The Cove
Awhile ago, I watched the Academy Award winning documentary, The Cove. The documentary follows a group of filmmakers, divers, and activists to a sleepy lagoon off the coast of Japan in Taiji. The filmmakers are looking to expose the mass slaughter of dolphins that is taking place there. In order to obtain footage of the the atrocities, the group uses cover of darkness to plant hidden cameras—in the water, on the rocks, and in the trees—all around the cove. The entire film is an intense build up (including battles between the filmmakers and the fishermen, Japanese government, etc.) to the moment when they finally reveal the footage.

What I saw & heard then broke my heart in ways that I will never be able to explain. Hundreds of dolphins being slaughtered mercilessly with harpoons. Ribbons of red blood streaming through the once calm, blue water. Dolphins crying and fleeing for their lives only to be trapped by nets blockading the cove. Baby dolphins leaping from the water, frantic upon the gruesome murders of their mothers.

It was almost more than I could bear. Watching it, I felt as though the harpoons were piercing me. I was devastated, shocked, angry and I began to cry hysterically. I knew that the movie would impact me; but I had no idea how deeply.

When the movie ended, I folded into my partner in a weeping heap. I was certain that he would console me. After all, we are both animal lovers who find more comfort in the presence of animals than people. I knew he would understand… But alas, I was very wrong.

Raising My Awareness
Just as his “insensitivity” was about to throw me into a blind rage, I grounded myself. I became conscious once again over my grief and I listened to what he had to say. He came to the defense of the Japanese fisherman, noting that these men were just doing their jobs. It was what they had been raised to believe was right and good. This is how they put roofs over the heads of their families, food on the table, and so on. My partner turned to me and asked, “How would we feel if Japanese filmmakers came here and started documenting and condemning our way of life, prohibiting us from doing our jobs, from making a living?”

And then it hit me… the cows, pigs, and chickens. Only a few months prior to watching The Cove, we had watched another disturbing/enlightening documentary, Food, Inc.. Food, Inc. brought to light the atrocities that happen right here in the United States—chickens kept in complete darkness their whole lives, pumped so full of steroids & hormones that they are too fat to walk, living in their own excrement; weak cows fallen to the ground being pushed by forklifts as their bones snap; and so on.

Is There a Difference?
Is the slaughter of the dolphins in Japan really so different than the slaughter of livestock in the United States? For me, the argument that their is a difference between “wild” animals and “farm-raised” (which are raised to be eaten) holds no water. In my eyes, an animal is an animal. If someone decided to start raising humans for food, would it then be alright to slaughter them with clubs, harpoons, and/or airguns? Would it be alright to torture them and expose them to the most inhumane conditions conceivable?

The slaughter of the cows merely appalled me, while the slaughter of the dolphins completely devastated me. What was the difference? Why did I perceive one action to be so much worse than the other?

The answer lies in my personal perception, my belief system, and worldview. I was raised to believe that cattle are meant to be eaten, while dolphins are meant to be beautiful, wild, and free.

Sacred Cows
I know admittedly little about Hinduism, but one thing that I do know is that cows are sacred to the Hindu people. I’ve seen footage in which cows wander through Indian marketplaces munching on veggies as they pass open air food carts. The people do not shoo the cows away by force or even with words. Hindu scriptures depict gods as cows or bulls and describe cows as sacred embodiments of merit, the most high and most efficacious cleansers of all. In a sense, Hindu people worship cows. To me, this is a beautiful union of man and animal. I believe that we (the human race) should treat all animals with such reverence.

If a Hindu person saw cows being slaughtered like the dolphins in The Cove, he might be just as devastated as I was. Does that mean that the Hindu people should start filming documentaries at American cattle farms and slaughter houses? Should the Hindu people stage protests and prohibit American farmers from doing their jobs?

I do not know the answer to that question and I am not going to try to answer it either. This post is meant to make you think. It is not mean to be a political or moral persuasion. I am completely confused myself.

Food for Thought
From the age of eleven to twenty-one I was a vegetarian (or “pescatarian” eating fish but no other meat). At twenty-one I started eating meat again in an effort to maintain a more balanced diet. (I realize that a balanced diet is attainable through veganism, but I was unwilling to put the effort into it.) Over the past few months, however, it has become increasingly difficult for me to eat meat and even to prepare meat while cooking.

I do not think I am going to revert back to vegetarianism right now, but I will begin further researching sustainable food practices, free-range options, humane treatment of livestock, and so on. I may even decide to return to vegetarianism in some form. In any case, I am not ready to make a decision yet.

The Thin Line
Two weeks ago I started streaming the Discovery series, Whale Wars, on Netflix. I’ve already finished the first season and am almost through the second season. The show follows the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) which is an international non-profit, marine wildlife conservation organization. Their mission is to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world’s oceans in order to conserve and protect ecosystems and species. A noble cause, but their tactics are a bit questionable. The Sea Shepherd fleet sails out to sea around the globe and physically intervenes against fishing and whaling operations. Despite the disruptive nature of the society’s tactics, I am extremely drawn to it—so much so that I am considering becoming an active supporter and perhaps even a volunteer for the society myself.

I can not think of a more noble cause than to safeguard the biodiversity of our delicately-balanced ocean ecosystems. Yet, is it morally responsible to do so at the cost of disrupting people’s jobs and even condoning violence against humans to protect animals? Something in my heart says yes. Paul Watson, Sea Shepherd Captain, believes that humans fight for the sake of oil & real estate, so why not fight to protect the lives of animals?

In Closing
So many questions, but they will have to go unanswered for now. I’ve covered a lot of ground in this post, but I had to get it out. These thoughts have been swimming through my head for months! I really look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments. Let me know what you think about all of this.

In love & light,
Dena

18 thoughts on “Bleeding Dolphins & Sacred Cows”

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  8. Interesting post. I very strongly believe that the needs of the real, physical ecosystem are VASTLY more important than those of any kind of abstract economic system (this is a paraphrase of Derrick Jensen’s first premise in the book Endgame). I am also quite convinced that those who profit from the destruction of ecosystems do not give up their power & profits voluntarily, and so “disruptive” tactics are often the only ones that are going to be effective in the protection of the planet. Nonetheless, I understand your hesitance and uncertainty — those are complicated questions indeed, and no one wants to see another’s livelihood endangered. When it comes down to it, though, the ability of future generations (of humans and non-humans) to survive & thrive should take precedence over even that.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment, Leeann. I am so happy to hear your thoughts on the subject. I absolutely love what you’ve here—those who profit from the destruction of ecosystems do not give up their power & profits voluntarily, and so “disruptive” tactics are often the only ones that are going to be effective. That is what I am starting to realize. In fact Paul Watson, founder of the Sea Shepherds, was kicked out of Green Peace (where he was a co-founder) because his tactics were considered too disruptive, physical, etc.

      But what is that is the only way to effect lasting & significant change. Isn’t it necessary? In a world where we go to war for oil at the drop of the dime, why are so few ready to go to battle to protect our planet?

      Thank you again for your thoughtful comment. I’ll be reflecting on these topics again soon. Creating the lives of our dreams is critically dependent on nurturing & restoring our environment. There is no life whatsoever without it.

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  11. Hello thanks for the great article…

    I have never thought of how awful to eat meat until my age 29th. After i saw “the cove” that changed something inside me forever. Now im a vegetarian for over 6 months.

    When we eat meat actually we eat “ourselves”, our future. If we dont eat the meat which we dont actually need, nobody will have to kill anything. We buy thats why they sell.

    Kristina

    1. @ Kristina – Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment and for sharing your own story. You are so right when you say that they sell it BECAUSE we buy it. As consumers, we need to be more conscious of what we demand. When we stop buying the terrible things that are destroying our health & our environment, that is when it will stop being sold. Until that time, the vicious cycle will continue.

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