Institute of Cetacean Research: Animal Planet Deceives Its Audience with Whale Wars

Last update: 10:23 a.m. EST Nov. 6, 2008

WASHINGTON, Nov 06, 2008 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- The Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR), a Japanese scientific body that studies whales, today accused Animal Planet and Discovery Communications of deceiving their viewers in a new television series "Whale Wars", due to be broadcast in the United States starting tomorrow.

Captain Paul Watson: It is ludicrous to say that the ICR is a "scientific body." It has not demonstrated any real science in 21 years. It has not published a single peer reviewed scientific paper. Their lack of objectivity is apparent in this ridiculous accusation that Animal Planet and Discovery "deceived" viewers by producing Whale Wars. The Animal Planet crew simply filmed what they observed and presented in the form of a television show.

'Whale Wars purports to be a reality TV program, but instead it shows staged events directed by the Animal Planet filmmakers themselves, in a "tail wagging the dog" format.

The highlight of the series is an elaborate fake incident in which Animal Planet choreographed a supposed shooting of the leader of the ecoterrorist group Sea Shepherd. This can be viewed on YouTube at

The Institute made clear at the time that no shots were fired from any of its vessels. A layman can easily discern this from the footage:

Captain Paul Watson: If I were the Animal Planet legal advisor, I would be filing a lawsuit against the ICR for making an unfounded accusation that Animal Planet "choreographed' or "staged" anything that appears in the program. As for the term eco-terrorist, this is just PR speak for anyone they disagree with. It does not matter if you are running for President of the United States or defending whales, the word "terrorist" has become the catch word of the critics.

But just what is an eco-terrorist? In my view it is someone who terrorizes the environment. It seems to me that it is the whalers illegally targeting endangered whales in an established whale sanctuary in violation of a global moratorium who are the real eco-terrorists.

The Japanese initially reported to the Australian government that shots were fired.


Here is the text of the Reuters story for March 7th, 2008

SYDNEY, March 7 (Reuters) - A hardline anti-whaling activist, Sea Shepherd captain Paul Watson, said he was shot during a clash with Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean on Friday, but survived because he was wearing a kevlar vest.

Watson told Australian radio from his ship that anti-whaling activists threw "stink bombs" on to the Japanese whaling factory ship the Nisshin Maru. The Japanese retaliated throwing "flash grenades" onto the deck of the Steve Irwin and during the clash, Watson said he was shot.

"I felt this impact on my chest. I found a bullet buried in the kevlar vest that I wear. It bruised my shoulder but it would have hit my heart if I didn't have the vest," Watson said.

Australia's foreign affairs department condemned the incident and said its embassy in Tokyo had been told by Japan that the Japanese whaling ship "fired warning shots".

Captain Paul Watson: After the report that I was shot Japan retracted the report that shots were fired.

ICR - It would be extraordinarily difficult for one party to shoot accurately at another from a range of approximately 150 yards when both are on moving platforms, there are difficult weather conditions (wind and sea spray) and the target is positioned on a crowded bridge. Watson pretends in the footage that a bullet not only hit his Kevlar vest, but that it him in the heart area.

Capain Paul Watson: I never claimed that I was targeted. I said I was hit by a bullet. It could have been a warning shot. I also said on the record that I did not think I was shot by the Japanese Coast Guard. I think it was one of the whalers.

ICR- If any shots really had been fired, the Sea Shepherd vessel would have quickly navigated away from the ship it was attacking to maintain a safe distance and evaluate any damage. It maintained its course as if nothing had happened.

Captain Paul Watson "Obviously they don't know Sea Shepherd's history. We have been fired on before and we never retreated. The Norwegian Navy fired on us in 1994, the Soviet Navy fired on us in 1981. The pirate whaler Sierra fired on us in 1979. Sea Shepherd never retreats under fire - ever. Of course we maintained our course. We were on course harassing the Japanese whale killer Nisshin Maru - we kept the course, to do otherwise would be to retreat.

ICR - No gunshot can be heard on the footage.

Captain Paul Watson: There are gunshot reports on the audio.

ICR - A photograph that Sea Shepherd claimed was the muzzle flash of a rifle was in fact the illuminated face of the ship's clock.

Captain Paul Watson: Sea Shepherd never made any such claim. There were speculations about the flash by some crewmembers. I did not give those speculations any credence.

ICR- A shooting in a crowded and confined area such as a ship's bridge would create massive panic and confusion, with people screaming and diving for cover. The video shows a casual and unconcerned reaction to the supposed shooting.

Captain Paul Watson: I was not shot in the wheelhouse. I was shot on the bridge wing. I don't think the reaction was casual and unconcerned and I don't think the viewers will share that opinion by the whalers. I might also point out that my crew did not dive for cover in the face of incoming concussion grenades that were all caught on film.

ICR - Even with the protection of a Kevlar vest, a real shot will knock a victim backwards and cause bruising. Watson makes no involuntary movements and claims he was scratched by a pin badge he was wearing under the Kevlar vest. As in western movies, the claim is that he was miraculously saved by a badge.

Captain Paul Watson: The Steve Irwin's doctor examined me and his report shows that there was significant bruising and a small cut from the pin. The bullet had come from a distance of over 150 meters so the velocity had been toned down considerably. The fact is that in interviews prior to the shooting, I am being interviewed on the bridge wing and there is no bullet hole in my Mustang suit and my badge is intact. The bullet entered my Mustang suit, struck my Kevlar vest and then struck the medal badge underneath and tore my sweater and undershirt. Yes it did look inconvenient that the bullet struck the badge but that is in fact where I was struck. I'm just happy I was wearing both the vest and the badge. I was knocked back by the shot but I was already against the bulkhead so there was not much room to be knocked back very much.

ICR -This staged event involved Sea Shepherd and Animal Planet's production crew, who were in position to film the incident as it supposedly happened. Shortly afterwards, Animal Planet's headquarters in New York issued a press release promoting the incident and the series.

Captain Paul Watson: These are very damning accusations against Animal Planet. I'm not really concerned about ICR accusations against Sea Shepherd or me. The ICR lies all the time. For example they denied that two of my crew had been tied to the railings of the harpoon vessel until we produced the video to prove it. They denied that there were armed coast guard officers onboard until we produced the video to prove it. They also claim they have a legal right to kill endangered whales and they do not.

ICR - The Institute's offer to organize ballistics testing of the slug to establish when and how it really came to be in a Kevlar vest were ignored by Animal Planet and Sea Shepherd.

For episode three of the series, Animal Planet characterizes two Sea Shepherd activists as being held "hostage" by the Institute. In fact, the two militants illegally boarded one of the Institute's vessels, carrying toothbrushes and a change of clothes and with a clear intention of remaining on board for as long as possible. Sea Shepherd refused to take them back for three days.

Captain Paul Watson: The Institute never offered to do a ballistics test to our knowledge. We turned over the vest to the Australian government on our return to Melbourne. The Federal Police were offered the bullet to test but they claimed they did not have jurisdiction.

I did in fact organize the boarding of the harpoon vessel and they boarded with a note to deliver to the Captain informing him of an Australian Federal Court ruling that day that prohibited Japanese whalers from operating in the Australian Antarctic Territorial waters. Not only did they hold the two men for three days, they actually sent us a ransom note saying they would not release the men until I agreed to stop harassing them. I responded by saying we had no intention of negotiating with terrorists.

Mr. Minoru Morimoto, Director General of the Institute of Cetacean Research, said: "Animal Planet is treating its viewers, advertisers and financial backers like fools. This is scripted, plot-driven television motivated by a scramble to reverse sinking ratings. Animal Planet has co- opted ecoterrorists into staging violent incidents for its TV cameras. Discovery can no longer be taken seriously as a leading broadcaster of 'non- fiction' or quality documentaries."

Captain Paul Watson: This is an unsubstantiated accusation to say the show was scripted. It was not and Animal Planet had absolutely no say in decisions, tactics, directions, strategies, or crewing. We did not tell them what to film or not what to film. Animal Planet gave the Japanese whalers the opportunity to present their side of the story and they refused and they refused to let Animal Planet use any of their video footage despite the fact that the ICR is running Animal Planet footage on their website.

We tossed rotten butter onto the Japanese whaling ship and they responded with gunfire and concussion grenades. They fill the seas with blood and then they accuse us of violence. It's downright hilarious.


SOURCE The Institute of Cetacean Research

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