Paul Watson is on the lam, having skipped bail in Germany and gone on the run to avoid possible extradition to Costa Rica, where he is accused of endangering lives by using a Sea Shepherd Conservation Society ship to ram a fishing boat.
No word yet on how the famed environmentalist’s donors and benefactors feel about being out $320,000. Put it on their tab as part of the cost of saving the world.
Adore him or despise him, you have to acknowledge Watson is a first-rate international newshound.
Too bad his group never took up the cause of slaughtered cod with the same passion it devotes to seals.
Perhaps the most illustrative story about the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is an incident several years ago while the group was protesting against Japanese whalers in the Antarctic.
Sea Shepherd members in a zodiac went missing. Getting lost on the North Atlantic would be bad enough; being lost on the Antarctic Ocean would be a death sentence if they weren’t found.
Ironically, the Japanese whaling ship that was the target of the Sea Shepherd Society’s protests joined the search, found the missing zodiac and took the crewmembers aboard.
The rescue must have led to some mighty interesting conversations. What do you say to an adversary who rescues you from certain death? Unfortunately, the media reports at the time did not reveal what the two sides said to each other onboard the Japanese whaler.
But the situation repeated a moral dilemma that has existed for millennia: what do you owe someone who saves your life?
The Sea Shepherd Society’s answer: nothing.
Soon after the protesters were returned to their ship, the society’s campaign of harassing the whaler continued. Amazingly, at one point the protesters threw jars of butyric acid onto the deck of the whaler.
Strange thanks, indeed.
Not surprisingly, the two sides had far different interpretations of the event. The Japanese claimed some crewmembers of the whaler were injured. The sea shepherds claimed they had tossed “stink bombs.”
Who to believe? Both are disreputable. One kills whales, in contravention of a worldwide ban. The other is willing to ram ships. In the Antarctic.
Even Watson’s detractors have to admit he is right as often as he is wrong. A lot of what he says is valid. But when he’s wrong, he’s way wrong.
Was there an utterly immoral and profoundly destructive slaughter of millions of animals taking place for decades in the North Atlantic, which cried out for action by environmentalists and condemnation by conservationists? Yup. But it was of cod, not seals.
The most dislikable thing about Watson is he epitomizes an animal-rights movement that has lost perspective, and equates animal lives with human lives.
Consider his action in 2002 that has Costa Rican authorities seeking his extradition. Coming across a Costa Rican fishing boat engaged in “shark finning” — an illegal and despicable practice, to be sure — a Sea Shepherd Conservation Society ship rammed it and attempted to force it into port.
There are dead sharks on one hand, and possibly dead humans on the other. The two situations are not equal. Love nature and animals all you want, but a dead shark is not worth a dead fisherman.
This critique of the animal-rights movement is not new, of course. The animal-righters have even come up with a term to defend against it. In keeping with our jargon-loving era, they claim that valuing human life over animal life is “species-centric.”
Whatever. In the meantime, Newfoundlanders (and Labradorians) could prove their legendary friendliness by establishing a fund to buy Watson a new pair of running shoes.
Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.