Extremism in the Anti-Whaling Movement

Sea Shepherd is one of the two best-known anti-whaling organizations in the world, the other being Greenpeace.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has appointed itself the guardian of the world’s oceans, often undertaking direct actions that include the ramming of whaling ships at sea and the sinking of whaling ships while they are in harbor. They have also been seen throwing objects onto the decks of Japanese whaling ships, including small rockets and butyric acid, which can irritate the skin and damage the eyes.

As an American, I grew-up hearing the message of the anti-whaling movement and, until recently, supported it. However, in light of recent events, I have to part company with Sea Shepherd and Greenpeace.

Let me be clear: I am appalled at how closely many species of whales came to extintion due to overwhaling. Some whales (e.g. Humpback, minke) have come back strongly and have healthy populations again, while others (e.g. Blue, Sperm) are still in trouble. But, with protections given them by the international community – due, in large part, by extensive lobbying by Greenpeace – many whale species have come back from the brink and are now thriving. Personally, I don’t think I could eat whale meat. Yet, there are some groups of people for whom eating whale meat is a part of their culture and history.

The Makah Indians of Washington State are one such group who have a treaty with the United States government that allows them to harvest whales. This treaty goes back to 1855 and, according to federal law, the Makah are entitled to hunt and kill one baleen whale, typically a gray whale, each year. However, archaeological records and oral history indicates that humpback whales were hunted as well. Unfortunately for the Makah, Sea Shepherd doesn’t want anyone to hunt whales for any reason, even if it’s only one whale a year and worked very hard to interrupt the whale hunt. Despite that, the Makah did succeed in killing a single whale back in 1999 and the meat was distributed among the tribe and neighboring tribes. Sea Shepherd accused the Makah, without justification, of wanting to sell the whale meat on the open market, but this would have been a violation of the law and the Makah disputed this claim. As it was, the meat was distributed freely, to much celebration within the tribe. SInce the year 2000, the Makah have faced numerous obsticales in their quest to resum whaling, even though an indigenous tribe in Russia is allowed to whale and the International Whaling Commission does allow for indigenous tribes with a history of whaling to take a certain number of whales per year. Unfortunately for the Makah, the USA is a nation overwhelmingly opposed to whaling and the US government will not go out of its way to allow a small tribe in the Pacific Northwest to start killing even one whale a year, even if the species of whale they will be hunting is not endangered or even threatened.

That’s just one example, but I think it shows that a small tribe of Indians found itself on the losing end of a battle with a group of overwhelmingly Caucasian people who think they knew better than a bunch of Indians.

Now, Sea Shepherd faces-off against Japan, a nation that has managed to attain an exemption to the global whaling ban by stating that its whaling is done for the purposes of scientific research. A common accusation is that the research is merely a smokescreen for commercial whaling. However, Japanese marine scientists have assembled a sizable body of research and forwarded it to the International Whaling Commission, who has admitted that the information obtained by the Japanese was, in fact, valuable.

Japan has a long history of whaling, as do Russia, Greenland, Norway and Iceland. Japan has found itself in the crosshairs of Sea Shepherd in their “Operation Musashi” named after the 17th-century Japanese strategist Miyamoto Musashi, where the Sea Shepherd’s flagship, the Steve Irwin, purposely rammed Japanese whaling ships and a ship belonging to Japan’s Institute for Cetacean Research. The damage to the Japanese ships was considerable, as was the damage to the Steve Irwin. I also read that Greenpeace has engaged in the ramming of Japanese whalers in the past few years, though whether that was an official Greenpeace action or just that of a zealous ship captain, I am not sure.

So, it seems that both Greenpeace  – which has historically disavowed aggressive and violent acts for the pupose of defending whales from hunting, even expelling Paul Watson, the founder of Sea Shepherd, from its ranks when he directly intervened in the Canada seal hunt by getting into a physical altercation with seal hunters – and Sea Shepherd have taken to using their ships to ram Japanese whaling ships. Sea Shepherd makes it a regular practise, though.

I have a serious problem with this. It seems that Sea Shepherd has decided that Japan is some kind of “Bad Guy Nation” that Sea Shepherd needs to teach a lesson by ramming their ships and endangering their crews. The idea that a sovereign country, like Japan, must somehow answer to a private organization with no law enforcement authority whatsoever is beyond laughable.

Let me tell you something about Japan: they have an ancient culture of which they are very proud. They may have a reputation for being polite to the extreme, but even the most polite person in the world has limits to their endurance and I think we could be seeing that limit being reached very soon. In recent years, Japanese whalers have attempted to fend-off Sea Shepherd’s attacks by spraying water at the deck of the Steve Irwin and trying to flood the inflatable Zodiacs that Sea Shepherd uses to harass the whalers. Also, the use of LRAD has been employed, using concentrated soundwaves to disorient the Steve Irwin‘s crew and try to hold them back. Given the fact that Japanese ships were rammed anyway shows the lack of success of these methods against a determined enemy.

When word got out that the Japanese whaling fleet would include a Japanese military vessel, Sea Shepherd was understandably worried. It seemed that the normally passive Japanese were going to up the ante. Instead of taking abuse, they were getting ready to dish it out. That did not turnout to be the case, however.

In case you’re wondering if Sea Shepherd and Greenpeace coordinate with each other, they have exchanged jibes in the past with Watson referring to Greenpeace as “the Avon ladies of the environmental movement”.

While Paul Watson might think that he has a free hand in dealing with the Japanese, he seems to forget that Japan is a sovereign country. While the international community is overwhelming against commercial whaling, no nation is going to impose sanctions against Japan or cutoff diplomatic ties with them in protest of their whaling activites. They can send verbal protests, but that’s about it. On top of it all, the Japanese government has a legal right under international law to protect its citizens from attack in international waters, especially since no other nation seems to be willing to do so. As with every government, the people of Japan expect theirs to protect them from harm, especially from terrorism.

Furthermore, Japan has shown a great deal of restraint so far. Given that more extreme measure could have been employed by them and still could be, means that Sea Shepherd is on borrowed time. While the Japanese public is not overwhelmingly against whaling so far with less than one-fourth opposing whaling in recent polls, their news media makes no bones about calling Sea Shepherd terrorists, which is what they seem to be acting like. They are using violence in an attempt to coerce another group of people to act a certain way. In this case, Japan to give-up whaling. The fact that no one has been killed yet or seriously injured is beside the point. Groups like the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) have, like Sea Shepherd, damaged or destroyed private property. The United States government has labelled both the ELF and ALF as domestic terrorists, even though neither group has ever killed anyone. So, why does Sea Shepherd get a pass? Is it because they are trying to “save the whales”?

Is this how it works: you burn down a building where animals are experimented on or are being raised for food or their fur and you are a terrorist; but, damage a ship at sea or sink a ship in harbor to stop them from killing whales and you’re not a terrorist? Even if nobody is killed or even hurt, you cannot burndown a building for either the ELF or ALF without having the FBI track you down, but sink a ship to protest whaling and you can travel the world in full view of the media and you’re a hero to millions?

Most Americans are against cruelty to animals in any way. A lot of us try to buy products that have not been tested on animals and wearing fur has become a social stigma. Even so, most of us don’t like the idea of people going-around and torching buildings for any reason. But, as long as these whaling ships are rammed or sunk in waters far away, we seem to be very tolerant of groups like Sea Shepherd. I wonder how people would feel if a whaling ship stopped in an American harbor for some reason and got sunk by Sea Shepherd supporters. I wonder how tolerant our government would be when the terrorism that has been aimed at Japan and Norway suddenly found its way into an American harbor. I think Sea Shepherd’s fortunes would change overnight. That’s why it will never happen. I think Paul Watson isn’t stupid enough to take a chance on the American public seeing what he really does happening in their own waters. That’s why he’ll keep it out of our eyesight.

I understand that people like whales. They’re smart and cute (sort of) and we like seeing them swimming in the ocean. While the world may cringe at Japan killing these animals, one of Sea Shepherd’s most fervent supporters, Australia, seems to be getting a pass beyond passes for killing another animal that we all think is cute: kangaroos. In Australia, kangaroos are being killed in the most inhumane fashion, even baby kangaroos are being yanked from their mother’s pouch and stomped to death. But, that’s okay with Australia, it seems. Kill the ‘roos. Aussies also seem to be going-about the killing of the Dingos, wild dogs indigenous to Australia. By the way, dingos are an endangered species. But, adult dingos aren’t very cute, though the puppies are.

Oh, I know, Australians are our friends, right? After all, we were at war with Japan about sixty years ago. So, even after all this time, the West seems to think we can still treat the Japanese as The Enemy. In the comments section of YouTube videos related to Sea Shepherd, I have seen numerous comments where the Japanese are referred to as “Japs”. Ah yes, a little racism to save the whales, eh boys and girls? Does it make you feel good to call them “Japs” when your only excuse is that they are killing whales?

Anybody who wants to hate the Japanese for killing whales and call them “Japs” for it, must now be true to their racism and throw away anything that was either made or designed in Japan. That means no TVs, CD/DVD players, computers, etc. Yeah, toss ’em out or be a hypocrite you racist fucks.

Yeah, I’m calling you racists and FUCK YOU if you don’t like it.

Japan has every right to expect nations with which they have treaties with to make every effort to protect Japanese nationals abroad and on the open sea. The fact that the USA and Australia have dragged their feet on this, due entirely to popular opposition to whaling and no other reason, shows the lingering feeling in the West that we know everything and our way is the best and only way. Anyone who disagrees with us is a barbarian who has to be beaten into submission. That’s how we’ve dealt with the East in the past, like the Opium Wars where the United Kingdom forced China to allow the importation of opium, which resulted in millions of Chinese becoming addicted and the nation falling into ruin. But, by G-d in Heaven, the Britsh East India Company needed the money and wasn’t going to let national sovereignty get in the way. This is simply more of the same with Japan and whaling.

I hope Paul Watson and his army of followers and supporters can realize before it’s too late that Japan has shown remarkable restraint so far. But, history shows that you can push the Japanese so far and you can publicly shame them only so many times before they strike back in ways you won’t like very much. If the international community won’t do anything, then Japan may have to do it themselves.

What seems to be lacking in this whole equation is that Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd seem to have done little to try convincing the Japanese people to give-up whaling once and for all. Simply citing the high mercury content in whale meat should be enough to start with. Telling people that whales are cute and intelligent won’t work, since a lot of animals we eat are cute sometimes, especially when they’re young. Little baby chicks come to mind, as do calves. So cute when young, so delicious when grownup. I don’t eat veal. Not on any moral grounds, I just don’t like it. Color me contradictory, if you wish.

I understand that onboard Sea Shepherd and Greenpeace ships, only vegetarian or vegan food is served to the crew. So, a little militant veganism is at play here, don’t you think? Historically, Japanese cuisine contains a lot of vegetable and seaweed, with most of the meat being fish, so giving-up meat might not be too much of a stretch for some in Japan, especially with its strong Buddhist tradition.

But, if anyone is going to try to convince Japan to give-up whaling, it cannot be either Greenpeace or Sea Shepherd. Once they started ramming Japanese ships, that was all over. It would have to be some other organization that hasn’t attacked Japanese ships or fishermen.

Anyway, I’m going to take a nap. When I log back in, I anticipate some nutcase calling me names or threatening me in the comments section.

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5 Responses to “Extremism in the Anti-Whaling Movement”

  1. Topics about Russia » Extremism in the Anti-Whaling Movement « RANTS & RAVES Says:

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  2. AC Ajaccio » Cowichan Tribes Says:

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  3. Topics about Asian-travel » Extremism in the Anti-Whaling Movement Says:

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  4. Topics about Green-peace » Blog Archive » Extremism in the Anti-Whaling Movement Says:

    […] Sprayblog added an interesting post today on Extremism in the Anti-Whaling MovementHere’s a small readingSea Shepherd is one of the two best-known anti-whaling organizations in the world, the other being Greenpeace. […]

  5. Topics about Australia » Archive » Extremism in the Anti-Whaling Movement Says:

    […] RevolutionRadio.org put an intriguing blog post on Extremism in the Anti-Whaling MovementHere’s a quick excerptMost Americans are against cruelty to animals in any way. A lot of us try to buy products that have not been tested on animals and wearing fur has… […]

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