Sea Shepherd's Loyalty is to Our Clients

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

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society seal campaign has been extremely successful this year. I think we've made our mark once again on the barbaric Canadian East coast ritual of slaughter and diminishment.

The seal slaughter is being covered in media around the world. Once again people are being made aware of the lies of the Canadian government. Documentation of the slaughter this year has proven that the so called "three step" method of clubbing the seals twice and then severing the arteries is not being done although Canadian Minister of Fisheries Loyola Hearn has been telling the European Parliamentarians that this new method insures that the hunt is humane.

The Canadian media has been a circus of articles, editorials, political cartoons, opinions, misinformation, propaganda and rumour posing as news.

According to some Canadian media, Canadians especially from Atlantic Canada are outraged and offended by comments that I have made about sealers. They want me to apologize. They want me to refrain from criticizing the sealers. The internet is full of angry rhetoric accusing Sea Shepherd of being militants, extremists, wackos, insensitive, offensive, and numerous other words that are supposed to be insulting and condemning.

None of it means much to us. We are not concerned with being called names and we could not care a fig for the opinions of those who condemn us.


Because we are offended and outraged ourselves - at the fact that hundreds of thousands of seal pups are slaughtered in grossly inhumane ways by insensitive and sadistic men protected by Orwellian regulations designed to hide the cruelty from the eyes of the world.

It really is amusing to think that men who bash in the skulls of seal pups are calling us insensitive because we continue to defend the seals while they bury their dead.

I notice that some sealers continued to bash and slash seals during the funerals of the three sealers buried on Saturday. They expect us to refrain from opposing the slaughter and are offended because we continue to defend the interests of our clients, yet they engage in cruel acts of slaughter as the coffins are lowered into the graves.

I was deeply offended when I saw the skins of seals draped over the coffins of the dead sealers like it was a flag of honour. It was a loathsome barbaric spectacle and deeply insensitive to those of us who defend the seals.

Our ship Farley Mowat remains in the Gulf of St. Lawrence to defend seals. We are not out there trying to win some popularity contest. We're not politicians having to be all things to all people, we don't need to stifle ourselves to win approval. We don't need to kiss the rear ends of the politicians and the bureaucrats.

All we need to do is to be consistent in our defense of the seals. We speak for them and we will not be silenced while they are suffering and dying.

We are not a large rich organization that worries that we will lose financial support for doing what we do. We welcome the support of people who truly care about protecting life in our oceans but we will not be deterred from defending our clients in the sea because someone makes it a condition of their support that we tone down our activism. We cannot be bought.

Our supporters join Sea Shepherd because they support the strategies and tactics of this organization and our tactics are always controversial, always cutting edge, and always in the face of the forces of destruction that have so diminished marine eco-systems all around this planet.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is not a people first organization. We don't exist to make people feel good about themselves. Some people join conservation or environmental organizations because it makes them feel good. They can walk around with a clear conscience saying "hey, I'm a Greenpeacer so I'm part of the solution."

I have no intention of being apologetic for describing the horror that a seal pup suffers at the hand of a seal killer. Nor am I sorry for saying that the slaughter of seals is a major tragedy. It is my belief that it is a great tragedy and I will not refrain from saying so because the government of Canada's policies killed four seal killers.

The Canadian media made a big deal about Canadian Green Party leader Elizabeth May resigning from the Sea Shepherd Advisory Board because she disagreed with my criticisms of the sealers.

I have no hard feelings against Elizabeth. She did what she thought was best and she is a politician whereas I am not, and thus she is not as free to voice her passion that I am. I continue to support her, and when the day comes that our environment has been so diminished that common sense will dictate her election as Prime Minister I will be the first to acknowledge her as a great Canadian environmental leader.

The CBC called up Farley Mowat and asked if he was condemning Sea Shepherd for my remarks. He said no and that he was proud to have our ship named after him and would be happy to comment on camera about his support for our efforts. That was not what the CBC wanted to hear and they cancelled their plans for the interview.

Some seal defenders have taken it upon themselves to contact some of our supporters to lobby them to not support us financially. That strategy certainly backfired. One sponsor was so offended by the e-mail received that he sent a large contribution to us in response.

Our supporters did not join us blindly. They know what we do. Movements are not static things - they are evolving, complex and diverse and this means there are many approaches, many diverse strategies and many levels of tactical methods to be employed.
Within the environmental and conservation movement the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society occupies a particular niche of activism that separates us from practically every other organization with the same goals.

We are an organization that exists to represent the interests of all marine species. We champion sharks, seals, whales, dolphins, sea-turtles, sea-birds, invertebrates, fish and plankton. If any of these species disappear it will be tragic for the planet and for humanity.

It is an ecological law that the interests of a species must take precedence over the interests of an individual or a group of individuals within a species. The survival of the harp seal takes precedence over the concerns of sealers.

And for those who insist that harp seals are not endangered, the fact is that all marine mammals are endangered - by pollution, over-hunting, depletion of food supplies and global warming. For the harp seal, global warming is especially relevant and diminishing ice conditions could cause the species to go extinct.

It also must be considered that the population of seals on the Eastern coast of Canada five hundred years ago was around forty million and there was no shortage of fish. Since the introduction of the exotic species Homo-arrogantus the seals are now less than 10% of their original numbers and the Cod is less than 4% of the original number.

The seals have already been reduced in numbers by 90% and still the government bureaucrats and the fishermen continue to say that they are not endangered. The passenger pigeon has already demonstrated that numbers are not protection from extinction.

The deaths of the four men from the Magdalen Islands was indeed a tragedy. The deaths of four thousand American troops in Iraq is a tragedy as is the death of over one hundred thousand Iraqi citizens. Humanity is hit by tragedies every day.

But all of these tragedies are insignificant to the greater tragedy of ecological diminishment. Each species we remove, each habitat we destroy moves the world closer to ecological collapse and once the environment can no longer support our numbers, our populations will begin to crash.

Any reasonable person will admit that the good of the many takes precedence over the loss of a few. If we do not stop this juggernaut of species extinctions, extirpations and diminishments then we will be bequeathing our children a world of impoverishment.

There is a larger picture here, one that goes beyond our own relatively trivial concerns. Jacques Cousteau said shortly before he died that the oceans are dying in our time. When I was voicing concern over global warming twenty years ago, I was called a wacko and a doomsday prophet. When I was predicting the collapse of the Cod fishery in the early eighties, I was called a "doom and gloom Cassandra."

But Cassandra was right and it was her curse to not be taken seriously. She was vilified for her ability to predict the future and then exonerated when her predictions materialized.

I was called all sorts of names for predicting the collapse of the cod fishery, just as I am now being demonized for now predicting the collapse of the seal populations.

After more than three decades of watching the world descend into ecological chaos I now have little patience for the arrogantly ignorant condemnations of human beings who view their lives of quiet desperation as being paramount to the survival of the planet and the well-being of future generations.

The oceans are dying and when the oceans die - so do we. All species are interconnected and all species are of equal importance, well not entirely equal, some species are indispensable, species of insects, bees, worms, trees etc. These are the species that give all of us life.

Last year I was the object of scorn for writing that worms were more important than people. I only wrote the truth. Worms can live on the Earth without people but people cannot live on the Earth without worms therefore worms are more valuable ecologically than people.

We just need to humble ourselves and admit that we are not lords and masters of all other species. We are partners. We need to live together and we need to do so with respect.

I don't see much respect out on those ice floes. I see vicious thuggery. I don't see stewardship, I see some sort of religiously dictated dominion that negates the sentience of other species. I don't see much evidence of ecological comprehension, I see shallow people with shallow desires who slaughter for money.

But in a world where the Dalai Lama is condemned as a terrorist by the Chinese government, where vegetarians are condemned as anti-people, where saving seals is considered an act of violence, and where we are expected to feel sorry for serial baby seal killers it is challenging to say the least.

In the face of these contradictions in a culture of hypocrisy our best course of action is to remain consistent with our goals and our goal is the complete abolishment of the slaughter of seals, the complete abolishment of whaling and a firm and consistent defense of life in the seas.

Our critics can call us what they wish, the editorials can vilify us, the politicians can condemn us - it really does not matter.

We represent the interests of our clients and in this case our clients are the victims of a policy of arrogant extermination by the policies of the Canadian government.

We will not betray them. We will not back down in our defense of them and we will continue to protect them.

We are shepherds not politicians and a shepherd never forsakes the flock - no matter how dangerous the opposition or how difficult the task.