Friday, December 19, 2008
Not really sure what they're going for with this logo, but who can resist a pirate motif?
Last summer, via the Interweb, I watched a drama on the high seas. It was a struggle that occurs most summers actually, but this year the world heard about it thanks to some snarky spinning and a few very well played media maneuvers by Greenpeace and their bastard extremist ex-cousin Sea Shepherd. I am of course talking about the Japanese whaling fleet's charade of killing whales in the protected Southern Ocean waters under the bogus rationale of scientific "research". Checking out the stomach contents of 1,000 whales really doesn't do anything to help protect the species or give any insight into their place in the ecosystem at this point in the history of marine biology. The last time I checked, we pretty much knew what these animals eat, right?
Oh, did I mention that one whale's worth of meat and parts can fetch up to $1M and that international law states that no part of any whale killed in the name of "research" may go to waste. Again, I have sincere love for the nation of Nippon, but you won't find me hanging out in the whale meat section of Daiei next time I'm visiting. Which brings us to last Friday when I was home sick unable to leave the couch due to a nasty virus of some sort - the perfect day to watch all 7 episodes of Whale Wars on Animal Planet On Demand. The battle available for us all to followed via the free press last summer is now conveniently packaged and edited for TV and it is compelling, albeit extremely controversial. Once one gets over the same dozen or so shots of whales being brutally killed, the ragtag band of Sea Shepard volunteers, the odd maritime law folks seem to sort of follow and a captain that has some serious communication issues all make for a great show. the key word being "show".
Sea Shepherd is a controversial environmental and animal rights activist group that takes upon itself the enforcement of international conservation laws. They exist through the support of donors and donations of goods from their community and they are serious. Sea Shepherd was founded by Captain Paul Watson after he was allegedly ousted from Greenpeace in 1977 for being too radical. And if there is one thing this group is, it's radical. While Greenpeace bears witness to atrocities with the hopes of educating the public and calling them to action in official channels, Sea Shepherd bypasses the system and physically defends wildlife with non-violent, but probably very illegal, actions and they are basically the only ones out there who only care about one thing - saving animals from unnecessary harm. In this case, it's hard not to get behind them, but from just 7 episodes that probably only glimpse into the finer workings of this operation, you can see flaws and inconsistencies and grumblings from the ranks at times. Though there were a few descenders, almost every member of the crew speaks the party line extremely well and are not afraid to break the law or risk their lives to save even one single whale. People get hurt, are subject to but seem to like an all Vegan diet aboard, and at one point alcohol is banned after the crew has a particularly rowdy party. This is all on top of a few really stupid decisions that put crew member's lives at risk - but hey, that's what they signed up for.
But, the most amazing thing about last summer's Sea Shepard vs. Japan's whaling industry epic struggle is that no Sea Shepard volunteers were killed during the campaign. They saved about 500 whales, causing Japan to miss its quota (which I hope they are not allowed make up next summer), and no eager and/or inexperienced 20 somethings were fatally injured in the process. Sure two were arrested and caused a diplomatic mess for Japan and Australia, one severely bruised her pelvis during a bothced all female crewed uninvited boarding attempt and Captain Paul Watson claims he was "shot" by the Japanese aboard one of the whaling vessels, but other than that it was smooth sailing. Sorry, I couldn't resist.
Side note: The series' theme song is Bullet with Butterfly Wings by Smashing Pumpkins. I love it when environmentalists come off all ragey and tough.
Fridays at 9pm EST/PST