The Cove, Four Years On

dolphinIn 2009 The Cove was filmed, an Oscar-winning documentary that depicts a heart-wrenching phenomenon: the dolphin slaughter off the coast of Taiji, Japan, where the ocean waters literally turn bright red with mammalian blood.

They’re apparently killed for their meat. Few people had ever witnessed the mass killings. They take place in a cove that’s closed off to the public. But a heroic team of dolphin advocates finally brought the horror to light. Risking life and limb not to mention arrest, they managed to slip into the cove in the dead of night and install high-def camcorders disguised as rocks in and around the area. (Full disclosure: Joe Chisholm, my cousin, was part of the team and is depicted in the film. Way to go Joe!)

It’s a powerful film, and seems to have had an effect. Prior to the film some 1,500 dolphins were killed each year. Last year that number was down to about 900. That’s a lot of progress, but still 900 too many.

This topic opens up deep philosophical questions. Why are we so concerned about the slaughter of hundreds of dolphins in Japan, when in America and elsewhere billions of cows, pigs and lots of other animals are slaughtered each year for their meat? Do dolphins have more inherent “worth” or specialness than other animals? Dolphins are considered to be one of the smartest non-human animals, but so are pigs, crows, rats and squirrels.

Maybe it’s dolphins’ “cuteness” that makes them so special to humans. And/or maybe it’s because they bond with humans so well, like dogs. After all, we react with equal revulsion when mass slaughters of dogs are carried out. Of course, those animals’ ability to bond with humans doesn’t make them any more “special” than other animals on an objective level – only from a human’s point of view.

But that’s OK. It’s better save the lives of some animals than none at all. And after all, perhaps after activists succeed in preventing the killing of dolphins, they’ll turn to saving the lives of other animal species.

Meantime, assume that all animals have equal inherent worth. In that case the mass killing of other animal species is just as horrible as the mass killing of dolphins. Yet it still goes on by the billions.

For most of humankind life has been nasty, brutish and short. For almost all of animalkind that still holds true, the dolphin slaughter being but one example. But hey, we managed to eliminate for the most part that nastiness, brutishness and shortness for a large portion of us humans. We should try to do the same for a certain portion of animals as well. Dolphins are a good place to start.

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