Something I am deeply saddened by is the fact that there are so many of nature's species which are in distress these days. Yes, humans too - humans are are a troubled species as well. It's just that... well, this next part is probably not going to win me any popularity points, but I'm going to just say it anyway and then duck - the plighting of humans is done solely and exclusively by humans. The plighting of nature, however, is not done by nature; it's done by humans. But the reason we are able to do it is the exact reason we shouldn't. We are at the top of the food chain, the top of the brain chain - we are the masters of our universe. We should know better. As a wise man once said, with great power comes great responsibility.
Recently, I've been made more aware of the plight of the dolphins, because a man named Ric O'Barry and his team made a movie that won a lot of awards. I watched that movie and cried throughout; and guys, I am generally not a crier - I am a chickenshit, but not a crier. But, more importantly, I became aware of the extent of the problem - so for me, the movie did what it had set out to do.
Meet Ric O'Barry - an activist who has spent the past 40 years campaigning against the captive dolphin industry:
But before he was that guy, he was the guy who raised and trained (the dolphins who played) Flipper and endeared her to the viewing public, the popularity of the show resulting in a rising demand for trained dolphins. He had no idea at the time that all this was leading down a road to a bad place; but in working with the dolphins, he came to realize how highly complex, intelligent and sensitive they are, and how distressed they become when plucked from the wild and dropped into captivity (and - to add insult to injury - made to perform tricks for their food, for screaming audiences, in the tiny little tank they are forced to call home). It all came to a head the day one of the Flipper dolphins died, by - wait for it - committing suicide in his arms. And okay, I know what you're all thinking, because I thought it too - "Suicide? A dolphin? Next you're going to tell me she left a suicide note on the nightstand!" But seriously, guys, you have to hear him tell the story. I cried.
And that was only the beginning of the story. Since that time, O'Barry has been crusading to stop the practice of capturing dolphins from the wild to be put into captivity; but in the city of Taiji, Japan, his mission goes one step further. There*, the dolphins are chased into a cove, disoriented and frightened by a ceaseless beating of sticks in the water - this is done to panic them by creating too much sound for their sensitive sonars to handle. They experience extreme physical and psychological trauma; they are self-aware in many, if not most, of the same ways that humans are, and they can tell what is going to happen to them. The "best" dolphins are picked by visiting trainers and carted off to aquariums, dolphin shows and swim-with-dolphin programs around the world. The rest are killed by repeatedly stabbing the water with spears until the bodies are still - it's hard to really aim, I guess, when you can't see through the bloodied water. There's a heart-wrenching clip in the movie where a dolphin, frantic with bloody stab wounds all over its body, desperately flips and flops its way on shore, trying to get away, only to collapse and die on the sand.
Just because something is difficult to watch doesn't mean it shouldn't be seen.
There are those that argue that all this brouhaha that's being raised about dolphin killings is just another case of cultural imperialism. To that, I say, PSHAW. There is nothing cultural about dolphin meat, nor selling dolphins into captivity, nor the cruel method of chasing, capturing and killing dolphins that takes place in Taiji. Most Japanese people don't even know about this, and they certainly don't eat dolphin meat (not knowingly, anyway, because who really chooses to subject themselves to mercury poisoning?). How can it be cultural when people have no idea?
Of course, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But one thing I absolutely cannot stand, in a make it stop make it stop OMG MAKE IT STOP kind of way, is an illogical argument. When somebody tells me the sky is red, and I go and look outside and the sky is not, in fact, red, it makes me want to punch them. But because I know this is not a socially acceptable way to converse with someone, I am stuck without a response. Which I hate. Likewise, when somebody tells me that wanting to stop the hunting of dolphins for capture and baseless killing is another example of cultural imperialism, and when I look around me and see that most Japanese people have no clue what any of this dolphin business is all about, I see that it can't be cultural. The sky is not red. But yet, many of those who put forth the cultural imperialism argument are people I know to be rational, intelligent, and otherwise capable of distinguishing between colors. So - to those of you who hold this view - I wonder, sincerely and without trying to be facetious - why do you think so? How do you get the sky to be red?
* This is not the only place dolphin hunts take place, but it happens on the largest scale in Japan. It also happens in Denmark, Peru and parts of the South Pacific.