Besides its effectively genius simple mediation techniques (TVs strapped to protesting bodies in public spaces jihad-style; happy dolphin balloons armed with covert spycams), the fundamental argument is… unarguable. Dolphin slaughter should become an embarrassing harpoon in Japan’s public image.
- as top-of-the-food-chain eaters (like us), dolphin meat contains toxic levels of mercury (as much as 2000ppm, when safe consumption levels are .4 ppm);
- the yearly slaughter in Japan is an apparent add-on to the lucrative business of supplying tourist complexes with dolphins for swim n pet pools. Dolphins should not be kept in most or all captive situations, it causes high and depression to animals who need complex social and geographical ranges.
- most allegiances to Japan’s position on dolphin and whale killing are bought.
You can take action by texting the word DOLPHIN to sms # 44144.
The movie’s populist/activist site is here.
I followed the rather complex discussion on H-Net’s H-Animal after the SeaWorld killing of trainer Dawn Brancheau by the orca named Tilikum. What I’m going to note is a stretch, I admit, but not unlike eating meat (which I do), in which the animal in its natural state has long disappeared and what you are left with is something delectable, if not cleanly packaged, animals in zoos and aquaria are easy to perceive as a packaged commodity, far removed (even with info graphics as to their origin and natural ways of life). Neither eating meat nor consuming animals as entertainment – even when framed as sustaining or nourishing or educational - is defensible.
As usual, a better summary lies elsewhere.
Excerpt from Andrew Revkin’s dot.earth, one of the NY Times’ blogs:
I asked Carl Safina, the marine biologist, ocean campaigner and author, whether he thought utilitarian or ethical arguments dominated the film. Here’s what he said:
The film is an astonishing achievement. On your question about our relationship with fellow species, this question can be debated along several lines: sustainability, human health, humaneness, and our relationship with other species.
Killing the dolphins in those numbers is clearly sustainable.
Their meat is high in mercury but eating a little won’t hurt you, although eating it routinely could cause problems.
The dolphins are capable of panic and pain, both of which they suffer in this hunt. For millenniums, seafarers and shore-dwelling people have almost universally found dolphins to be beautiful and inspiring, and for that reason as well as their high intelligence, the human relationship with them has been special.
However, I’m uncomfortable forcing my values on other people. I like to catch and eat fish; some people understandably find that immoral. Eating dolphins is also unnecessary, but we all like to do a lot of unnecessary things, from playing baseball to going for a drive on a Sunday to eating hamburgers. And certainly Americans kill and eat tremendous numbers of cattle, which, like dolphins, are warm-blooded mammals that suckle their young.
But perhaps the most universal hallmark of human progress is the desire to minimize infliction of suffering. We have strict codes for how animals slaughtered for food must be killed, and much of it has to do with lessening their suffering.
The main problem with killing marine mammals — a much bigger problem than whether a small amount of killing is sustainable — is that it is cruel. Every real advance in human thought has had to do with expanding our circle of compassion. Cruelty to animals seems to parallel cruelty to people. So, I think the international condemnation of the dolphin killing is fair enough. There is no denying the fact that it is brutal business.
Personally, I detest the dolphin killing. One cultural aspect is worth noting: it is curious that the Japanese hunt seems to arouse more ire than the Faeroese pilot whale hunt, which is equally gruesome. Perhaps this is mere cultural bigotry. Perhaps it is because Japan’s behavior regarding dolphins, whales and fishing is so outside global norms. And because their policies in international bodies such as fisheries commissions, the whaling commission, and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species are disruptive enough to have global consequences.
Another fascinating aspect of the film that I discussed was simply that Mr. Psihoyos had perfected a new way of telling true stories that is something other than journalism — and fills a gap as the resources and reach of traditional media shrink.
With small high-definition cameras and the power of the Web, anyone — from a community activist to a journalism student — can now document and disseminate imagery on issues that matter. Also, activists have recruited enough supporters (Bob Barker buying a ship for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, for instance) that they can patrol the vast southern ocean tracking Japan’s whaling fleet when the media, and even other governments, are unable to do so. In the end, as I’ve been saying lately, it appears that traditional media are a shrinking wedge of the expanding pie of global electronic storytelling. “The Cove” is an example of someone creatively filling the void.
image from Encyclopedia Brittanica's Advocacy for Animals
March 17th, 2010 | Category: animals, ocean | Comments are closed
The Chinese mitten crab is a native of East Asia, introduced into Europe in the 1930s. It is thought to have been transported to Britain in ships’ ballast water (juvenile crabs and larvae) or perhaps by adult crabs clinging to ships’ hulls. The species has six larval development stages and it is understood that for complete development the larvae need to migrate to the open sea. Dispersion of the species is assisted by the pelagic larvae and mobile adults. Adults live in freshwater migrating to river estuaries and coastal regions to breed.
The Chinese mitten crab has increased markedly in the last 10 years in the UK. This invasive species can cause serious structural degradation and pose a significant threat to native communities in estuarine systems. As a consequence, it has been placed on the IUCN 100 of the World’s worst invasive alien species list. The largest UK population of mitten crabs is located in the Thames region, including the Medway and Blackwater estuaries. This species has also been reported from the Humber and Tyne. Click here for video footage of the Chinese mitten crab.
This is one of the few labs that has a steady supply of seawater pumped through the building’s plumbing. It flows through the lab taps!
DOVE Marine Laboratory
I learned a bit about Anton Dohrn, who built the first Marine Station in Naples in the 1870′s, and actually implemented an art-science interface, by hosting concerts, and art events within the lab… Grant came to my talk at ISIS, and is clearly very open to the interplay of hard science, and the evocations that art can muster, measures to teach and incite…
Grant’s lab foci include: “Novel bioactive compounds from marine bacteria, chemical defense in marine microbes, antifouling compounds from marine bacteria, microbiology at high pressure, sponge microbiology, biofilms, and more recently marine fermentation and bioprocessing.”
In lay terms, he explained that the lab’s working on turning algae/fungus into an OMEGA 6 source, since we no longer have fish as a viable source for the nutrients; and using algae as an energy fuels. The lab also researches the medicinal potential of sea slugs, and ways to zap ballast water of invasive species. Among other things. I got a crash course in quorum sensing– the ways bacteria make language out of molecular signaling, in order to act in concert when a quorum is reached.
The lab’s growing algae on the roof ( even in winter in the limited sunlight) in these cheerful, workaday aquaria:
Roof of DOVE
We took a tour through the remains of the Victorian era public aquarium, where we met a very curious plaice, who came right up to the window, very self-possessed and clearly eager. Am I anthropomorphizing? Is it useful? Can one attribute motivation without human descriptors, and attribute thoughtful agency to non-human animals?
We also had some very speculative conversations on invasive species – the embedded racism and selective designations inherent in the condemnatory term, and how the line is in slippery flux between “introduced” and “invasive.”
I like these hybrid spaces – of thinking, working, making.
A nasty sea weed, Lyngbya majuscula is thriving from Tampa Bay to Sidney.
It’s not a weed – though it’s known as fireweed; it’s actually a “a benthic filamentous marine cyanobacterium” (National Research Centre for Environmental Toxicology) that grows on seagrass, and it does very well in low-oxygen environments, ripe for a bloom when there are not so many fish to stave its spread.
Its effects are toxic to humans- (itchy rashes, painful boils, and respiratory problems on exposure)
It is also known as Mermaids Hair.
When Lyngbya grows in sufficient mass it will detach from the substrate, seagrass beds and other areas where it typically grows and form floating ‘rafts’ which are then moved by prevailing winds and currents in the bay and eventually onto foreshores. (Redlands, Australia)
A raft of Lyngbya majuscula
LA Times’ environmental reporting is very good, but very apocalyptic. I didn’t say “hyperbole.”
July 2006 LA Times “A Primeval Tide of Toxins”
May 21st, 2009 | Category: ocean | Comments are closed
“Giant pandas are ‘charismatic megafauna,’ a category that includes whales and other sea mammals, salmon and other inspirational fish, eagles and other flashy raptors. In each instance, the creatures help spotlight the hundreds of humbler but equally endangered species: the black-spored quillwort, the longhorn fairy shrimp.”
—”Birth and Rebirth,” USA Today, August 23, 1999
Usually thought of as poster children for environmental issues, they’re often super cuddly or super scary. Or both (like polar bears).
I’d add to this list:
Jellyfish (alien death squad)
Squirrels (mischievous urban representatives)
But people look at me funny if I start geeking out about plankton or mycelial networks (although the latter can get pretty trippy). If we could spin them right, they’d be seen for the superheroes they are.
A new study looked at necropsy reports of more than 400 leatherbacks that have died since 1885 and found plastic in the digestive systems of more than a third of the animals.
Leatherback turtles are critically endangered and highly charismatic creatures. They are big, weighing 1,000 pounds or more, with shells that can measure more than 6 feet across. These peaceful creatures have had the same basic body plan for 150 million years.
Leatherbacks are also popular for what they eat: namely, large quantities of jellyfish. The problem is that plastic bags look a lot like jellyfish, and plastic often ends up in the oceans, piling up in areas where currents — and turtles — converge.
Plastic can block a turtle’s gut, causing bloating, interfering with digestion, and leading to a slow, painful death. “I can’t imagine it’s very comfortable,” he said. “Their guts weren’t designed to digest plastic.”
There are vast fields of trash floating in the world’s oceans, Sasso added. And leatherback turtles travel thousands of miles each year, giving them even more opportunities to come in contact with it.
“This is an animal that has survived many extinction events,” James said, “And now it’s got all these anthropogenic hazards to face.”
And there’ve been a spate of publications on the amount of plastic – both nurdles, which are plankton or fish-egg -sized industrial plastic pellets from manufacturing shopping bags, dollar-store articles, and construction material that ends up in the oceans, and consumer plastic (bottles, bags, buckets, etc), which breaks down into ever-smaller pieces but does not completely degrade. This stat is from 2001:
There is now six times more plastic debris in part of the North Pacific Ocean than zooplankton, the populous animal plankton that forms the base of the aquatic food chain.
– C. J. Moore, S. L. Moore, M. K. Leecaster and S. B. Weisberg (December 2001). “A Comparison of Plastic and Plankton in the North Pacific Central Gyre”, Marine Pollution Bulletin 42)
Granted this statistic has been rejected because it only reflects an analysis made in the Pacific Gyre, a confluence of currents and thus a concentration of the contents of what’s carried on them; but even so, the volume of plastics is not decreasing. Some solutions: don’t take plastic bags, get refillable canteens for water. Reconsider the purchase of synthetics which may discharge plastics on the manufacturing process. Consider what else you can do with the plastics you are about to throw in the garbage.
If fish are eating plastic nurdles, then so are we if we eat fish.