17th 2009
Sea Shepherd Breaks Off Their Pursuit… This Year.

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Anyone who follows the welfare of whales around the world knows about the Sea Shepherd and their efforts to prevent Japan from whaling in the Southern Oceans.  There’s a book about one of their annual campaigns (The Whale Warriors: The Battle at the Bottom of the World to Save the Planet’s Largest Mammals by Peter Heller), and now even a TV series, Whale Wars on the Animal Planet.  Theirs is a hard campaign – take a old ship, an earnest (though not always sea-experienced) crew and sail into the Southern Oceans to find a fleet of Japanese ships.  Each year is different in how long it takes to find the ships, as well as the Japanese response.

This year, the Sea Shepherd found the Japanese fleet quickly, not once but twice, and managed to prevent whaling for significant stretches of time. And now, Japan has shown it is unafraid to take the fight to the most extreme.  While the Sea Shepherd crew is willing to sacrifice their own lives, their actions are not designed to endanger any human lives.  Japan’s response has been one of being a bully – amassing several of their ships to attack at once.  Since this created an exceptionally dangerous environment, the Sea Shepherd left the area, with word that a Japanese military team was en route to board them and confiscate the many hours of video footage accumulated by Sea Shepherd.

It says a lot that Japan is so worried about the footage that they would rather take the extreme measure of trying to confiscate it than let it be seen.  I will be very anxious to see what makes the edit for Whale Wars when it airs again.  I am a little skeptical about some Sea Shepherd’s claims – Like Captain Paul Watson’s assertion that he was shot at the end of the previous year’s campaign (the video footage aired on TV showed none of the recoil you would expect from a bullet impact, and no reaction from anyone standing near him, which would seemingly happen had he been struck).  Still, no doubt about it, this is a war.  I deeply respect the crew of Sea Shepherd for taking on this front-line battle; I am not sure I could do it. But it’s also a challenge to separate truth from spin sometimes.

Japan does not even try to hide that it’s “scientifically justified” whale killing winds up as meat in the stores.  They claim it is important for their heritage.  Maybe once it was.  But I have yet to see anything that shows that anyone in Japan is going hungry for lack of whale meat to eat.  They actually have much unconsumed whale meat that sits in freezers.  And younger Japanese are showing a lot less interest in whale meat than their elders. The Japanese claim of scientific research is not backed by any concrete, scientifically accepted reports.  On the contrary, several whale research oganizations have refuted bogus arguments for whaling and demonstrated effective non-lethal ways of learning the same information that the Japanese claim can only be gleened from killing whales.

This is definitely an ongoing issue.  Once when I met Bill Clinton during Hillary’s presidential campaign, I commented to him: “Please tell the Senator, when she is elected, to pressure Japan to stop whaling.” His response was very interesting, “Yeah that’s the one topic they get really defensive about.”  It’s time for reality to reach Japan – whaling is not necessary, the methods are cruel and inhumane, and killing whales to find out how many there are and if we need to save them is a massive contradiction in terms.

1 Comment »

One Response to “Sea Shepherd Breaks Off Their Pursuit… This Year.”

  1. Bob Womble on 22 Aug 2009 at 4:13 am #

    I have done quite a bit of reading on the Japanese whaling web site and it is clear that they want to resume commercial whaling. They need to be convinced to stop but what kind of “convincing” would be effective is unclear to me. I’m dubious of Paul Watson’s statements, claims etc. but I agree with you that I have respect for the volunteer crew of the Sea Shepherd.

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