This post is an addition to the Documentaries to Watch series, and includes some top-notch animal documentaries. Wildlife and nature documentaries are brilliant, and focus about animals top them all (in my opinion). It’s also a good idea to watch these gorgeously filmed stories about the lives of our fellow earthlings, how they’re doing, what’s going on, and where we can help.
Watch these to know what’s happening. But also watch them to regain your sense of wonder and awe at the sheer beauty the animal kingdom.
- Shortlist of Epic Animal Documentaries
- Best Animal Documentaries on Netflix
Shortlist of Epic Animal Documentaries
1 // The Cove (2009)
What happens in Taiji, in Japan, on a daily basis is horrific. What is referred to as tradition, is a gruesome hunt for dolphins. Taiji has a cove where huge numbers of dolphins are herded and effectively trapped. Here, they are easily killed for meat.
More recently, and possibly due to greater awareness globally (and perhaps the discovery of traces of mercury in dolphin meat), the business model has shifted to capturing the dolphins, preferably the younger ones, alive. These babies are trained and sold to aquariums and marine parks around the world. There’s a statement in the documentary – that one live dolphin can fetch upwards of $200,000.
While the movie is extremely disturbing to watch (with the red sea literally coloured by blood), it has had a powerful effect on the Taiji hunts. There has been much less demand for dolphin meat in the years since the movie released. International pressure – fueled by the movie-watching public – led to the Japanese Zoo Association ban the purchase of dolphins from Taiji. This, admittedly, is mostly a cosmetic move, and there is a long way to go before the hunting comes to a complete stop at Taiji (and other such places). But this movie did a lot to raise awareness, and that’s what ultimately seems to make a difference. This movie even won an Oscar.
Bonus Mention: The Hard Truth of Mercury Poisoning
2 // Blackfish (2013)
I couldn’t watch this. I was unable to get past the first ten minutes without starting to cry, despite several attempts. Maybe it’s because I already knew Tilikum’s story before I began watching this. I had already read everything about him, and built him up and made him into a friend of sorts, and to see how this friend was treated right from the very beginning was unbelievably painful. So, I’m not one to review this documentary. But I hear it’s a must-watch (ha!). One day, maybe I will (although I doubt it). Knowing he was suffering so much, and knowing I couldn’t do anything about it, was agony. Countless well-wishers of his – activists, veterinarians, scientists and members of the public, and me – were relieved, in a bittersweet way, when he died in January this year. At least he was free from this hell.
To know more about him, read this. And cry at what human beings are capable of.
3 // Vanishing of the Bees (2009)
Colony Collapse Disorder is such a terrifying phenomenon, and yet we continue to blissfully ignore it. All our food – all of it – is connected to the honeybee in some way. The great pollinators are a strong indicators of the health of the ecology. Obviously, the health of most ecologies are fucked today. And this leads to devastating consequences, not just for the bees. While no one knows why the bees just vanish en masse, scientists suspect it’s related to the chemicals present in flowers that the bees ingest (or are affected by). This messes up their system, and makes it impossible to find their way back to the colony. Or, so the theory goes. We don’t know. We don’t know shit.
And our food systems (and economy) are changing because we don’t know shit about anything.
It’s available on Netflix.
4 // Last Days of Ivory (2014)
African elephants are expected to go extinct within the next 10 years. Elephants are being poached for their ivory at a much faster rate than ever before, ironically at a time when more people are aware of the consequences than in all of history. Shouldn’t there be a positive relation between awareness and conservation efforts? But it isn’t so simple, is it? The ones who are aware sit thousands of miles away, crying over the fate of innocent animals, while the poachers are busy providing the ivory to a vast network of very rich, and very uncaring collectors.
Last Days of Ivory looks briefly into how this violence against elephants is intricately tied to global terrorism and other violent crimes. Did you know Al-Shaabab’s income from ivory is US$600,000 per month? We know the ivory trade is bad for the elephants. But how many of us know exactly how bad it is for humans as well? If you purchase ivory, you are essentially funding atrocities against both humans and animals.
Also watch this:
5 // Earthlings (2005)
There had better be a special place in hell for all of us. Earthlings is an unflinching examination of what we do to animals. Animals suffer for human use (food, research) and abuse (entertainment, fashion). How the hell did it come to this? The ultimate word to describe compassion – ‘humane’ – is how we claim to treat animals in the best of circumstances, which are still horrific. If you don’t feel nauseous and completely defeated while watching this, well…you’ve got some problems. Large-scale emotional, physical and mental cruelty, abuse, torture of animals, and then finally – finally – sweet release through death. That’s all their life has become, thanks to us.
Stop supporting this. Just stop.
Watch Earthlings here. Be warned: Wikipedia lists this as ‘horror/documentary’. Very apt.
Extra Credits for watching:
Best Animal Documentaries on Netflix
Got a Netflix subscription? Then you can enjoy these animal docus as well!
1 // Wild Babies
2 // My Octopus Teacher
3 // Our Planet
4 // Animal
5 // Penguin Town
6 // The Ivory Game
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