Dealing with the Hypocrisy of the Human Perceptions

Commentary by Paul Watson
Founder and President of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

It is a bizarre world we live in where people are sympathetic to killers and condemn those trying to save lives. It is a world where governments and corporations can commit atrocious acts of ruthless violence, yet both condemn as violent any non-violent opposition to their activities.

Sea Shepherd's opposition to illegal Japanese whaling is described as an attack. Words like "violent," "militant," eco-terrorist," are flung about loosely and with little thought.

Sea Shepherd crew did not attack innocent people on the high seas. We intercepted an illegal whaling operation that was in the process of violently and cruelly slaughtering protected, endangered whales.

Sea Shepherd activists did not shoot at these killers or even attempt to sink them. We used methods to physically obstruct them that are designed to not injure any of our opposition.

The Japanese whalers have a highly paid public relations firm working to spin their illegal activities in the best possible light. Yesterday, they accused Sea Shepherd activists of injuring two Japanese whalers. The claim, coming ten hours after the events, is bogus. Even the video shot onboard and released by the Japanese clearly shows that the containers struck not a single person.

If Sea Shepherd activists had pelted them with marshmallows they would still be claiming injuries.

No matter what a conservationist does, the media sympathy is placed on the opposition. The people plundering the planet are usually portrayed as just trying to earn a living. Of course, bank robbers and cocaine smugglers could make the same argument.

The media finds it difficult to understand that these Japanese whalers are criminals involved in a criminal operation. The violence down in these waters each and every day is being caused by harpoons and electric lances. Hundreds of whales are dying in horrific agony as their convulsing dying bodies pump hot blood into the frozen seas.

This is the violence that is being ignored and trivialized.

Unfortunately, the pain and death inflicted upon these gentle, intelligent, and socially-complex sentient creatures is something few humans have empathy for. The media tends to have more sympathy for those who kill and plunder than those who strive to protect life for reasons of compassion and ecological concern.

The sympathy and the concern are one-sided. Anytime a whaler, a logger, or a polluter is inconvenienced they scream "terrorism," yet, when violence is inflicted upon a defender of animals or the environment it is reported as natural.

In November 2003, Sea Shepherd activist Allison Lance Watson freed 15 dolphins from nets in Taiji, Japan, that were about to be speared to death. The Japanese fishermen ran over her with a boat and one fisherman attempted to strangle her with a rope and pushed her head beneath the water to drown her. This was all captured on videotape.

The next day, the Japanese reported that Allison was an eco-terrorist who had "violently" cut the nets to free the dolphins. This was reported without anyone questioning exactly how someone "violently" cuts a rope.

Once when the Sea Shepherd blocked a sealing ship from approaching a group of defenseless baby seals where sealers were about to club the pups to death, a reporter interviewed a Newfoundland politician who protested that Sea Shepherd was "violently" obstructing the sealing vessel. When asked what he thought should be done about it, the politician said, ‘They should be shot."

After Magdalen Island sealers beat me viciously in 1995, Canadian Minister of Fisheries Brian Tobin responded by saying, "I can understand the anger of the fishermen that would motivate them to defend their industry with violence."

Governments that invade territory, to defend oil wells or to defend property, always justify violence. Violence is never tolerated to defend the environment or other species.

Thus, we have the environmental movement without a single case of an activist ever killing anyone and we have environmentalist being described as violent. Yet, when environmentalists are beaten and killed, the actions are justified, ignored or covered up.

So, now we have the New Zealand government accusing Sea Shepherd of "violently" defending the whales, yet, this is the same nation that refused to take action against the French government for murdering a crewmember onboard the Rainbow Warrior.

The fact is, that Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has never caused a single injury to any person in our entire thirty-year history. Yet, the very people who are terrorizing the environment call us eco-terrorists.

What is an eco-terrorist really? It is an act that terrorizes other species and threatens the ecological systems of the planet.

In this sense it is the Japanese whalers that are the eco-terrorists.

Sea Shepherd would not even be down here if not for the refusal of nations to uphold international conservation law. Why does Australia and New Zealand search for, arrest, and seize Uruguayan toothfish poachers, but they ignore the Japanese whalers? Both are committing crimes in waters controlled by these two nations with one notable difference: Australian and New Zealand have companies that profit from toothfish exploitation. They don't whale and the Japanese whalers are not an economic concern. 

Violence in our culture is simply a matter of public relations spin. Something is violent if the media can be bought or manipulated to spin it as violent. Likewise non-violence can be spun to appear violent. Whoever has the best public relations firm wins.

Click here to learn more about Sea Shepherd's mission to save whales!