First of all, Happy New Year people! 2009 was an interesting and lovely year to say the least, but I am so ready to embark on the crazy adventure that 2010 will prove to be. I hope all of you are rested, full from lots of holiday food, and ready to enter a new year with this Brooklyn vegan blogger.
After a year of unintentionally putting it off (I think because deep down we knew we would have to really be ready for it), the husband and I finally prepared ourselves for an at-home viewing of "The Cove", a 2008 documentary thriller about a team of activists who executed a plan to uncover the horrific secret world of dolphin slaughter in Japan. A description of the film from the Sundance Film Festival website reads:
"Flipper was one of the most beloved television characters of all time. But ironically, the fascination with dolphins that he caused created a tragic epidemic that has threatened their existence and become a multibillion dollar industry. The largest supplier of dolphins in the world is located in the picturesque town of Taijii, Japan. But the town has a dark, horrifying secret that it doesn't want the rest of the world to know. There are guards patrolling the cove, where the dolphin capturing takes place, who prevent any photography. The only way to stop the evil acts of this company and the town that protects it is to expose them... and that's exactly what the brave group of activists in The Cove intend to do. Along the way, they uncover what may be the largest health crisis facing our planet— the poisoning of our seas... Part environmental documentary, part horror film, part spy thriller, The Cove is as suspenseful as it is enlightening. The final result is a heart-wrenching, but inspirational, story that shows the true power of film in the hands of people who aren't afraid to risk everything for a vital cause."
I knew what I would be getting into with this film: much like the PETA's "Meet Your Meat" videos and the documentary "Earthlings", I would bear witness to shocking footage documenting some of the cruelest abuse towards animals. After spending several years taking in those kind of films and videos, I've become a video-watching warrior of sorts. But for some reason, building myself up to watch "The Cove" was another thing entirely. Maybe it was because dolphins have been one of my favorite animals since I was a little girl. Maybe it was because it used to be a dream of mine to swim with them. Whatever the reasons, I pushed them all aside and decided to give it a go.
What I didn't realize was that while the footage ultimately documented by the filmmakers was indeed difficult to watch, the entire film itself was not - it was quite exciting, surprisingly enough. "The Cove" was the first documentary I've seen that seemed more like a thriller/caper than an actual documentary. If there have been other documentaries like this to have emerged before, I have not seen them. Louie Psihoyos (the director), Mark Monroe (the screenwriter), and the rest of the "Cove" team did such a wonderful job of causing the moviegoer to forget at times that we were watching real life in front of us, all while reeling us in (no pun intended) with moments of arresting footage showing the beauty and intelligence of these magestic creatures.
What was not as surprising, but definitely as moving, was how similar dolphins are to any of the land animals that Americans eat everyday. Much like chickens, dolphins are highly social creatures who love to live in groups (called "pods") of up to a dozen individuals at a time. Much like pigs, dolphins are highly intelligent animals (possibly exceeding the intelligence of humans!), with intricate ways of solving problems. And much like cows, dolphins develop long-term bonds filled with friendship and acts of kindness, and if separated from their loved ones, they will exhibit depressive or grief-stricken emotions. What is the one major trait that all of these animals share? They all exhibit unbearable frustration, anger, sadness, and even depression when forced into a life of captivity.
"It's this anthropomorphic 'we have something to teach them or to control them' - and perhaps we ought to be looking at what they can give to us. "
- quote from "The Cove"
The best part about the film was watching the humbling, no-nonsense mindset of Richard O'Barry. Watching this man in action is truly inspirational. Once the trainer to the dolphins on "Flipper", O'Barry has since devoted (and I mean devoted) his life to saving and freeing dolphins in captivity. In the film, O'Barry states that " you are either an activist, or a non-activist" - and that one day he realized he wanted to be an activist. It's amazing to me to witness the will of a man working to right as many wrongs as he can in his lifetime - he heads into this covert operation with the tenacity, persistence, and guts of a person who has truly been awakened to their life's calling. Bottom line - Richard O'Barry has superhero status in my book, and I only hope that in my lifetime, I can do my own small part to be more like Richard O'Barry.
This year, I've decided to try to write more about movies, projects, people, and articles that inspire me to stay strong as a vegan. "The Cove" has been a perfect place to start. Over the holidays, my family watched "Food, Inc", and that got a substantial conversation going between my sister, brother, husband, and myself about how our food is made. I hope that more and more people will watch "The Cove" and have that same kind of conversation.
I have moments from time to time when I read or think about the cruelty that exists in this world, and I scream inside my head "I didn't sign up for this!". It's a helpless, raw feeling that is hard to beat sometimes. But by watching films like "The Cove", or by pouring into my next new book - Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Diet - I feel like I can be a part of the solution, rather than the problem. My hope for the world this year is that more people will consider taking steps toward veganism, because it is one of the simplest and most powerful things you can do to take a stance against the abusive practice of factory farming. The power we have as individuals is mighty, and although we've often been taught otherwise, we really do have the freedom to choose foods that not only nourish our bodies, but also nourish the world around us. We have the freedom to re-create the "food pyramid" - we have the freedom and the power to be activists simply by abstaining from products connected to animal abuse and opening our world up to everything else that exists. Because that everything else is something that has the ability to help save our world from being destroyed beyond compare - and we could desperately use some saving.
"Our problem with realizing the full implications of animal sentience may not be the difficulty of 'liberating' animals, but of liberating ourselves from centuries of conditioned thinking. Only then can we see animals for who they are and award them the respect and compassion they deserve."
- Joyce D'Silva, ambassador, Compassion in World Farming