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Paul Watson on Whales, Direct Action and Terrorism

Jason Miller, founding editor of Thomas Paine's Corner recently interviewed Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and the result is "'Sticking it to the Man,' 21st Century Style". The interview is worth reading in its entirety. Here are the highlights (for me):

  • "My main reason for leaving Greenpeace was because I was tired of protesting and seeing whales and seals die. I established the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society not as a protest organization but as an interventionist organization to specifically target illegal operations. We remain non-violent. Since I founded Sea Shepherd in 1977, we have never injured a single person, we have never been convicted of a felony crime and we have never been sued. That’s a better record than Greenpeace has."
  • "[Greenpeace] is the world’s largest feel-good organization. People join Greenpeace to feel good, to believe they are a part of the solution and not the problem. Greenpeace is where liberals send their money to appease their conscience. It is an organization of posers doing stunts to grab media attention for the purpose of fund-raising." Ouch.
  • "Robert Hunter and I were the first to place our bodies on the line and we succeeded in blocking the harpooner for about 20 minutes until the captain of the whaler ran down the catwalk and yelled into the harpooner’s ear and then turned to us and smiled and brought his finger across his throat. That’s when I realized that Gandhi was not going to work for us that day."
  • "When people ask how I can risk human life to protect a whale, I cite the fact that we do not think it is unnatural or unethical to risk our lives and to kill over property like land and oil. And we accept dying and killing for ridiculous religious beliefs. I think fighting for endangered species and threatened habitats to be much nobler."
  • Has Watson been accused of “terrorism?” "Many times, all the time. Yet for some strange reason I get to continue to fly on airplanes, I have no problems traveling and no warrants out for my arrest. It’s easy to call someone a terrorist. It’s a word used often these days to attack anyone someone disagrees with. Just questioning the war, or the destruction of the planet makes one a terrorist these days. I have never injured anyone. I’ve never been convicted of a crime. I’ve never been sued. I make for a pretty lousy terrorist."
  • "I have been arrested many times but I’ve never been convicted of a felony nor have I ever been sued. We intervene against criminal operations and the last place criminals want to go is a courtroom."

I know that for many animal rights activists, Watson is a gray-area person because his actions are actually in the service of the law (that no one else is enforcing). Many people would call what he does "violence" (he does not) if it were in a different context, yet because of his context, it's not violence. Or it is, but it's acceptable.

Do you support the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society? Do you support Greenpeace? What are your thoughts about Watson?

7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Patty #

    I believe there is a segment on Paul Watson in the upcoming FRONTLINE episode: "A WHALE OF A BUSINESS"

    "On Tuesday, November 11, at 9 p.m., on PBS (check local listings), FRONTLINE examines the money, power, and politics behind the captive marine mammal industry."

    For more information:

    I used to sipport Greenpeace, but I have since shifted my financial support to Sea Shepherd.

    October 28, 2008
  2. Nick #

    I think Greenpeace is waste of time and money–pretty much the same as PETA, minus the degradation of women (as far as I know).

    I know we've already had the violence debate, but here is my definition of violence: a coercive action with the intent to physically harm a sentient being, or in which a sentient being is explicitly physically threatened, or in which a sentient being is in fact intentionally physically harmed

    As far as I know, Paul Watson hasn't done anything that I consider violent. I fully support Sea Shepherd, given that they remain nonviolent.

    October 28, 2008
  3. Lee #

    Paul Watson is a hero in my eyes. I grew up idolizing athletes like Wayne Gretzky as a child but I have evolved to look up to people who make a difference in our sad little world and I can't think of a better example of this than Mr. Watson. If we only had more people like Paul Watson maybe the Animal Rights movement would actually "move" forward and start making a significant difference in our treatment of the "other" species on this planet.

    October 28, 2008
  4. Dan #

    I’m obviously against whaling and seal-clubbing as much as anyone; and enforcement of anti-whaling laws and a prohibition against seal-killing is certainly needed. But I do not support Sea Shepherd Conservation Society because I believe they – like almost all single-issue organizations within the “animal protection movement” – divert funds (over $2 million annually in Sea Shepherd’s case) from attacking the root of the problem through vegan education to some peripheral issue that most people in our society already agree with, like not harpooning whales and not clubbing seals.

    Perhaps if all the millions of dollars that went into the periphery of animal abuse were redirected toward vegan education, we’d eventually have enough political support against whaling and seal-clubbing to have legitimate authorities who have wide-spread public support enforce the laws with necessary force instead of having an annual non-violent “campaign” diverting $2 million from vegan education to save a few whales and seals (maybe) when tens of millions of other animals are being slaughtered DAILY in the US alone. I find the irrational allocation of funds and effort in the “movement” astounding.

    I published an essay on this topic of single-issue campaigns yesterday:

    October 28, 2008
  5. I'm a big Sea Shepherd fan, more than any other group. The reason for that is that I think he combines deep ecology and individual animal ethics considerations better than any other group in the Eco and AR fields. Watson's personality apparently helps or hurts his cause depending on your reaction, but if not for that personality he probably wouldn't be doing what he does. And as far as those actions, I'm very glad he's doing them.

    Here's my post on a book about Sea Shepherd:

    October 28, 2008
  6. "Do you support the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society? Do you support Greenpeace? What are your thoughts about Watson?"
    Yes, yes, and I think he's a net good.
    I consider the Sea Shepherd a rescue organization and I support rescue.
    I consider Greenpeace a representation of a set of ideals, many of which are good.
    Watson is a human being. Humans are fallible. I'm not sure I'd personally get along with the guy, but I respect and admire him and his work.

    October 28, 2008
  7. Patty #

    I was mistaken about the FRONTLINE episode. (Although the episode I referenced looks interesting.) I was thinking about an upcoming show on Animal Planet called "Whale Wars" which follows the Sea Shepherd:

    November 2, 2008

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