Monday, August 18, 2008
All I knew about the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society before the conference was that they're a group of people led by Capt. Paul Watson who take to the oceans to try to prevent Japanese whalers from killing the animals. (They also protect other marine life.) I also knew that Watson had been shot recently by someone on an enemy ship. Fortunately, he was wearing a bullet-proof vest.
At AR2008, however, I quickly learned that Sea Shepherd has a lot of fans. On Thursday I had dinner with a man who was wearing a Sea Shepherd shirt, and one or two people came up to him to thank him for his work. He had, in fact, volunteered on a ship.
Watson gave a powerful speech at Friday's plenary. I didn't take notes that night, but I did at two other occasions that members of Sea Shepherd spoke.
With a fantastic smile, in which she squints her eyes, and a bopping blond ponytail, Kim McCoy seems an unlikely member of Sea Shepherd. She spoke at a session about "Enforcing Animal Protection Laws," describing Canada's ironically named Seal Protection Act. This law makes it illegal to go within a half-mile of a seal being slaughtered. It is illegal to videotape the slaughtering of a seal.
McCoy also explained that a United Nations law exists that says that if a nation isn't enforcing an environmental or conservation law, a non-governmental organization (NGO) can go in and enforce it. This is what Sea Shepherd sometimes does. Whaling is illegal in the Australian Whale Sanctuary, an area of water near Antarctica. Yet Australia doesn't enforce the law, thereby allowing Japanese whalers to hunt there. Also, whaling is legal in Japan only if done for research purposes. So after Japanese whalers take in their catch, they put them in boxes labeled "research" and then ship them to stores.
Jonny Vasic of Sea Shepherd spoke at "Applying Direct Action." He said social change comes about from individuals and small, grassroots organizations. He also said 50% of fish go to feed farmed animals, a practice that cannot be sustained.
Three laws govern our planet:
1) The law of diversity
2) The law of interdependence
3) The law of finite resources
Species are like a house of bricks. If we keep removing bricks, we don't know which brick will make the whole house collapse. The same holds true for species. If we keep destroying our planet, which leads to the extinction of species, we don't know which species will cause our ultimate destruction. We'll all interdependent.
In describing how children are taught to eat meat (ie. it's not a natural behavior), he used this example: If you put an apple and a rabbit in a toddler's playpen, the toddler will eat the apple and play with the rabbit.
Vasic also said people accept diminishment. We get used to have less freedom and of expecting less. He also said we have to solve poverty in order to solve our environmental problems and animal abuse.
At the Saturday plenary we got to watch a trailer for a seven-part series called "Whale Wars" that will air this fall on Animal Planet. It's footage taken from a Sea Shepherd voyage, and it looks more exciting than a Hollywood movie. I don't have cable, but I'm going to find a way to watch all seven episodes.
In one part of the trailer a woman on the Sea Shepherd ship was shown running into the bathroom and getting sick. I was in an elevator with her the day after the plenary and someone commented on her Sea Shepherd shirt. She said she was part of the crew, and the man said that hopefully her next voyage will be her last -- hopefully whaling will stop, so they won't have to go out again (although there are other species they'll need to protect) -- and then he said she could take a cruise to relax. She replied that she gets severely seasick and that if it weren't for the animals, she'd never set foot on a ship. Talk about moving outside one's comfort zone to help the animals!