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Blog of a Vegan Pirate, Post 10: Aftermath

One of many families of whales we saw in range of the Japanese whaling fleet.

One of many families of whales we saw in range of the Japanese whaling fleet.

This is the tenth and final blog post in the series documenting the February to March 2008 leg of the Sea Shepherd anti-whaling Antarctic campaign. Previous posts in the series are here. This last post is about observations and discoveries that came after the ship docked back in Melbourne, and facts about these discoveries that interested people would hopefully find useful.

(A donations page, if anyone wants to help me pay for plane tickets to my next Sea Shepherd campaign)

After our ship came to port in Australia again, I had a lot of interesting encounters and discoveries about my trip. For instance, when I was finally able to get onto the internet on land again, I found that Japan had an entire webpage devoted to identifying us “terrorists” and demanding more military action against us.


The sign on the Nisshin Maru whaling factory ship says “Do not come aboard without captain’s permission.” And for a good time, see the icrwhale.org website.

And I met a lot of people while walking through the streets of Australia, while I was still wearing my Sea Shepherd crew uniform. Most people were in favor of Sea Shepherd, and some hated our guts and almost brawled with me because of it. But the most interesting thing I’ve gleaned from all my experiences coming back to land, is that almost no one in the general public, whether it be the anti or pro-whaling public, seems to understand the whaling issue that well.

I found that a lot of people who are even in favor of Sea Shepherd’s campaigns, didn’t know that whaling is illegal. And I found that people who were in favor of whaling had completely incorrect notions about international laws. To shed some light on the facts, I thought it’d be useful to finish this Antarctica blog by relaying a conversation that I had after coming back. The conversation was a typical exchange on the whaling debate’s facts and fictions. So after having given you tales of sea battles in past posts, hopefully this last post will also help fans and foes of Sea Shepherd know what they’re talking about when it comes to whales from now on.

Here’s how the conversation started. I went to a party recently where I met a Japanese person who was in favor of whaling. He put his hand behind my head and pulled me in front of his face and started saying loudly, “MMMM! Whale burgers, you should try one they’re GOOOOD! MMMM! Try a WHALE burger!” He obviously wasn’t trying to start an argument, he was simply trying to start a fight. In fact, my Japanese friend who was next to me (and whose party it was) started screaming back at him. The pro-whaling guy started giving the usual pro-whaling arguments, like it’s Japan’s tradition so they have a right to keep doing it, and my friend started yelling at him that Japan traditionally gives women no career options but some customs are damaging to its people and the world they try to live in. The pro-whaler would scream back that Americans are judgmental, and both sides would continue screaming at each other.

However, the screaming match was obviously not for a good reason, as it was to goad me into a fight, so I told the guy I actually wanted to hear his reasons why Japan has the right to whale. It took a while to get him to actually speak his reasons, but his answers were the usual answers I’ve heard in favor of whaling. Here are those usual reasons, and I’ve included my usual responses to them.

Reason #1: There are no actual laws against whaling.

Response: Tons of international laws make whaling illegal. The UN World Charter on Nature, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the International Whaling Commission (IWC), and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) all protect whales from commercial whaling.

On top of that, Japan is doing its whaling in the Australian Antarctic Territory, and Australia has passed a high federal court order outlawing whaling in that Territory. The Antarctic Treaty also says the Antarctic is a demilitarized zone, and Japan brings armed military with them as part of their whaling fleet, violating the demilitarized zone.

Here are the specifics of the IWC regulations that Japan is breaking, as outlined by Captain Paul Watson:

  1. The Japanese are whaling in violation of the International Whaling Commission’s global moratorium on commercial whaling. The IWC scientific committee announced it does not recognize Japan’s whaling activities as “research,” and thus Japan is not exempt from the commercial whaling ban.
  2. The IWC doesn’t just ban commercial whaling, the IWC specifically bans whaling in the Southern Ocean Sanctuary where Japan whales.
  3. The Japanese are in violation of IWC regulation 19. (a) The IWC regulations in the Schedule to the Convention forbid the use of factory ships to process any protected stock: 19. (a) It is forbidden to use a factory ship or a land station for the purpose of treating any whales which are classified as Protection Stocks in paragraph 10. Paragraph 10(c) provides a definition of Protection Stocks and states that Protection Stocks are listed in the Tables of the Schedule. Table 1 lists all the baleen whales, including minke, fin and humpback whales and states that all of them are Protection Stocks. The main ship in the Japanese whaling fleet is the Nisshin Maru, the whaling fleet factory ship, which allows the fleet to kill 1,000 whales a year at sea at a time.
  4. In addition, the IWC regulations specifically ban the use of factory ships to process any whales except minke whales: Paragraph 10(d) provides: (d) Notwithstanding the other provisions of paragraph 10 there shall be a moratorium on the taking, killing or treating of whales, except minke whales, by factory ships or whale catchers attached to factory ships. This moratorium applies to sperm whales, killer whales and baleen whales, except minke whales.

A typical sight in the Southern Oceans. A whale couple brings their calf to see the humans, and they swim alongside our ship. Whales have an innate trust and love of humans; most will try to their dying breath not to hurt a human, even when threatened by aggressive people. This has unfortunately been the whales’ undoing.

Reason #2: These laws don’t apply to Japan and it’s not fair to say they do, since Japan has been whaling for a long time. For you to sit on your high horse, and wave your foreign laws over Japan, is just judgmental and you have no right to say such things. And furthermore, they’re whaling in International Waters, as Australia has no claim to any territory in the Antarctic.

Response: If America and a few other countries decided to bully on Japan and say “stop your whaling! We deem it bad and thus you’re not allowed to do it either!” Then yeah, you’d have a point. However, Japan is a signing member of these laws. Japan is a charter member of CITES. Japan is a member country of the International Whaling Commission.

And, whether you or I think Japan is violating Australian waters is moot, since Japan is also a signing member of the Antarctic Treaty. Thus, Japan itself has agreed that it is in Australian waters and a demilitarized zone.

If you sign a law, saying you’ll abide by it, and then you break it, you’ve broken the law.

Reason #3: Well, I consider it the way I do the Kyoto Protocol. A bunch of countries signed that but no one really cares if a country doesn’t pay attention to it all the time.

Response: Over a hundred countries have signed and ratified the Kyoto Protocol with the intention to participate, but the signing countries have no obligation beyond monitoring their emissions, and reporting the results. Individual sovereign governments can decide their own level of participation. The Kyoto Protocol is a framework, with a set of principles. The principles are often specific, and refer to payments and international relations, but the Protocol does not require any country to obey these principles as laws.

Bans on commercial whaling aren’t “protocols,” and the IWC is not a set of principles. The IWC is an actual legislative Commission on whaling regulations. A Commission’s regulations are laws that its members must follow.

However, let’s say they’re all just trade treaties, rather than legislative Commissions that create laws that signing members need to follow. Then, your assumption is that it is ethical or right, to simply break an agreement with other countries that you’ve signed. But is that true?


The crew of the South Korean long-lining vessel In Sung No. 2, stare at us defiantly as we filmed and photographed them illegally poaching Patagonian toothfish. A lot of countries and businesses believe it’s their right to decide their level of law compliance.

Reason #4: But if Japan is a sovereign country, and you’re just some guy thousands of miles away and not even a Japanese citizen, you have no right to say “I think you should follow this law if I disagree with your national policy!” and engage in illegal acts to stop them. You’re eco-terrorists.

Response: We don’t engage in illegal activities. I have the right to stop illegal Japanese commercial whaling, and so do you. The UN World Charter for Nature gives every individual on earth the right to stop poaching and the destruction of nature that breaks UN conservation laws. You have the right to stop it if you are able to do so, and if you’re not in a jurisdiction that forbids your specific actions.

You may think that blocking whaling vessels and tossing chemicals onto their whaling decks so they can’t use them is illegal. But if you want to take Japan’s side, they themselves have declared that they’re whaling in international waters, and have announced they thus have no legal recourse against people (like us on Sea Shepherd ships) who interfere with their operations. They’ve thus simply lodged complaints against Australia for allowing us to use their harbors, since there is nothing legal they can do against us directly. They have threatened to extradite me and put me on trial in Japan for being a pirate. But I was never worried that they’d even actually try, since they have no legal claim against me or anything I’ve done. Japan has an extradition treaty with the US they could exercise at any time if I did do something illegal. If what Japan says is true, and I’m somehow a terrorist pirate who is a threat to their security, do you think they’d simply say, “Eh, terrorism and threats to our national security isn’t THAT big a deal, let’s not bother exercising that extradition treaty even though we said we would.”


While their soldiers fight us, their crew film us to gather any evidence of illegal activity to bring criminal charges against us. They are never able to get any such evidence or bring up any charges, however, no matter how much they try.

Reason #5: Regardless of the international community’s opinions, Japan has a long-held tradition of whaling. It would be wrong to expect them or ask them to give it up, since it’s their culture, regardless of which Commission or UN Charter they’re members of.

Response: Do you seriously want to live in a world where no one obeys the law if it disagrees with things they’ve done in the past? Where people keep oppressing or killing against the law, their reason being “they used to do it in the past?” Do you aspire to a world where countries sign treaties with each other and form laws together, with no country having any intention of following any of the laws? Has the world become a better place since we stopped obeying Geneva Conventions, since we feel like torturing Iraqi prisoners now? We have a grand tradition of winning wars at all costs, so no one should expect us to act differently despite any silly Conventions or treaties we’ve signed, right?

Reason #6: I’m sick of every little environmental infraction compared to war crimes and other actual serious issues.

Response: Once again, whether or not we think they’re equivalent is moot. Whether or not we deem any international law as “important” and worthy of being followed, is moot. There’s no hierarchy to international laws. There aren’t some international poaching laws considered “misdemeanors.” The whole point to an international law is that countries of the world have deemed it a serious enough issue for our long-term survival to make a law about it.

Let’s say you disagree with that, and assume every anti-whaling law in the world is made by Japan-hating anti-whaling factions. Well, would you agree with countries that have long-standing whaling traditions like Japan? The IWC is the only Commission in the world originally made up of whaling countries that WANT a legal commercial whaling industry. This is an originally pro-whaling Commission made up of whaling countries, created to manage world commercial whaling. Yet, this pro-whaling Commission deemed the whaling problem so bad, that it has banned commercial whaling. Keep that in mind. It’s such a not-minor, serious problem to the people who are pro-commercial-whaling, that they themselves originally banned commercial whaling. Even though Japan has been wooing landlocked countries like Mongolia with monetary incentives to join the IWC and vote to legalize whaling again, they still don’t have nearly enough votes among IWC member countries to overturn the ban on whaling.

The pro-whaling guy I talked to at the party walked off in a huff after a while. His reasons eventually dissolved into statements like “Look, I have no idea, it just ISN’T illegal, ok?” And he got frustrated and left. However, he came back maybe an hour later. He came up to me saying, “I want to apologize. I attacked you and I shouldn’t have done that. I just had no idea of the other side of the issue. I think you guys are doing amazing work.” A big part of the point of this story is that, in addition to taking direct action to stop whaling, we need to know what we’re talking about, and be willing to open dialogs with people we find distasteful, if we really want to change minds and end the whaling faster.

Well, I hope these posts were able to teach you something you didn’t know before about what’s happening in the world of poaching. My next Sea Shepherd trip is to represent the crew at Gatecon in Vancouver in August. And my next anti-poaching Sea Shepherd campaign is in September. I shouldn’t really say much about that trip until I come back from it. But hopefully then I’ll have some more interesting blog posts, pictures, and anti-poaching facts for you all. I also hope that these posts encourage you to believe that ANYONE (ie you) could also stop poaching around the world; you have the right, and you have the ability. You just have to realize it and go somewhere you want the killing to stop. So you can go beyond simple veganism to help save animals. You can all be Supervegans and save the whales. :)

8 Comments

  1. Comment by

    theAsocialApe

    on #

    thanks for the posts re the whaling interdiction. even more, thanks for doing it.

    i don’t know how you kept your cool with the whaling fan in this post. my rebuttal would just have been a good southern ass kicking. (i know that’s not PC, but i’m an animal too, and animals don’t always act logically)

  2. Comment by

    hardcoder

    on #

    thanks for laying out the facts here.

    and you are amazing!

  3. Comment by

    Laura Leslie

    on #

    Just wanted to say that this story is amazing and inspiring. Thank you for sharing it with us!

  4. Comment by

    draven

    on #

    i have read and watched enough it is time for me to put in my points.

    1. sea shepherd is being disrespectful to the great name of Steve Irwin by their actions he would never condone their actions.

    2. If you board a ship flying a souverin flag is plain and simple piracy and they should be arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

    3. sea shepherd thinks nobody can get hurt by throwing things example the acid and powder they admit themselves that it makes the deck slippery do they not think you cant get hurt from falling what if some of the japan crew have asthma and the “foul smelling liquid” caused then to go into an asthma attack if they don’t get medical attention they can die!

    4. they are a private organization not a law enforcement agency not a military agency they have no right to attack any ship on the sea if they do they should be boarded and arrested and taken to the closest or home country of the ship and be prosecuted.

    NOW BEFORE YOU GO E-MAILING ME SAYING AN EVIL AND GOING TO HELL KNOW THIS.

    1. i do not condone illegal activities
    2. i am a deputy wildlife conservation officer for the state of Pennsylvania in the U.S.A
    3. i am a meat eater

  5. Comment by

    Mia Manifold

    on #

    Draven , if you are believe what you wrote is the truth, whhy do you need to justify your comments by adding that you dont condone illegal activities & your a wild life officer.

    As an Australian who had the most profound pleasure in meeting Steve Irwin at Australia zoo, Steve would be so proud the ship is named after him and being a carefree , nutty, funny, eccentric wildman, there is nothing that the Sea Sheperd does which would upset him and the SS does nothing which would be disrespectful to Steve’e memory , Steve would be right in there “havin a go ya mug” , he would be in his element. The SS does nothing illegal adn nothing to be ashamed of. Your implication that it does is not acceptable.

    The SS throws stinky butter bombs only. The Japanese who are illegally in illegal waters, harpooning illegal whales illegally are breaking the law. The great souther ocean is a whale sanctuary. The Australian government , high court, has ruled that it is illegal to kill protected whales in a whale sanctuary. The Japanese are arrogantly breaking the law time after time and as Australia is too gutless to stop them , someone with compassion and love for all animals, is doing what the Australian government is not doing. Its purely political and a pre election promise to stop whaling by Kevin Rudd has not been acknowledged, he has not mentioned whaling since he has been in office. Pretty poor Kevin. Sea Shepherd crew are shot at, and their ship is attacked by the thugs on board the whaling vessels. Surely you dont begrudge the SS for hurling a few smelly butter bombs in self defence ? its a whale war down there and if attacked the SS has every right to defend themselves , when the Japs are in illegal waters, killing illlegal whales illegally. The bombs are butter – not acid !! Get your facts right. The SS has every right to attempt to save the illegal slaughter of whales in a protected whale sanctuary, the Japanese should be arrested and thrown in jail for breaking an Australian law, they disregard the law and do as they please, and they snigger at Australia who does nothing, and they do nothing because of trade/politics. I hope the Japanese whalers fall off the side or the world & I’m hoping they could even get swallowed up in a large whales mouth, never to be heard of again. Now that would be indeed poetic justice and karma and punishment for breaking the law and torturing protected whales in a whale sanctuary. Steve Irwin is looking on in glee and is right there beside the brave crew, lending a helping hand along side our whale saving hero. Have a nice day.

  6. Comment by

    Rachel

    on #

    Mia,
    The stinky butter bombs used are glass bottles containing butyric acid, which IS ACTUALLY AN ACID. It’s found in a lot of dairy products (rotting cheese etc.) and has a horrible odor. Despite this it can be very dangerous, especially through contact or inhalation, as it is corrosive and flammable. Incidences where stink bombs containing butyric acid have been used, such as abortion clinic protests, have led to hospitalization.

    While I do feel that the Japanese must be held accountable for their whaling practices, especially in the Southern Ocean Sanctuary, I do not necessarily agree with all of the tactics employed by the Sea Shepherds. Instead, I dream of a society that recognizes the implications and repercussions of its actions. The Japanese whale because there is a demand for their product. If you end this demand, by boycotting products and companies using whale and whale byproducts, you end whaling. After all, no one would continue to embark on or back an unprofitable endeavor.

  7. Comment by

    todemko

    on #

    Indeed, butyric acid is an acid. The following substances are more deadly acidic than butyric acid:

    -bananas
    -ketchup
    -pie filling
    -soy sauce

    Other fun facts:

    – Steve Irwin told Captain Paul Watson that indeed he would love to come out on campaigns with us to stop the whale killing, but he decided his place was to save animals on land, just as Sea Shepherd’s role was to save animals in the sea. As Steve Irwin’s wife announced at the naming ceremony of our ship, Steve Irwin would have loved nothing more than the headline, “Steve Irwin saves whales.”

    – You are guilty of piracy if you:
    1. Are crewing a ship that is not operating under the flag of a sovereign nation.
    2. Try to commandeer or seize control of a ship flying under the flag of a sovereign nation. For instance, when the Canadian military illegally boarded and seized the Farley Mowat in international waters, they were guilty of piracy.

    You are not guilty of piracy for boarding a ship. The Steve Irwin was boarded by Australian federal police after the boarding action, and Potsy and Giles were indeed prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Which means, Potsy and Giles were let go without any punishment, because they did not perform an act of piracy.

    3. A lot of people get worked up over the words “throwing acid,” although pie filling is more deadly to humans. Indeed, many people tried as hard as they could to point out the deadly quality of many things we threw, until it turned out that some of the deadliest substances they were claiming we were throwing was salad dressing that we didn’t like; we just wanted to get rid of so we threw it. They tried as hard as they could to say it required hazmat suits to handle, however.
    Sea Shepherd crew have accidentally dropped bottles of butyric acid on Sea Shepherd ships, and commented that they smelled bad, and continued working the rest of the campaign.

    4-Indeed, we are not a military agency. To prevent from being arrested for piracy or breaking international law, we obey every military-oriented law in the Antarctic demilitarized zone, where military personnel and military equipment are outlawed (by international laws that Japan has signed), where Japanese military personnel in military equipment and body armor throw grenades at us.

    – There is currently not a demand for the Japanese whaling product. One of Japan’s problems is giant warehouses full of rotting whale meat that no one in the modern world wants to buy anymore. The Japanese government is thus now filling elementary school lunches with rotting whale meat to get rid of it, since there is no demand for it and they are losing millions of dollars because of it.

    Now, it is very true that no one would continue to embark on or back an unprofitable endeavor. That is why, no matter how many millions of dollars the Japanese lose now on the whaling hunt, they will continue to do the whaling hunt under the guise of Research. Let’s explain:

    Right now, Antarctica is the last bastion of completely untouched substances that every country is addicted to. Petroleum, uranium, precious metals, everything everyone wants. It’s there in huge abundances, and the Antarctic Treaty makes it illegal for anyone to drill for it. Countries want Antarctica so badly that even though they could obviously not afford the expense, Nazi Germany flew missions over Antarctica in WWII to drop thousands of Nazi flags over it in an effort to claim it. However, the Antarctic Treaty ends in 2025, and the only countries who will have a right to drill then, are countries that can prove… they’ve been doing research in the Antarctic area for so many years.

    There are a ton of political reasons why the Japanese government will continue to kill whales every year in the Southern Oceans, even though it loses them millions of dollars a year in the short run. It is our goal to make them lose so many millions of dollars wasting their fuel and not catching whales, that it will eventually not be worth it for them.

  8. Comment by

    mia manifold

    on #

    I cant use my reisgtration so I am unregistered, so anyway it might be an acid technically but it wont deform the Japs, its a food acid and a harmless one. I am not a vegan which doesnt stop me from loving animals though ..just thought I would clarify that point and again make reference to this comment. .

    ” 1. sea shepherd is being disrespectful to the great name of Steve Irwin by their actions he would never condone their actions.”

    Come on, you must live on another continent such as Asia if you dont know that Steve Irwin would be the first to hurl the butter bombs, how can you say that anything done to stop the Japs from murdering whales is disrespectful ? Steve wouldnt think so, thats insane. YOu are not Australian and you never knew Steve Irwin because Steve would condone butter bombs, Steve would condone cannons and the sinking of their murderous fleet of death, Steve was an Aussie and he loved all animals and what a larrikan he was. Go back to Asia you dont know what your talking about.

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