“The Cove” and When World Issues Aren’t Trendy

By Aidan Hersh

It is hard to be concerned about an issue when you have only heard about it rather than actually made the effort to take a deeper look into it. This was how I felt when I heard about a movie called The Cove, released in 2009, an inspiring documentary that uncovers the disgusting hunting of dolphins in a seaside town in Japan called Taiji. This isn’t a film that anyone could watch and only feel bad about it for a few minutes before forgetting all about the whole issue. This movie makes you aware of the tragedies that are occurring, not only in this small town in Japan, but across the whole world. It was in no way an easy movie to watch, due to the graphic scenes depicting the slaughtering of dolphins, but it opened my eyes to an issue that had already been quickly forgotten by the public.

However, in order to fully understand my stance on this issue, some background information about the issue is needed. The dolphin hunts take place in a small fishing town called Taiji, where thousands of dolphins are forcibly driven into a cove each year and either killed or kept in captivity for the rest of their lives. The dolphins that are killed are used as food and sold in stores, where the meat is a danger to humans due to the high levels of mercury in it.The dolphins kept alive are sold for tens of thousands of dollars to swim-with-dolphin programs or zoos, and the money allows the fishermen to continue their dolphin hunts. These hunts were done away from the eyes of the general public until the documentary The Cove was released in 2009. The movie, decreased the numbers of dolphins being killed in Taiji, but only slightly, with thousands of dolphins still being killed each year.

After watching this documentary, my mind was consumed with thoughts of how wrong these hunts were and what I could do to help people become aware of the situation. A few days after watching the movie, I wrote a personal letter to President Obama to show that there are people who are willing to take action against issues such as this one in Japan. Several months later, I received an envelope in the mail with the address of the White House printed in the corner. Eager to see if the President had actually read and responded to my letter, I quickly opened the envelope and unfolded the letter, only to be disappointed to find a printed, generic message thanking me for writing to the President and saying how “important” my letter was to them. I wasn’t too disheartened, considering the President probably gets thousands of letters per week, so I tried to find other ways to spread my opinion: signing online petitions and talking to family and friends.

People tend to not see the importance of an issue unless it is personally affecting them, and the issue of the dolphin hunts is a perfect example of this mindset. When I watched the documentary, I knew that the issue wasn’t directly affecting me, but I knew that it was wrong and I decided to take action. However, it really isn’t possible for me or anyone outside of Japan to stop the dolphin hunts, it is the job of the Japanese citizens, who aren’t doing enough to stop the killing. The irony in this is that the Japanese are the ones being affected by what is happening in Taiji, yet they are less concerned than I am. They are being sold the dolphin meat, which is filled with mercury, and this meat is poisoning them without their knowledge. The meat is being sold in schools, and is purposely labeled incorrectly so that people will think they are buying something safe. Our job is to raise enough awareness about the issue so that the Japanese stop the slaughter in their own country.

What I have learned through this experience is that not enough people speak out about their opinions on issues such as this one. If nobody speaks their mind, problems won’t be solved and crimes like the dolphin hunts in Japan will never be stopped. I was hesitant about getting so involved with the problem in Taiji because I was worried that people would think I was stupid for trying to stop something happening thousands of miles away. However, the problem in Japan is more important to me than what people think about my actions. I am determined to spread awareness about this issue and I hope to help others feel more comfortable about spreading their ideas about other problems in this world as well.