Posts Tagged ‘sea shepherd’

Militant Veganism

4 May 2009

In case people think, due to my last post, that I am somehow opposed to protecting animals from cruel treatment: I am fully in support of laws to protect animals from cruel treatment by humans.

Partly, I support such laws because when people are cruel to animals, they tend to extend that behavior to other people. Some one who beats their dog or cat is probably going to take a swing at me if I get them mad enough and they are more likely to take that swing if they have a history of animal abuse.

Furthermore, I support protecting animals from abuse because it is a mark of civilized behavior for people to be concerned for the welfare of animals over whom they have power. The more humane we are to animals, the better people we are as a whole.

Some people take that a step further and become vegetarians or even vegans, feeling that it is immoral to kill animals for food. That’s fine with me. But, I have a problem with people for whom their vegetarianism or veganism is some kind of fucking religion and that all meat-eaters (actually, omnivores) are immoral, evil scum because we eat animal flesh. I used to hangout at a local store that caters to vegans and I would hear the daily rants against the eating of meat. It seemed that becoming a vegetarian/vegan was like a religion, with its own group of fundamentalists out to spread the word even to those who didn’t wish to hear it. Instead of the “you’re going to Hell” argument, I’d hear the “you’re murdering innocent animals” argument, which did nothing to convince me, though it might have convinced some.

Most people don’t like the idea that we are being cruel to the helpless, especially animals and most Americans have never killed an animal that they would go on to eat later. One of my earliest memories was seeing my uncle slaughter a rabbit for the family dinner to be held later that night. I didn’t eat any rabbit, but I don’t remember if it was because of personal choice or because there simply wasn’t enough to go around.

One YouTube user who engaged in the “meat-eaters are evil” tirade is a young man named Onision. For awhile, his videos consisted of the omnivore-bashing that I had heard years ago, so I took little interest in his channel and didn’t watch more than a few of his videos. Other users took exception to his rants and released videos of their own. I understand that Onision even engaged in a bit of DMCA filing against users he felt had illegally copied portions of his videos, despite such actions being covered by Fair Use. I am not aware of the outcome of these filings, having taken little interest in it. Later, Onision admitted that he was an actor and that he had been playing a role. Being a YouTube Partner, he made money as his videos got more views. A good way to generate publicity for himself and make a buck. But, his latest video consists of him whining that he is receiving hate mail from other users, as well as his still  being the subject of videos made by other users.

Oh, and he’s also upset that people are mispronouncing his name. Whatever.

Kind of hard to put the genie back in the bottle, Onision. You wanted all the publicity and now you have it. Deal with it and stop whining.

A bit more radical than simple YouTUbe rants are the animal libertation groups, like Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and Earth Liberation Front (ELF) both of whom have found themselves on lists of extremist organizations compiled by law enforcement agencies, including the FBI here in the United States. Both encourage people to become vegans, I guess because raising cows for milk and chickens for eggs somehow counts as enslavement. I wonder what these cows and chickens would be doing if people didn’t at least need them around for that.

Both ALF and ELF have websites where the latest “Direct Actions” against people and companies that are seen as exploiting animals or harming the environment are featured. ANything from simple vandalism to outright arson get mentioned without the slighest hint of condemnation from the webhosts. Despite the fact that no person is usually harmed by their actions doesn’t remove the fact that property was destroyed and people have, in fact, been threatened with serious bodily harm.

One of the most obvious cases of a radical animal rights group being their own worst enemy is the case of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) whose primary target is Huntington Life Sciences, which is a contract animal-testing company founded in 1952 in England, now with facilities in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire and Eye, Suffolk in the UK; New Jersey in the U.S.; and in Japan.  HLS is the largest such commercial operation in Europe and conducts tests on around 75,000 animals every year — including rats, rabbits, pigs, dogs, and primates — testing pharmaceutical products, agricultural chemicals, industrial chemicals, and foodstuffs on behalf of private clients worldwide.  SHAC was successful in getting HLS’ bank accounts closed and their listing removed from both the London and New York Stock Exchanges. In fact, they nearly drove HLS out of business.

But, SHAC went too far. Too far by a longshot. They engaged in threats against people who either worked for HLS or did business with them in some fashion, such as HLS’s business partners, their business partners, insurers, caterers, cleaners, children’s nursery schools, and office suppliers. There was even a letter-writing campaign where an employee of a company that did business with HLS was targeted in a campaign where eight hundred letters were sent to his neighbors accusing him of being a pedophile, the police had to assure his neighbors that the accusations were false. Threats, intimidation, vandalism or vehicles and property became their modus operandi and Huntington Life Sciences found itself having to move to the United States and takeout high-interest loans to stay in business. Actions against HLS became even more violent with physical assaults on the persons of HLS staff. Huntington Life Sciences’ marketing director Andrew Gay was attacked on his doorstep with a chemical spray to his eyes which left him temporarily blinded!

Then came Operation Achilles, where much of SHAC’s leadership was arrested, tried, convicted and imprisioned. HLS was able to move back to the UK and the majority of the attacks against them have ceased.

But, even without the threats, vandalism, etc. SHAC almost won! They almost drove HLS out of business, which is what they wanted. It was only because they decided to act like a bunch of badasses that the police cracked down on them and imprisoned their leadership. If they had stuck with legal protests, undercover investigations and whistleblowing, SHAC could have triumphed over HLS anyway. But, as I said, they shot themselves in the foot when they began to think they were all clones of Che Guevara or something and took their campaign in a direction where it had no business going.

Now, Huntington Life Sciences is back in the UK and rebuilding itself. Naturally, they are likely very exhausted from all of this and it will take them time to recover fully, but that will come in time.

Okay, so what would have happened if Huntington had gone out of business? Would animal experimentation have ceased?

Nope. It would have simply moved overseas to a country where animal protection laws are not as strict or which may not even exist.

You see, animal experimentation is a vital part of medical research. It has led to vast improvements of medical care for people, including the polio vaccine, insulin, tuberculosis medicines and so on.

Common medical procedures that we take for granted today were pioneered with animal research before they were tried on people, such as blood transfusions were first tried on dogs and penicillin was tried on mice. These are just a few examples of animal research leading to important medical benefits for humans.

We all see the films put out by animal rights activists that show dogs and cats being used as lab animals. But, the fact is that dogs, cats and primates amount for 1% of all lab animals, with the rest consisting of rats, mice, rabbits and guinea pigs which are not endangered species by any means and their species will certainly survive a small percentage being used for animal research.

In the USA, we eat more ducks every year than the total number of animals used in research. As we also consume more chickens, cattle and pigs than even the highest estimate of the number of total animals of all species used for research purposes. The United States has the most stringent requirements for animal research than nay country in the world. You just can’t go and start injecting animals with pharmaceuticals because you feel like experimenting. You have to get approval and there are also strict requirements for the quality of life for the animal while it is being used for these experiments. An animal that is uder a great deal of stress due to pain will not provide good data for a medicine’s effectiveness, so researchers must not subject the animal to more discomfort than is absolutely neccessary for the experiments. Violations of the law can result in research grant money being withdrawn and there can be civil and criminal liability involved for the persons responsible. This is why I am not opposed to groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) engaging in undercover investigations to expose violations of the law to the public and the media.  Adherance to the law results in better research, which leads to more accurate data, which leads to improved benefits for people.

While there are other ways to do research on pharmaceuticals (e.g. in vitro testing, MRI scanning, computer modeling and micro-dosing) these are supplementary to animal research and they do have their limitations. They cannot completely replace animal testing, no matter how much we wish they could. If people think that animal testing is less expensive financially than the alternatives I mentioned, then you’re wrong. Animal testing is far more expensive, time-consuming and heavily-regulated than the supplementary methods, so there is no way for medical researchers to save money by experimenting on animals. It would be cheaper if the other methods were as effective as animal testing, but they are not.

There are between 25 to 26 million animals of all species being used for animal research in the USA, which is a drop in the ocean compared to the sheer number of animals killed for food. If animal rights people wanted to save the most amount of animals, they’d be trying to get the rest of us to become vegetarians or vegans. But, there’s not much chance of that, so they go for what is a far easier target, one that they can easily pull the heartstrings of otherwise intelligent people to support them.

Here’s a video that you can have a look at to get a better understanding of the issue. The speaker is Tom Holder, spokesman of Speaking of Research, who was a key member of the UK movement “Pro-Test”, which helped win the British public over on the issue of animal testing. In this video, Mr Holder challenges some of the misinformation that is spread around by animal rights groups on the subject of vivisection. The presentation was filmed at a Speaking of Research talk at Oregon Health & Sciences University.

I am all in favor of private groups and individuals whistleblowing on researchers that abuse the animals under their care, as was done to HLS by SHAC in the early part of their campaign. Groups like PETA have done much good in this country by exposing animal abusers, who can then be prosecuted under the law. Naming and Shaming animal abusers with accurate information does the most good for animals and for the people the research will benefit.

Of course, PETA wouldn’t go for the idea of animal testing continueing, having “Until All the Cages are Empty” as a slogan. But, you’d think that they’d be more understanding, since former PETA Vice President, Mary-Beth Sweetland, is a diabetic who injects herself daily with insulin—a treatment tested and perfected in animals. She admitted her treatment still contains some animal products, but it’s okay – for her – because using these animal products helps her stay alive to help more animals. Naturally, she doesn’t see herself as a hypocrite, which is what I think she is. I mean, if it’s not okay to experiment on animals or use animals for medical purposes to benefit humans, then it should mean any humans, especially people who are trying to stop animal research.

Is it just me or is there a bit of “Do as I say, not as I do” going-on here?

Still, Ms Sweetland does claim that she uses less insulin today since she adopted a vegan diet. So, she has to have fewer dead animals on her conscience.

I do have to give my support to PETA for their campaign against animal abuse in circuses. Their investigative work did unearth horrific treatment of circus animals. But, I think that abusers should be punished, without the need or goal to close-down circuses around the country. If a circus cannot train their animals without torturing them, then the circus owners should quit the business.

Let me boil it down for you: with laws in-place to protect animals from abuse, those laws should be enforced and transgressors punished. If an animal at a research lab, at a circus, on a farm or in some one’s home is the victim of abuse, then the abuser should be Named & Shamed,  brought to justice and punished under the law.

It is not the place or the right of groups like PETA, ALF, ELF, Sea Shepherd, SHAC or any other organization to take the law into their own hands and act as judge, jury and executioner. A civilized society cannot function any other way. It is groups like these that give vegans a bad name.


Extremism in the Anti-Whaling Movement

3 May 2009

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.