as American activists would like to believe – that Japanese people hate or disregard dolphins. Japanese people love dolphins. They hate being told what to do by foreigners – especially Americans. That is admittedly a problem. But American activists need to be sensitive to this, if they want to be effective.

    This whole debate would be a lot calmer and more productive as soon as American activists start to work with the people in Japan who also love dolphins instead of making Japan out to be an immoral bunch of dolphin killers and an ignorant community who blindly feeds on their catch.

  29. Kathee says:

    you make a lot of good and valid points with respect to how the filmmakers could have gone about it differently and that is what i was looking for from someone…anyone.

    i did frame the situation as i saw it as people who want to protect dolphins worldwide vs people (from anywhere) who were in favor of the practice and making the only arguments i’ve heard ie tradition (specific to those towns), money (economic survival) and meat.

    i do think you are still taking it too far….its not about “educating them” its about putting the information out there. most japanese people didn’t know about the tainted meat or the actual WAY in which the dolphins were killed. they weren’t informed by the government….if they were, why make a big deal to keep it under wraps? why lie about it and call it whale meat? and because it is a global issue the film was meant to inform abroad as well as in japan. and i never accused anyone of being ignorant. i was saying why the film makers weren’t either. nor did i make any moral judgments. and i never suggested that it wasn’t the japanese citizens taking action. like the councilmen….it was relevant to mention that they took a risk in doing so, however.

    i do get that they don’t like to be told what to do. and maybe they could have gone about it in a more respectful way. fair enough.

    the people who made the film were and are still more than willing to discuss the situation openly. no one, certainly not myself, is saying that the Japanese are dolphin killers in fact i may point to several times that i mention that no one is under any illusion as to who is doing this: a small number of people in a small town and no one else. that hardly suggests a national attack!!! and i believe i made your point as well, that many japanese people want to see an end to it.

    and so what if the activists think that intelligent species should be treated specially??? that is their point of view and it stands to reason that if they think that they will try to stop it. they don’t think the japanese people don’t respect nature….quite the opposite. you don’t HAVE to agree with them on the whaling position. and you’re not an inferior person if you don’t. but that doesn’t kill the concern. once again….its not a japanese issue…they don’t own the oceans and things they do affect the rest of us in the long term. its all part of a big picture project to save our oceans. its not cut and dry and everyone can pick a side. i respect the other side, but i do not agree with the position and will advocate for the dolphins in this case. because i think that stopping this type of thing is part of what needs to happen for the flourishing of our ocean ecosystems.

  30. Dice says:

    Just one point. . .and please note that I agree with most of your points, the ocean (the planet) is an ecosystem that we all have to take responsibility for in managing.

    Dolphin hunting in Taiji, it isn’t a secret (in the sense that people are actively trying to hide it) and there is no national or local level government effort to hide it either. I’ve been to Taiji several times (not because of this issue) and know that the people there are in fact quite happy and proud of the practice. The film tries to portray an effort to hide the issue from people, the truth is closer to the locals just wanting to be left alone instead of dealing with people disrupting their work.

    The lies and half truths in the film are sometimes subtle and sometimes blatant, it was hard for me to watch the movie because of all the little points that the filmmakers tried to pass on as matter of fact when I knew them to be false. It’s a shame because it’s an issue that probably could be presented more reasonable and truthfully without turning off viewers in Japan who are knowledgeable enough to know that how flimsy the film is.

    Moving on though, tradition is a reason why the dolphin hunting started, it certainly does not have to be the reason why it continues. The argument that dolphin hunting is alright because other countries eat cows, pigs, dogs or whatever is comparing apples and oranges. An argument for or against dolphin hunting has to be able to stand on their own merits and that’s probably where the common ground is.

  31. Dyske says:

    Hi Kathee

    First, I should note that you are the first person here and on the other thread who is discussing the opposing view in a reasonable fashion. So, I thank you for that.

    I think we need to define what “ethnocentrism” is. I would urge you to read the article I mentioned in my post about the topic (by Ken Barger), if you haven’t yet. I agree with his argument that we are ALL ethnocentric. I am and you are too. This is unavoidable. Ethnocentrism in fact is not something that happens consciously. Even a highly educated anthropologists can easily become ethnocentric. In most situations, we realize how ethnocentric we have been only after we learn more about the opposing culture. This is why the key to avoid being ethnocentric, as Barger suggests, to adopt the view that we are “learners”. Our first step should be to LEARN, and we should not ACT until we have a reasonable understanding of the foreign culture.

    You said: “you’re next Faroe Islands”. Now, this comes across to me as just the wrong attitude. Am I wrong here in assuming that you are not an expert of the Faroe culture? If you are no expert, then this is precisely how ethnocentrism happens. Even before you show any willingness to learn about their culture, you are ready to attack them. Seeing this kind of attitude in people really saddens me, because I come from a very different culture, and have experienced painful misunderstandings that are deeply rooted in fundamental differences which are nearly impossible to explain or communicate.

    Now you at least admit that you don’t know how you would feel even if Japan took care of those 3 issues I suggested. Suppose the Japanese very sincerely listened to you, and spent a billion dollars in developing humane way to kill dolphins, conducted extensive research into the ecological implications of dolphin hunting, and a massive campaign to educate and warn people about the potential risk of consuming mercury from dolphin meat. Suppose 5 years later, we resolve all those issues. The Japanese would then assume the matter is resolved and you are happy. But you wouldn’t be. Now imagine how the Japanese would feel. Wouldn’t you be angry if you were in their shoes? They listened to you sincerely, but you were in fact not being honest with them, and that dishonesty is not revealed until they spend 5 years and a billion dollars. I think they would have the right to be angry. This is why it’s important not to throw any reasons at the cause. If you want someone to respond to you sincerely, you too need to be sincere.

    Suppose you were very honest from the beginning that your real reason is that you are against killing of any “self-aware” animals. Suppose you approach them tactfully, patiently, and respectfully and you gain their respect, and create a movement where people naturally stop consuming dolphin meat, so the dolphin hunting is no longer a viable business for anyone. If you were able to achieve this, not only that you would get what you want, but also prevent the Japanese from wasting a billion dollar and 5 years of their effort. They could address the root issue and resolve everything at once.

    Do you see why it’s important to be absolutely honest about your motivation, and not throw every reason you can find? If you treat someone disingenuously, he will respond back disingenuously too. If you treat someone with dishonesty, she will respond back with dishonesty also. That’s human nature. So, it very important to start the negotiation properly. If you want the Japanese to be honest and sincere, YOU need to be honest and sincere first because you are initiating the debate.

    Believing that killing of self-aware animals is wrong, is NOT ethnocentric. That is your belief and I can respect that. It becomes ethnocentric ONLY IF you try to impose that value on others, because your belief has no basis in reason. When you impose your own value on others, you are implicitly assuming that your value is superior. You cannot prove with reason that your belief is absolutely the right one. The people of Taiji and many other Japanese people do not share your belief. They believe that all forms of life are equally precious, which includes even insects, trees, and fish. There is no hierarchy in their minds. So, you have no justification for imposing your belief on them. If you do try to impose it on them, you are indeed being ethnocentric in a very typical sense of the term. If they do end up listening to you, and stop hunting dolphins because they are self-aware animals, then they would in fact be doing you a favor. So, if you want to achieve this, you need to be thinking about how you would ask someone for a favor. Then, they might actually listen to you.

    I believe that O’Barry and the filmmakers are in the same position as you. They do not realize that they are being ethnocentric because it never even occurred to them that there is a non-hierarchical way of looking at life. So, they were simply assuming that the Japanese people would spring to action once they see the “truth”. That is exactly how ethnocentrism works. If they were smart enough to step back, hold their anger, set aside their own values temporarily, and study the history and the culture of Japan with an open mind, they would have come up with a completely different way of approaching this problem. Instead, their utter ignorance of the Japanese culture was embarrassingly obvious in the film.

    You at least show willingness to learn here, but you haven’t really shown me any indication that you know enough to prevent ethnocentrism, yet you are trying to impose your value. If you want people to accept your value, you also need to demonstrate that you have done your share in understanding the values, perspectives, and beliefs of the other side. So, I think it’s premature to act. You need to learn more before you can get others to accept your values.

    Again, I thank you for the constructive debate here.

  32. Dyske says:

    Hi All,

    Just to let you know: about 2 weeks ago I asked Laurel at TakePart.com to post links to some of these articles written from Japanese perspectives, so that their audience can get a more balanced view of the whole issue. She hasn’t responded, so I sent a follow-up email today. Here is what I wrote:

    Hi Laurel,

    I haven’t seen the links to our articles on your website. So, I was wondering what the status of it is. (Are you thinking about it, or you are not going to?)

    When the director of The Cove went to Japan for the screening, he said that it was courageous of the organizers to show the films. So, I would like to see the same courage on your part to share the opposing views on your website. You also said that you are more than willing to point fingers at yourselves.

    Another thing I was wondering is that, if I were Ric O’Barry, here is what I would do. I would break into your office and then get on your computer to hack into your site and then post the links against your wish, because in my mind fighting ethnocentrism is a very important cause.

    I would NEVER do such a thing, but I was wondering if you would support that kind of strategy.

    And, of course, if I were O’Barry, I would never stop harassing you until you listen to what I’m asking you to do. But again, that would go against my own principle too, so I would NEVER do such a thing. So, if you don’t respond to me in a week, I’ll consider it as the official end of our communication and you will never hear from me again.


    We’ll see what happens.

  33. Kathee says:

    All fair points…..change always comes about by changing people’s minds, and there are varied ways of going about trying to do that. I have spent most of this debate defending the filmmakers and leaving my personal views out of it except when directly asked. Personally, I have the same respect for all life and don’t like the idea of ANY animal suffering regardless of its consciousness. I did try to point out earlier that I had no intention of trying to get people to stop eating meat, so if they did it for food and it was not wasted and it was humane….this is something I believe to be a reasonable compromise. I think that reasoning is problematic in this situation because the meat is so toxic that the kill seems, to me, pointless. If they can’t get people to eat it (and doing that seems cruel to humans) then now we’re talking about thousands of dolphins being tortured and the meat either wasted or used in unsavory ways….in other words for no apparent practical reason (that is, tradition aside). And that’s really my real REAL reason for being so interested in all of this. Not to impose my values on others. As far as the Faroe Islands, I recently heard that their government said the whale meat was not fit for human consumption, so you have a similar problem up there. They also used all the whale meat, and it was distributed to the community evenly….so that part I don’t mean to argue with, but the method is so traumatic for the whales that it DOES bother me. My “your next” comment was not meant to be insensitive to the culture, although I realize I was casual in saying it.

    Once again in defense of the filmmakers, I think they were appealing to a different part of Japanese culture – gaiatsu. Ric had been going to Taiji for years, mostly because he was aware that the most lucrative part of the hunt was selling the dolphins into captivity, something he is against based on empirical evidence that captivity stresses them out and they are not, as we are so often led to believe, happy. The Taiji hunt is the biggest source of captive dolphins around the world, and it stands to reason that it, in part, motivates the hunt. So it does makes sense that he would start there. What struck him a decade ago was how the unwanted ones were herded and killed, and since he was advocating for dolphins around the world wondered what he could do to stop it. He began by talking to the Japanese people, the fishermen, etc going through tremendous channels to find out what the best way to go about it was….he was told by his Japanese liaisons that the BEST way was gaiatsu, as I am sure you know is “external pressure.” This is a Japanese concept and was recommended to him from people who “sincerely understand the culture.” The fishermen told him that if THE WORLD found out about it, they would be shut down….not if the rest of Japan found out. That’s when he started bringing film crews down there. Louie didn’t get involved until much later.

    I didn’t mean to sound like I was under the impression that it was a secret to the people of Taiji, of course they knew about it. But not everyone in Tokyo, or other places around Japan and certainly not on a global scale knew the details. And I’m not referring to the knowledge that the dolphin hunt happens, but to the details that surround it. I really just wanted to get on here and defend what Ric is doing. He really believes in it, and film is an amazing medium for spreading information. Having watched it only once I do not feel as though the Japanese people are being targeted or attacked….quite the contrary. I have the utmost respect for them, and do understand (and share) their love of nature. I felt like those in the film had a point of view as well, and it IS reasonable for them to not want to be bothered in their daily lives, or to be uncooperative. This film is coming out after many many years of trying other avenues to address it, and for better or for worse the conversation has begun on a large scale. I hope it continues, that people are respectful and that maybe people start to change their minds. The debate now is still thriving on emotions, and there’s perhaps not enough objectivity to be productive. Hopefully that will also change….on both sides.

  34. Thiago Biquiba says:

    We can summarize all the questions and avoid fights in these topics:
    -“The whaling is made in a proper way in Japan?”
    -“Is to kill dolphins, worse than to Kill cows or pigs?”
    -No, it is ethnocentrism.
    -“The Cove film reached its purpose?”
    -It was made in a improper way.
    -“How improper?”
    -It could to do some comparisons with the western faults about the same topic, and use less agressive ways. Agressive ways only lead to hate, no matter if the position defended is clearly right or not.

  35. Dyske says:

    Hi Kathee,

    Thank you for your understanding.

    If it weren’t for the ethnocentric aspects of this film, I would agree with you that, from a practical point of view, dolphin hunting seems rather pointless. Not many people eat it anyway and it’s unhealthy. What stops me from supporting the film, and be on the opposing side is because ethnocentrism is a very serious problem. Today it’s Japan, tomorrow it could be any of the cultural minorities. In fact, America may not be so safe in the future.

    If China becomes the world’s super-power, the rest of the world will slowly pander to the Chinese way of doing things. This is already happening to a degree. And, if the American economy collapses with the government spending going out of control, going the way of Argentina, the cultural dominance between East and West could flip. At that point, any traditions, customs, and cultural norms that are unique to America may come under attack. Deeply subjective values that the Chinese culture holds, may come to dominate the world, and become the de facto standard without most people being conscious of it. At that point, any other cultural minorities, including American culture, might be accused of “not joining the rest of the world.” If this were to happen, I would be on America’s side defending it.

    But this isn’t the worst case scenario. Before we get to that point, there might even be a serious fight over dominance. I already see the tension between East and West rising because of the economic success of China. The GDP of China is growing exponentially, and they will very shortly surpass the GDP of Japan and be the world’s second largest. The American GDP will probably go sideways from here on because of the current recession and the size of the government debts. (Japan’s GDP has been going sideways for about 15 years since their last big bubble burst.) As Americans become increasingly frustrated with their own situations, there will be a lot more tensions to come. If the tension can be represented with gasoline, the provocation like “The Cove” can be represented with a match. More than ever, we need to understand each other better if we want to prevent this tension from exploding.

    Thank you again for your constructive discussion.

  36. Ally says:

    This is the kind of thing these activist documentaries give rise to:


    In this case, it’s dying finless sharks on a Chinese flag. I wouldn’t be surprised to see activists paint bludgeoned dolphins in the center of a Japanese flag. This just confirms to me the ethnocentric view and the narrow, racist perceptions of many of these activists.

  37. davidattokyo says:

    It is so funny to read some of these nationalistic responses here, oh China kills sharks, Norway kills whales? Once again I ask if you next door to a murderer, or pedophile does that mean it is OK for you to do the same? All the nationalistic arguments here are based on saying “they are racist”, or, ” they do not understand us”. We UNDERSTAND, you do as you wish & justify it by blaming others. How about accepting responsibility for what your country does? As it is a democracy, therefore you as the people can vote for change. If YOU choose to keep doing something the rest of the world has moved on past, & made agreements to do so, why should you still be considered a part of the modern world? If YOU choose to live in the past, & call it “tradition”, to which you cannot live without, even though by your own admissions it is just used for fertilizer or pet food, why do you expect respect from the rest of the world? Or to be treated as an equal? Many civilizations have used whale/dolphin in their past, how many do in our modern age? 3 for whaling, Japan, Norway, Iceland, Japan leading the number of kills, & 1 for dolphins, ohh but the Japanese argument is they still hunt pilot whales in Faroe, so therefore it is OK for us to do it here? GROW UP! Once again if someone else murders, or is a pedophile does that make it OK for you to? If your answer is NO, then what is the basis of your argument? If Japan wants to be reslected as a peaceloving part of the modern world should it not then act like one?

  38. davidattokyo says:

    respected, not “reslected”, sorry for the typo…

  39. davidattokyo says:

    “Why can’t you understand that imposing your values on us does not solve the problem? We are highly moral people who respect and revere cetaceans, creating shrines to them when they give their lives to us. We believe all life is precious. We are not morally inferior. We do not want to have your morals imposed on us. Why can you not acknowledge the value of our moral view point? We are offended that our love for Nature is not being acknowledged.”

    If nature was being acknowledged as it once was then the whalers would carry out the same traditions, & that is it is a crime to:”hunt pregnant females, calves, or lactating mothers”. THIS IS JAPANESE TRADITION, (read up on “traditional” texts from Taiji & the bad luck that it causes), yet it is NO longer followed. Much footage of Japanese whalers slaughtering mothers, & calves has been gathered from the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, both from protest boats, & government boats,(Aus).So why does not Japan follow these very same traditions? These very same arguments that they use to justify the unjustifyable? If they where hunting as tradition stated they would NOT break these very basic traditions…

  40. davidattokyo says:

    & @Chissa, if you do not believe Japan kills endangered species, or breaks international agreements such as CITIES, a UN group, please read the following, & learn why the rest of the world is sick of Japanese LIES:


  41. davidattokyo says:

    & @Chissa another example of what you are defending;


  42. Chisa Hidaka says:

    Just for the record…I am not defending whaling. I think it is abhorrent. If you had seen my FB page, you would have seen those same stories you posted here already posted. If you read the NYTimes Green Inc blog about it, you’d see my supporting comment.

    I am only saying that Japanese whalers and the Japanese government especially want to maintain their sovereignty and don’t want to be told what to do from people who are ignorant or unsympathetic of Japanese people’s culture, tradition and points of view.

    Whaling is wrong – but forcing another country to change its ways is not very practical. Cooperation depends on mutual understanding and diplomacy. From the tone of your posts, I think you won’t agree. But that is fine with me. Please feel free to have your opinion.

    I personally am against whaling of any kind…so unless you want to preach to the choir, rant at someone else.

  43. davidattokyo says:

    @Chisa, if you think it is so wrong & it is only ignorant foreigners trying to force Japan to change how about YOU do something? Why do not YOU spend years researching a field, then spend your own time & money to educate others on what is happening? Why do not YOU do something to make a change? For obviously you do not consider yourself ignorant, nor a foreigner to Japan, so why do YOU stand back & let this happen? Rather than do nothing, then when someone else does, because you will not, & then critisise them? Just like Dyske with his fine arts degree, study something just to be critical of others, but never to do anything himself…

  44. Chisa Hidaka says:


    i AM doing something about it.
    but i’m a choreographer not an activist


    what are YOU doing about it???

  45. davidattokyo says:

    & just how does “dancing” with dolphins stop the slaughter of over 20,000 dolphins in Japan annually? There are hundreds of people out there swimming with wild dolphins & filming it, & just by the way dolphins swim, & interact it resembles a dance. Is this what you call fine art, & conservation? How about actually getting the facts out to Japanese, & the world people just has Ric & his team has done? & you decry westerners use of bullying, take a look at how the fishermen of Taiji treat others, pushing, screaming, & hitting, & I am not just talking about Ric & his crew, look back a few years & a group , including females, from “Surfers For Cetaceans” paddled out into the cove in a totally non-violent manner, only to be beaten & poked with fishing poles. Is this the kind of violence you condone on one side, but not for the other?

  46. Dyske says:

    I just watched the first episode of The Food Revolution by Jamie Oliver. It’s funny that what he did was quite similar to the analogy that I provided about making a documentary film about obesity. At the end of the first episode, the whole town got pissed at him. I don’t know why people don’t get it. To me, it’s obvious that his nationality will become problematic especially when he says things like, “America, wake up!” Why cast the issue as a national problem? He went in with such bravado, like, I’ll show you dumb Americans how food should be cooked. OF COURCE they will get pissed off and defensive.

    Now, I suppose he will have to undo the problem he created with his bravado. I haven’t seen the rest, so I don’t know what happened, but he was already beginning to realize towards the end of the first episode that he needs to change his attitude.

    If this were done by someone like Emeril Lagasse, the whole thing would be much smoother.

  47. Christopher Carr says:

    Let’s not forget that this film is a about a small group of self-righteous, activist assholes versus a bunch of blue-collar, small-town fisherman; but from the rhetoric that’s coming from some commenters, it seems like someone just stormed the bastille. There are a lot of good arguments for Japan to stop all whaling activities, but none of them were explored in the Cove.

    Most foreigners I’ve talked to in Japan are fairly amused by the Cove actually, but I’m in Fukushima; people are pretty laid back here, and most foreigners came for the backcountry skiing. A couple times I’ve been out, someone said something along the lines of, “I love dolphin. It’s so delicious. I wish they served dolphin sashimi at kappazushi.” hoping to get a rise out of someone else, but to no avail. From my limited exposure, Dyske, I’d say don’t give up hope for foreigners in Japan. But then again, I do know that foreigners in Tokyo tend to do stuff like this: http://mixi.jp/view_bbs.pl?id=35970621&comm_id=2680581&page=all and generally live inside a bubble, occasionally venturing out to get drunk and humiliate the Japanese Lost in Translation style.

  48. davidattokyo says:

    Seems others also see it as another cover up by Japanese gov & media…


  49. Thiago Biquiba says:

    I can’t to check your URL http://mixi.jp/view_bbs.pl?id=35970621&comm_id=2680581&page=all because I don’t have a Mixi account. Despite I have a QQ account(Chinese popular socail network), I need to have a Japanese cellphone to use its e-mail, in order to make a account on Mixi(Japanese popular social network) T_T I Also tried to make a CyWorld account(Korean popular social network), but it is too complicated for a foreigner like me too T_T

    @Dyske, do you posted something about these Asians social networks? ” http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/facebook_vs_asia_top_social_networks.php “- Are the “standarts” Western things just copies of the “weird” asians things?

  50. davidattokyo says:

    & great work Dyske continuing to deseminate your own brand of racism, us vs them, “we all look the same” shows the very basis of your thinking rather than to look at something in a objective manner. Just as you assume & state all that Ric & Louis are interested in is making money, & another “Hollywood” production, when in fact it was totally self funded, & promoted, & made to get the information out to the rest of the world after years of negotiations & attempts to get the hunts stopped, & as the hunters have stated if the truth gets out then we will be forced to stop! Also look at these hunters you are protecting, look at the violence they use, look at their recorded conversation joking about the mass slaughter of whales, is this the intelligent, compassionate people you are trying to make them out to be?
    Now you have your reply from the producers you still do not seem to be happy & just wanting to continue propagating your racist, xenophobic views. Just like you keep bringing up the Faroe Islands, or obesity, trying to distract the point this film is made about what is happening in Taiji, not Faroe Islands, not obesity in America, but simply the facts of what is happening in Taiji. When are you going to spend years of time & your own money so we can critisise it, & state you just did it for acclaim in Hollywood? If that was truely the case why would Ric hold the banner above his head during the award ceremony, cutting his time in the lime light, rather than standing there & making self motivated speeches & making himself famous? It is you who wants that, funny how your own asperations come out in what you project onto others & say they are thinking, when it you who is thinking that, & then riding the coat tails of others successes to try to promote yourself & make yourself look smart. Go back to University & do some more study… LOSER