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Rescues, bans, and protests—any way you look at it, 2012 was an eventful year for animal activism. As I began reflecting on the last 12 months, I was heartened by just how vocal people were, and how their speaking out for animals helped to create positive changes. Our voices didn’t always result in an all-out victory, but even when they didn’t, we can still claim some success. Rather than rank these stories, I’ve put them in chronological order. Here are 12 for ’12:

1. Ireland bans puppy mills (January)

The year got off to a promising start as puppy farming was outlawed in Ireland. Puppy farms (or puppy mills) are commercial dog-breeding facilities that put profits above animal welfare—they’re like the factory farms of the pet industry. Irish dog-breeding establishments are defined as premises that keep six or more female dogs over the age of four months who are physically able to breed. These facilities became so ubiquitous in Ireland that the country was known as the Puppy Farm of Europe. Puppy_mill_Ireland

Unfortunately, not everyone has gotten the “Adopt, Don’t Buy” message, and many people continue to purchase dogs. In Ireland, puppy mill dogs have frequently been sold through small ads or the Internet and shipped to England at hugely inflated prices. The animals typically suffer from severe health problems and congenital conditions.

With the passage of the Dog Breeding Establishments Act 2010, which went into effect on January 1, all breeders must be registered with local authorities and they must keep dogs in housing that is clean and not overcrowded. The dogs must be given exercise and bedding material, as well as food and water, and female dogs must have no more than one litter of puppies in a year. These provisions will be enforced with mandatory veterinary inspections, and a register of breeders will include only breeders that meet the new standards.

2. Thousands of hens rescued from egg farm (February-March)

It’s been called the largest rescue of farmed animals in California history. More than 4,400 hens were saved from an egg farm in Turlock after the owner simply walked away from the operation and left behind 50,000 birds. Weeks went by before someone alerted authorities, but by that time, some 20,000 of the hens had starved to death. Others fell into giant manure pits under their cages and drowned. Twenty-five thousand more had to be euthanized. Farmed animal sanctuaries Animal Place, Farm Sanctuary, and Harvest Home took on the responsibility of caring for the hens and finding homes for them. In the meantime, the Animal Legal Defense Fund and the law firm Schiff Hardin sued the owners of the egg farm to hold them responsible for their heinous cruelty. The farmers sought to have the case dismissed, but on December 5, the court rejected the farmers’ arguments, permitting the case to move forward.

3. Japan ends whale-slaughter campaign with less than a third of its target catch (March)

Everyone enjoys stories where the bad guy loses. So you gotta love that Japanese whalers went home with far fewer whales than they’d hoped for this year. According to Japan’s Fisheries Agency, whalers killed 266 minke whales and one fin whale, well below the approximately 900 they had been aiming for when they left Japan in December of 2011. “The catch was smaller than planned due to factors including weather conditions and sabotage acts by activists,” an agency official said. “There were definitely sabotage campaigns behind the figure.” Hot in pursuit of the whale killers was Sea Shepherd, hurling stink bombs at the boats and using ropes to try to tangle their propellers in a series of exchanges, which have seen the whalers retaliate with water cannon.

Every winter finds the Sea Shepherd crew plying the frigid Southern Ocean actively interfering with vessels from Japan’s Institute for Cetacean Research (ICR) as they search for whales to kill and “study.” A registered nonprofit, ICR claims it has no commercial stake in the hunts, yet whale meat from their government-subsidized “research” continues to be sold in Japanese seafood markets. Last December, the Fisheries Agency admitted that it had diverted US$29 million from Japan’s March 11, 2011, tsunami relief fund to subsidize the country’s whaling program and protect it from animal activists. The money evidently was used to equip the Shonan Maru 2 with unspecified security equipment designed to win the battle against Sea Shepherd.

With Sea Shepherd’s latest campaign about to begin, it will be interesting to see how they respond to the recent court injunction prohibiting them from attacking Japanese whaling ships.

4. Panama bans bullfighting and other cruel “sports” (March)

On March 15, Panama’s National Assembly approved an unprecedented bill—the first in the world to explicitly ban all forms of bullfighting, from the traditional Spanish corrida to so-called “bloodless” Portuguese-style bullfighting; despite the name, bulls are killed after leaving the bullring. Since bullfights were not taking place in Panama, this was a preemptive measure: With bullfighting losing ground in other countries (even Mexico City, home to the largest bullring on Earth, is considering a ban), Panamanians wanted to ensure the blood sport wasn’t exported there.

The new animal protection law, signed by President Ricardo Martinelli in November, also prohibits dog fighting, hare coursing, and greyhound racing, and it contains such strong regulations on circuses that it will effectively ban the use of animals in their performances. Sadly excluded from the law are bans on cockfighting and horse racing.

5. Italian activists liberate 30 beagles from Green Hill (April)

When animal advocates in Italy get active, they open a serious can of whoop ass. The story of the liberation of 30 beagles destined for vivisection is actually just one element of a much larger narrative—one with an ending that makes this, in my view, the most inspiring victory of the year. The drama began in October 2011, when five members of the group Fermare Green Hill got onto the roof of the beagle delivery building at Green Hill, Europe’s largest farm breeding dogs for research, near Milan. Among the clients of Green Hill are university laboratories, pharmaceutical companies, and the notorious Huntingdon Life Sciences in England.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Tino Verducci, a member of Fermare Green Hill, when he was in California for the recent Animal Liberation Forum, and he explained the impact of the roof occupation. “We managed to get five people on the roof for 30 hours. That was crucial, because we brought cell phones, video camera, computer, and so we managed to get media. We had TV, radio—all sorts of media. Being on the roof, we could hear the dogs. You have to bear in mind the perception of the people at home, who were listening to the puppies and dogs crying. As soon as the activists came down, all Italy went against vivisection. A poll a few months after said 86 percent of the Italian population was against it. This put a lot of pressure on the Italian government, and it raised awareness about activism. Every day for the next six months we continued our campaign to close down Green Hill. The pressure of the people was very beneficial because the Italian government decided to set up a law to ban vivisection for cats, dogs, and primates.” When I ask when the law goes into effect, Tino smiles. “In Italy, things go very, very slow,” he says.

beagle2All the media attention raised awareness and the ire of the Italian public, so it was no surprise when at least a thousand people showed up for a demonstration outside Green Hill on April 28. Protesters—some carrying signs reading “We are the 86%”—were so motivated to take action that a few hundred boldly stormed the facility and came back with a mother beagle and dozens of puppies. Dramatic photos of these animals being gingerly handed over the fence were posted around the world. Police arrested a dozen demonstrators and reportedly took back a few of the puppies. “Very important, though, is that the people in the local town were helping the activists by hiding the dogs—they knew police were checking everyone,” explains Tino.

Two months later, police raided Green Hill, where they discovered more than 100 bodies in the freezers. “Italian law states that any animal born must be microchipped and their birth recorded. The police found that the dogs in the freezers did not have microchips or birth records. This is crucial, because they were breaking the law. Police also found that [Green Hill’s owner] Marshall Farm, from the USA, tried to manipulate data, so police were very suspicious about all this.” The government seized some 2,700 dogs, according to Tino, and has shut the facility while it conducts its investigation. Meanwhile, the dogs have been placed in adoptive homes. Faced with the possibility they’ll have to relinquish the animals to Marshall Farm, the dogs’ guardians are ready to fight. “The people have said, ‘They’ll get the dogs over my dead body,’” says Tino. Rescued_beagle

Fermare Green Hill is set to take on Harlan Sprague Dawley, Inc., which breeds not only beagles, but marmosets, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, mice, gerbils, and hamsters, as well as hybrid, mutant, and transgenic animals. Bolstered by their latest success, Tino seems pretty confident. “Green Hill was a lesson to the vivisection industry and to activists everywhere that when people work together, they can change anything,” he says.

6. Activists block access to New Zealand’s largest egg producer (June)

EnrichedCageComparisonAfter an undercover investigation revealed that the conditions hens endured inside colony cages were little better than battery cages, campaigners with New Zealand Open Rescue and the Coalition to End Factory Farming spent four months creating a protest against New Zealand’s biggest egg producer: Mainland Poultry. The company had been testing colony cages, which are set to gradually replace existing battery cages over the next 10 years.

Deirdre Sims, Marie Brittain, and Mengzu Fu suspended themselves from the top of steel towering tripods on the road and chained to a gate, forming a blockade. The action “effectively shut down Mainland Poultry and halted the distribution of cruelly produced eggs to their suppliers,” said spokesperson Carl Scott, who last year spent a month inside a cage to protest the eggs Mainland sells. NZOpenRescue

“We risked our lives that morning, but Mainland Poultry now realize that we are highly capable of shutting them down, so it was definitely worth it,” says Deirdre. “This action served as a strong warning to Mainland Poultry and the egg industry that we are escalating our efforts. Our undercover investigation inside this Mainland Poultry colony cage facility revealed that hens are still suffering inside cages. We witnessed tens of thousands of birds crammed into colony cages, which are nothing more than modified battery cages. After decades of campaigning against cruel cage systems, enough is enough.”

7. California’s ban on foie gras takes effect (July)

It was more than seven years in the making. In 2004, California legislators passed a law prohibiting the sale of any product derived from the force-feeding of birds to enlarge their livers. The law—the only one of its kind in the United States—kicked in on July 1. The seven-and-a-half-year grace period was intended to give foie gras producers time to devise a less-cruel method for creating fatty livers. To no one’s surprise, they couldn’t.

California’s only foie gras producer, Sonoma Artisan Foie Gras, closed shop at the start of the ban. The state’s other previous suppliers—foie gras farms in New York and Quebec—have seen their sales in California evaporate since July 1.

For an insider’s view on this issue, lauren Ornelas has written a great blog post detailing how she and other activists achieved this victory.

8. Ben the Bear is granted permanent sanctuary (August)

Photo: PETA

Ben today. Photo by PETA

For six miserable years, Ben was confined to a tiny, barren kennel at a roadside zoo in North Carolina. He paced the concrete, gnawed at the metal fencing, and endured filthy conditions. After years of legal wrangling, including a lawsuit filed by ALDF and PETA, a judge signed an injunction allowing Ben to reside permanently at a California sanctuary operated by the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS). Today, Ben enjoys a huge habitat, with grass, trees, and his own pond. When lauren and I visited Ben recently, we were told he spends every night sleeping outside—even in the rain—although he has a comfortable den. “He just loves being in the grass,” the PAWS docent said. Six years of sleeping on concrete will do that to you.

Click here for a short video telling the story of Ben’s rescue.

9. Adidas gives kangaroo skin the boot (September)

Its shoes have been worn by athletes since the 1920s, and today Adidas is one of the largest sportswear companies on the planet, thanks in part to its knack for innovation (it introduced, among other design enhancements, arch supports and spikes in track-running shoes). For years, Adidas manufactured several lines of football (soccer) cleats from the skins of kangaroos, thus subsidizing what the nonprofit Animals Australia describes as the largest land-based commercial wildlife slaughter in the world.

Central to the commercial killing is the debatable premise, perpetuated by farmers and ranchers, that the country’s estimated 25-60 million ‘roos are agricultural “pests” who compete with sheep for forage and destroy crops. With many Aussies convinced the destruction of these herbivorous marsupials is justified, the Kangaroo Industry Association of Australia makes a great effort to promote the animals as food and fiber resources. The primary argument made by most animal welfare groups is not that the kangaroos are being slaughtered, which is bad enough, but that the methods used for killing them are inhumane. Hunters are supposed to adhere to Australia’s National Code of Practice, a set of guidelines intended to minimize the pain and suffering of targeted kangaroos. According to the Code, shooters must hit the animal in the brain. Since hunting occurs at night at distances of 50 to 100 meters (164 to 328 feet), accurate shots to the head are difficult at best.

The Code also states that hunters must not kill protected species, and they should avoid shooting female kangaroos who have dependent young—two more directives that are impossible to fully comply with, particularly under nighttime shooting conditions. Only six of the 55 kangaroo species are allowed to be killed for commercial use—the Eastern Grey, the Red, the Western Grey, the common wallaroo (also called the Euro), the Bennett’s wallaby, and the pademelon (a type of wallaby)—but in the dark, who’s to say which species of kangaroo is being destroyed? Furthermore, baby kangaroos are considered a worthless byproduct of the industry, so when a mother ‘roo is targeted, her babies are also killed, multiplying the tragedy. Should a weaned baby (called a young-at-foot joey) escape being shot when his mother is killed, he hops off into the night to die by starvation, dehydration, or predation from foxes, hawks, or dingoes. There are also pouch joeys who are dragged from their dead or dying mother’s pouch; after experiencing the trauma of mama’s murder, these orphans get their heads cut off, bludgeoned, or bashed against the tow bar of a vehicle. Such are the killing methods recommended in the Code.

In September, after years of campaigning by Viva!, Viva!USA, and other groups, Adidas announced it was phasing out its use of kangaroo skin.

10. Bill and Lou make headlines (November)

It didn’t have the happy ending we were all hoping for, but the story of oxen Bill and Lou became a flashpoint for the debate about animals raised for food. Think about it: When was the last time so much attention was focused on two farmed animals? Their story was told in The New York Times and on NPR, among many other media outlets. James McWilliams frequently blogged about Bill and Lou as the drama unfolded and is currently writing an e-book about them. (Meanwhile, it should be noted, tens of millions of cows were being slaughtered with scarcely a peep of objection from most observers.) Bill_and_Lou

Some said all the interest in Bill and Lou only served to promote Vermont’s Green Mountain College (GMC), whose agriculture program exploited the two bovines for a decade and then, when Lou injured his leg and could no longer pull a plow, declared the pair should be killed and fed to the students. So vociferous was the public outcry that GMC found itself defending the economic, environmental, and ethical basis of its program. Citing health concerns, GMC says they euthanized Lou on November 11. It was a heartbreaking blow to countless people who’d asked the college to allow both animals to be placed in a sanctuary such as VINE, which had campaigned tirelessly on behalf of the oxen. But there’s no doubt in my mind that were it not for the pressure brought to bear on GMC, Bill would be dead, too. (He’ll evidently be kept alive on the campus farm.) Moreover, the conversation about these two animals fueled the general discussion about viewing animals as mere resources.

11. Costa Rica bans hunting as a sport (December)

Following a unanimous and final vote from Congress, Costa Rica became the first country in Latin America to ban hunting as a sport. Under the new law, those caught hunting can face up to four months in prison or fines of up to $3,000.

Costa Rica is one of the world’s most biodiverse nations, attracting foreign hunters in search of exotic cats and traders from the pet industry looking to snatch colorful parrots.  “We’re not just hoping to save the animals but we’re hoping to save the country’s economy, because if we destroy the wildlife there, tourists are not going to come anymore,” environmental activist Diego Marin, who campaigned for the reform, told local radio.

This is also Costa Rica’s first proposal that came to Congress by popular initiative, with 177,000 signatures calling for the ban submitted two years ago.

12. The Netherlands Senate votes to ban fur farming (December)

In the last decade, the Netherlands’ mink farming industry has grown from three million to an estimated six million minks killed every year, making them the world’s third largest producer of mink “pelts,” after Denmark and China. This month the Dutch Senate voted to ban mink fur farming, which comes after a 2012 inquiry by the Ministry of Agriculture revealed that 93 percent of the nation disapproves of killing animals for their fur. Mink fur farmers will have until 2024 to get out of this bloody business. The final step is a sign-off by the relevant Dutch Minister and the Queen.

Mink_FarmThe Netherlands’ fur industry currently operates 170 mink farms. Mink are typically kept in barren wire cages measuring little more than the length of a human arm. In their natural habitat, these animals would enjoy environmentally rich riverbank territories of up to three square miles. Due to the extreme stress of confinement, farmed mink routinely engage in self-mutilation and other abnormal behaviors.

The country banned fox fur farming in 1995 and chinchilla fur farming in 1997. The ban on mink fur farms will mean that in 12 years, fur farming in the Netherlands will be a practice about which the Dutch will shake their heads and say, “Can you believe we used to do that to animals?”

All in all, a pretty good year, I’d say. Is there a victory you think should have made the list?

Pete Bethune

Sea Shepherd’s 2009/2010 campaign to disrupt Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean will be remembered for two names: the ship Ady Gil and its skipper, Pete Bethune of New Zealand. Pete had been captain of the carbon-composite, high-tech trimaran when it was called Earthrace and purchased for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) by millionaire Ady Gil. The futuristic-looking vessel sank after the Japanese harpoon ship Shonan Maru II rammed it on January 6. A month later, Pete managed to leap from a Jet Ski and board the Shonan Maru II while the whaler was making 14 knots and avoid anti-boarding spikes along the way. His objective was to attempt a citizen’s arrest of the captain of the Shonan Maru II for the destruction of the Ady Gil and attempted murder of the six Ady Gil crewmembers. Or maybe not. Pete was promptly taken into custody by the ship’s crew, held for 24 days and returned to Japan for trial. Charges included trespassing and assault on a whaler (apparently Japanese poachers don’t like being hit with rancid butter). Pete received a two-year sentence, which was then suspended, and he returned to New Zealand in July. He’s now working on a book. The other day I had the chance to chat with him.

What was your involvement in the anti-whaling movement prior to Ady Gil buying Earthrace for Sea Shepherd?

None really, other than being pissed off at the Japanese. In New Zealand, we all know [illegal whaling] happens in our backyard, but we feel powerless to do anything. SSCS gave me an opportunity to do something. Whaling remains deeply offensive to Kiwis and Aussies.

You’ve been writing a book. What it is about?

It is about how I got involved with SSCS, getting to Antarctica, getting rammed, prison in Japan and coming home. It also has a lot of my ideas on how we are stuffing things up these days and my views on energy, the planet and conservation.

When will it be published?

It will be published in New Zealand and Australia in November this year, and then the USA, Canada and UK next year.

There’s been a lot of debate about whether or not Captain Komura of the Shonan Maru II deliberately ran down the Ady Gil. Do you have any doubts it was intentional?

It was definitely intentional. I think he wanted to hit our front and put us out of the campaign, but maybe not hit us so far back. He was a really aggressive little bugger, all through the campaign, and a smack on our bow would have been a great result for him. Get the boat that is wreaking havoc out of the campaign. But he misjudged it, we never went into reverse, and the rest is history. I hope he wasn’t trying to kill us! Incredibly dangerous what he did, regardless.

Paul Watson has said that banning you from Sea Shepherd was a legal ploy, and that you are welcome to rejoin the group. Do you think you’ll go back?

I hope so. I am in talks with them at the moment about joining the next campaign and possible tactics, but nothing definite.

You must have known you would be arrested the moment you set foot on the Shonan Maru II. Was there a larger plan at work?

The plan was always to go to Japan and get media there. The Japanese public are very hard to connect with. By getting to Japan, we hoped to get traction with the Japanese media.

 

Protester outside courthouse / Getty

How well do you think that worked out?

We got massive media there, but much of it was negative.  But overall it was certainly a success.  You can’t please everyone.

In court, there was no discussion of why you boarded the Shonan Maru II, and Captain Komura was not called as a witness. Was there ever any question what the outcome of the trial would be?

It was always inevitable I would be found guilty. The conviction rate [in Japan] is over 98 percent! That they sank my boat had no bearing on the trial. It is irrelevant to the Japanese.

You received a two-year suspended sentence. How much jail time did you have to serve?

I did 5 months locked up, which included 24 days on the Shonan Maru II.

How did your fellow prisoners treat you?

They thought I was evil and dangerous and steered well clear of me.

Did anything good come out of the experience for you personally?

Yes. I have a healthier outlook on life. Every day is a blessing now, and I am a little more focused than before. And my tolerance is really high now: I have not been pissed off about anything since coming out.

Update: In January 2013, it was announced that Pete had sold the rights of his book to a movie producer.

A minke whaler in Iceland. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.

A minke whaler in Iceland. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.

When most people think about the global whaling industry — if they think of it at all ― they probably imagine Japanese whalers, who have been the target of a long-running campaign led by Sea Shepherd. But other countries have thriving whaling industries, too; in fact, Iceland’s 2009 whaling season began today.

That the world’s whales are still hunted comes as a surprise to many people, though international pressure on whalers is helping to raise awareness around the planet. Iceland has had an on again, off again moratorium on commercial whaling since 1990, when it began honoring guidelines set by the International Whaling Commission. It broke away from the global moratorium in 2006. In January of this year, Iceland’s outgoing minister, Einar Gudfinnsson, decided to resume whaling and announced that 100 minke whales and 150 endangered fin whales could be hunted each year until 2013. About half of the whale meat Iceland plans to bring in will be sold to Japan.

But Iceland’s new government could shift the country’s whaling policy, and animal groups are working hard to ensure that happens. The new government, which consists of Social Democrats and the Left-Green Movement, was elected in April and has indicated that the country’s whaling industry will be reassessed based on its “sustainability and importance for national economy as a whole as well as Iceland’s international obligations and Iceland’s image.” 

Among the groups working to end Iceland’s whaling industry are Campaign Whale, Environmental Investigation Agency, International Fund for Animal Welfare, World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) and Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS). Today campaigners from these groups carrying a 25-foot inflatable minke whale have gathered outside the Icelandic embassy in London in protest at the country’s whaling policy. In a 20-minute meeting with the Icelandic ambassador, Sverrir Haukur Gunnlaugsson, activists presented highlights of a new UK opinion poll suggesting that 82% of the British public are opposed to Iceland’s whaling and that 64% are prepared to boycott Icelandic products because of its commercial whaling.

“Iceland’s decision to resume large-scale commercial whaling is a desperate attempt to secure income from whale meat sales to Japan,” says Kate O’Connell of WDCS. “It is a sad day for whales that they now become the latest potential victims of the world economic crisis. We have not seen a hunt of this scale in the North Atlantic since the 1980s. And there is still a ban on whaling in place.”

What You Can Do

  • Get the facts. Most people don’t realize there is still a whaling industry. Visit the sites of groups like WSPA, Save the Whales and Sea Shepherd to learn about whaling around the world.
  • Speak up. Let people know that the Danish Faeroe Islands, Iceland, Japan, Norway and the tiny island nations of St. Lucia and St. Vincent & the Grenadines still engage in whaling. Send letters to editors. Please share this post on social media sites or email it to friends and ask them to speak up, too.
  • Visit this link on WSPA’s site and take part in their effort to influence representatives of more than 80 governments who will meet on June 22 to decide the fate of the world’s whales.

Sea Shepherd is reporting today that three Japanese whaling ships moved in on the anti-whaling vessel the Steve Irwin in the Ross Sea off of Antarctica. “At 0500 Hours Sydney, Australia, time on February 4th, the three harpoon vessels of the Japanese whaling fleet literally attacked the Steve Irwin,” a statement reads.

 

Sea Shepherd accused the Japanese whalers of them of cutting dangerously close to the bow of the Steve Irwin in rough waters and fog. “If their intention was to intimidate us, it did not work,” said Captain Paul Watson. “When it comes to playing chicken on the high seas, we have much more experience than the whalers.”

 

Captain Watson also accused the whalers of throwing hunks of metal and golf balls at Sea Shepherd activists, slightly injuring two Steve Irwin crew members.

 

The Yushin Maru 2 has now rejoined the fleet after leaving the area on December 20th with propeller damage. The three harpoon ships converged to flank the Steve Irwin as the Sea Shepherd ship pursued the Nisshin Maru. “As long as we’re chasing them they’re not going to kill whales,” Captain Watson said. “Every day we can keep them from whaling and on the run is a victory for us.” He estimates the fleet has killed about 300 fin and minke whales this season, compared with almost 600 last season. “I know that they’re not going to get their quota again this year; they’re one vessel short.”

 

The Sea Shepherd statement adds: “The whaling fleet is crisscrossing the Ross Sea erratically. The whalers appear to becoming increasingly frustrated and angry that Sea Shepherd has shut down their whaling operations.”

Japanese whaling vessel the Nisshin Maru fires its water cannons as the Steve Irwin chases in Antarctica's Ross Sea. A harpoon whaling vessel sails nearby in the background. Photo by Adam Lau/Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

Japanese whaling vessel the Nisshin Maru fires its water cannons as the Steve Irwin chases in Antarctica's Ross Sea. A harpoon whaling vessel sails nearby in the background. Photo by Adam Lau/Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

A coalition of Sea Shepherd and Jakarta Animal Aid is ratcheting the pressure on Japanese whalers.

    Fleeing the Sea Shepherd ship the Steve Irwin on December 20, the harpoon vessel Yushin Maru 2 suffered heavy damage from ice floes in the Southern Ocean and was forced to limp north to Surabaya, Indonesia, for repairs (amid much cheering from the Sea Shepherd activists, I’m guessing).

    “They only had two choices,” says Captain Paul Watson of Sea Shepherd. “They could have gone south with the Steve Irwin into the lighter ice or they could have gone north to avoid the Steve Irwin into the thicker ice floes. They chose the more dangerous route and it looks like they suffered damage for that decision.”

    The whalers had to retreat to Indonesia because their illegal whaling activities have gotten them barred from the much-closer Australian and New Zealand ports. But the Japanese crews’ woes haven’t ended. The Jakarta Animal Aid organization has been demonstrating in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-largest city, protesting the presence of the Yushin Maru 2. Jakarta Animal Aid activists are also organizing another protest at the Japanese embassy.

    The Yushin Maru 2 is expected to leave Suryabaya on January 16, the day the Steve Irwin will likely arrive in Hobart, Tasmania, for refueling. Once refueled, the Steve Irwin will be able to return to the Japanese whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean before the Yushin Maru 2. Other vessels in the fleet include the Kaiko Maru, the Nisshin Maru and the Yushin Maru 3.

    The crews of the whaling vessels have gone to considerable trouble and expense to outfit their ships with anti-boarding measures, including spikes and nets around the ships. “It really is quite amazing,” says Captain Watson. “The effort and expense that has gone into preventing us from boarding is ambitious. The ships can literally cover themselves with a net that can be deployed like a shower curtain around the vessel. Large fenders and sharp spikes protrude from the sides of the ship. It looks very formidable and very expensive.”

    The Japanese also recently tried to have Australian authorities ban Sea Shepherd from the country’s ports for refueling the Steve Irwin. Australia rebuffed the request, and now Sea Shepherd is working to get the Japanese fleet banned from ports in Indonesia because of their illegal whaling activities in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

    “We have demonstrated that the whalers can be physically stopped,” says Captain Watson. “If we had just one more ship down here, we could stop them by 90 percent, and we could bankrupt them totally. Shutting down illegal whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary is a very doable task. We are doing the best we can with the resources available to us. With more support we could win this war to save the whales.”

    Sea Shepherd is offering a $10,000 reward to anyone able to non-violently prevent the Yushin Maru 2 from departing the harbor for the duration of this year’s whaling season.

    You can bet all this high-seas drama will make for a winning season of Whale Wars.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saying they are prepared for their most violent confrontation yet with the Japanese whaling fleet, campaigners from the animal-rights group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society have set off from Brisbane, Australia, heading toward the Southern Ocean. “We believe the Japanese will be more aggressive and more violent than last year because they are getting desperate, but we feel we have to take these risks to keep the pressure on,” said Captain Paul Watson, founder of Sea Shepherd.

 

The organization’s four-month campaign will be carried out in the Antarctic waters. Japan uses a loophole in a 1986 global agreement that allows lethal research on whales (which is why you see Japan’s whaling ships labeled “Research”).

 

paulwatson_darrylhannahJoining the anti-whaling crew this year is US actress Daryl Hannah, who said the killing of whales would come to an end if governments enforced the anti-whaling laws and Greenpeace worked in unison with the Sea Shepherd. “They are hunting endangered species in a marine protected area,” she said. “It is surprising and shocking to me that governments are not doing this work ― that it is up to individuals and non-government organizations to uphold international law and protect endangered species. If Greenpeace would join forces with Sea Shepherd they would shutdown the whaling industry right away. If they were really serious and held their convictions they could accomplish this.”

 

Captain Watson said there was a need for a second fast ship, which he said would help more than halve the quote of kills and sink the whalers economically. “How much longer can [the Japanese whalers] keep losing profits?” he asked. “Last year they made a $70 million loss. For three years they have been making losses.”

 

Last year’s hunting season saw the Japanese return home with 551 minke whales — almost 300 less than their planned quota, thanks to activists.

 

This year, Sea Shepherd’s campaign has been named “Operation Musashi” in reference to the legendary Japanese strategist Miyamoto Musashi (1584-1645), known as a great samurai warrior, strategist and tactician and a role model and hero to Captain Watson.

 

Musashi’s Book of Five Rings includes the approach of the Twofold Way of Pen and Sword. Sea Shepherd has thus adopted a campaign logo of the crossed feather pen and katana (sword) under the skull with the imbedded sperm whale and dolphin yin-yang symbol with a Banzai flag background, which gives reference to the ecological imperialism that the Japanese whalers are committing against the whales of the Southern Ocean.

 

The Japanese fleet, run by the so-called Japanese Institute of Cetacean Research, set sail from the port of Innoshima, near Hiroshima, last week. The whalers plan to catch up to 935 minke whales and 50 fin whales but no humpbacks, Japanese fisheries officials said.

 

Rest assured that all the drama of this year’s high-seas animal activism will be played out on the new television series Whale Wars.

Captain Paul Watson and his fellow Sea Shepherd activists are preparing to depart Australia at the end of this month to obstruct Japanese whaling activities in the Antarctic Southern Oceans Whale Sanctuary. Last summer, Japan sent coast guard officers down on its whaling ships. This year, Greenpeace believes the Japanese will be sending a coast guard ship to protect its whaling fleet.

 

“It was reported in a Japan fisheries magazine some weeks ago that the equivalent of $8 million has been allocated to the Japanese coast guard to protect the fleet,” said Steve Shallhorn, chief executive of Greenpeace Australia-Pacific. “So, we made the assumption that that amount of money will be used to send a vessel down there.”

 

That realization has apparently scared Greenpeace into cancelling previously announced plans to send a ship to oppose Japanese whaling efforts. This means that the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society will be alone in its high-seas opposition to illegal Japanese whaling operations when the whaling season opens in a month.

 

“They can send the entire Japanese Navy down to the Southern Ocean if they like, but Sea paulwatson1Shepherd and the crew of the Steve Irwin will not be intimidated by this kind of brutal military thuggery,” said Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson. “When we say we put our lives on the line to defend the whales, we mean it. It’s not just a slogan for us. I have not seen a whale die since I left Greenpeace in 1977 and I have no intention of seeing a whale die this year. They don’t kill whales when we show up and they won’t kill whales when we arrive again this year. They will have to sink us first.”

 

Of Greenpeace’s announcement that it has changed its mind about participating, Captain Watson was equally blunt. “As a Greenpeace co-founder, I am deeply offended that Greenpeace has been raising millions of dollars in the name of defending whales all year and now two weeks before the Japanese whaling fleet is scheduled to depart, they announce they will not be going,” he said. “In my opinion they collected funds under false pretenses and now they have abandoned the whales. Shame on them.”

 

Captain Watson added that he intends to sink the Japanese fleet economically. “Our strategy is to … force the Japanese whalers to spend money on fuel without killing whales. We have been the cause of the Japanese whaling fleet losing profits for three years in a row. We intend to make it a fourth year.”

seashepherdSea Shepherd activists have rammed Japanese whaling ships, thrown butyric acid onto their decks and even climbed on board. Then last summer, someone aboard a Japanese whaling ship fired a shot at Captain Watson, hitting his bulletproof vest. The incident is highlighted on the new Animal Planet series Whale Wars.


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