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Japanese Whaling Crisis Escalates
January 16, 2008 12:14 AM   Subscribe

A complex situation has arisen in the Southern Ocean where the Japanese Whaling fleet run by The Institute of Cetacean Research is attempting to slaughter nearly a thousand whales for the much scoffed at purpose of scientific research. Greenpeace located the fleet and claims to have chased the whalers out of hunting grounds. An Australian Federal Court judgement meanwhile has ruled the expedition illegal and imposed an injunction against the illegal whaling in Australian waters. The Japanese do not recognise Australia's claim. The Japanese responded by ignoring the judgement. Now Sea Shephard an activist group have put two of their members aboard a Japanese Ship and claims they were tied to the mast. Despite the Japanese Government saying the activists would be released the ships captain refuses to do so. Recent related post.
posted by dodialog (69 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
This reminded me of a great profile of Paul Watson, who, with his small fleet, has been trying to stop Japanese whaling vessels, but not as politely as Greenpeace:
He calls his fleet Neptune's Navy, and he regards it as a law-enforcement agency. Moments before ramming a vessel, Watson will radio its captain and say something that sounds very official, such as "Please remove yourselves from these waters. You are in violation of international conservation regulations." At times, he loses his cool. "We're no protest ship," he once told an intransigent captain. "Now, get out of here." His sense of urgency, his impressive ego, his argumentativeness, his love of theatrics, his tendency to bend the truth, his willingness to risk lives or injury for his beliefs (or for publicity), and his courage (or recklessness) have earned him both loathing and veneration from those who are familiar with his activism.
posted by gac at 12:29 AM on January 16, 2008


have there been any published studies based on this research? What is it that they're researching that could justify hunting a thousand whales?

sidenote: are whales tasty?
posted by heeeraldo at 12:45 AM on January 16, 2008


What is it that they're researching that could justify hunting a thousand whales?

It's a serious and valid study that's looking into the not-yet-fully-understood relationship between horseshit and whalemeat.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:51 AM on January 16, 2008 [5 favorites]


Apparently, this is all due to an internal communication error within Greenpeace. Those ships were actually assigned to research the Japanese whaling fleet, but took the wrong meaninng.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:55 AM on January 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


I believe they are researching Harpoon Susceptibility in Relationship to Flavour development in Oceangoing Cetacean Populations.

It is truly a noble scientific path.
posted by Lord_Pall at 1:07 AM on January 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


What is it that they're researching that could justify hunting a thousand whales?

The BBC had a bit on Japans so called "scientific research" a while back. Amongst other odd bits of science the ICR believes:

"[...] that killing whales is the only way to determine a whale's age reliably. This is done by examining earplugs, hard waxy structures which accumulate annual growth rings, like those of a tree, as they grow in the whale's ear."

Of course, all that left over whale meat helps pay for these expeditions.
posted by tnai at 1:07 AM on January 16, 2008


They could also be very interested in what is inside all of those whales.
posted by Lord_Pall at 1:07 AM on January 16, 2008


They could also be very interested in what is inside all of those whales.

Hope Jonah speaks Japanese!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:17 AM on January 16, 2008


The Japanese denied tying the two protesters to the mast. Now, if they were tied to the mast (and I'm inclined to think so), this was outdoors, and in the open, and surely the protesters on board the ship would have gotten as close as possible ... wouldn't there be pictures?
posted by aeschenkarnos at 1:30 AM on January 16, 2008


... wouldn't there be pictures?

There were pictures, though they appear to be tied to the handrails, not to the mast.
posted by narge at 1:38 AM on January 16, 2008


flapjax, interesting you should say that, as the BBC correspondent covering the story onboard the Greenpeace ship is called Jonah Fisher.
posted by gene_machine at 1:39 AM on January 16, 2008


Not so much the mast as a mast - a short radar mast. It's not like those Japanese scurvy dogs were readyin' the ol' cat'o'nine tails, arrrgh...

Pictures - very small unclear ones - are on the website, as mentioned in the audio. From those, it looks like they were secured at the end of a reasonably long rope or chain.

Myself, I dunno what else you'd expect after boarding a boat illegally. An invitation to a nice cup of tea seems a little lenient; being forced to walk the plank seems a bit harsh.
posted by Pinback at 1:41 AM on January 16, 2008


posted by Mitrovarr Apparently, this is all due to an internal communication error within Greenpeace. Those ships were actually assigned to research the Japanese whaling fleet, but took the wrong meaninng.

This is true. The message sent to the Greenpeace ship simply said, "Dudes, stop whaling!"
posted by fandango_matt at 1:50 AM on January 16, 2008


Harpooned: The Japanese Cetacean Research Simulator.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:01 AM on January 16, 2008


They went after the harpoonists in a vessel named Steve Irwin? Classy.

Also: are the whalers committing evil in the name of science?
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 2:21 AM on January 16, 2008


This is not a snark -perhaps someone can enlighten me- but why does whaling encourage such bitter debates?

It seems to me there are plenty of worse things that go on in the world than whaling that no one really seems to bother their arses about (or at least do not generate the same amount of news coverage). Is it because there is the element of adventure or that young blade ecowarriors pursuing a boat across the high seas is seemingly glamorous? I would imagine chasing Japanese whaling boats is a damned site more exciting than other forms of environmental conservation/animal protection and hence generates more publicity. For example, I would have thought overfishing of the likes of cod would have much more implications for humanity/the ecosystem as a whole than whaling.

As I say, this is a point on which I am not up to speed at all, and it would be good to hear someone say as to why I should be more upset about this than other things that go on. I would expect that some Mefites will be much more up on this than elsewhere and may explain it better than the 30 second article on the news.
posted by ClanvidHorse at 2:54 AM on January 16, 2008


Science? Buncha assholes. I gotcha science for ya, right here. Ooof! That's right, that was my fist planted in yer kisser! How you like them apples?
posted by From Bklyn at 2:55 AM on January 16, 2008


sidenote: are whales tasty?
with a little ginger, cinnamon and almonds, yes.
posted by sushiwiththejury at 2:58 AM on January 16, 2008


As I say, this is a point on which I am not up to speed at all, and it would be good to hear someone say as to why I should be more upset about this than other things that go on. I would expect that some Mefites will be much more up on this than elsewhere and may explain it better than the 30 second article on the news.


You admit you're not up to speed, you make no individual effort to get informed despite having internet access and you still express your uninformed opinion. Then you expect help. Surely there is name for this kind of lazy push poll'ish information vampirism where you get to express an opinion in a way that protects you from criticism (I know nothing!) and wastes the time of people who do believe in a cause (please help me google!).
posted by srboisvert at 3:24 AM on January 16, 2008 [6 favorites]


Ok Srboisvert. I take your point. If it makes you feel better I will get working on a neologism at the moment to help your sanctimonious ass feel better.

If you read what I said, I didn't really comment on the barbarism of whaling itself, I wanted to know why the debates were so bitter around it compared to other environmental stories. Why does it ride higher up the news agenda than other human-perpetrated environmental damages? Is it human sentimentality? You can bet that TV execs are sitting considering whether the footage is any good before they decide whether it makes the ten o'clock news. That's a helluva lot harder to find out from Google than what whaling is, and, rightly or wrongly, I thought MeFites could point me in the right direction.

Yes, I could have worded it better, but I wasn't asking if whaling itself was bad, I was principally concerned as to why it gets pushed up the news agenda further than other stuff.
posted by ClanvidHorse at 3:53 AM on January 16, 2008 [3 favorites]


srboisvert: Now that's snark!

ClanvidHorse:
Guilt - whales were one of the first cases where we realised we were on the verge of wiping out whole species, we felt bad about it, and cared enough to change our ways. Not quite to the extent that we'd like to think though - by the time the West stopped whaling around the end of the 60's, pretty much every whale product had already been replaced by cheaper & better alternatives, so we weren't inconveniencing ourselves too much

Anthropomorphism - we look into the eyes of this big dumb cute creature, and think we see an intelligence similar to our own. If they looked like 50' long cockroaches, no-one would care.
posted by Pinback at 3:57 AM on January 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


It's interesting how sea Sheppard has managed to win this media stoush. The whalers sure overreached by cable tying the protesters to the railings/mast, knowing that they were being filmed.

My inner PR agent is telling me that they should have politely accepted the letter then bade the protesters goodbye.

Latest news is the whalers may have asked the Australian customs ship to intervene and remove the protesters.

ClanvidHorse, whales are large endangered animals that are killed in a brutal, painful fashion. True, there is the argument that we don’t wring our hands over cows, pigs and chickens. It's true these are often kept in horrible conditions, but usually dispatched fairly humanely.

Whales are harpooned, and often take hours to die. Often a slower mother is harpooned and the calf will stay with her until she is winched on board. The calf will often be taken to.

It's pretty emotional stuff.
posted by mattoxic at 4:03 AM on January 16, 2008


I don't find humpbacks to be particularly cute. Do you have some evidence refuting the notion of whales' intelligence? I think that notion is the real reason hunting them has become repugnant.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:09 AM on January 16, 2008


...whales are large endangered animals that are killed in a brutal, painful fashion. True, there is the argument that we don’t wring our hands over cows, pigs and chickens. It's true these are often kept in horrible conditions, but usually dispatched fairly humanely. ... It's pretty emotional stuff.

Plus whales are a helluva lot smarter than cows and pigs and chickens, so that's a big part of it too. It's the brutal, painful killing of fellow planetary citizens that have big brains.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:10 AM on January 16, 2008


There are only so many whales and they are being killed faster than they can replenish their species.

There is no good reason for it. At all. What-so-ever. As food-stuffs? Fuck off.

You are watching the idiot-destructive abilities of man. They know better, they do it anyway. That does tend to get the heart pumping.
posted by From Bklyn at 5:04 AM on January 16, 2008


Kirth Gerson: as everybody seems to be demonstrating, it's a loaded and emotional minefield. There's plenty of reasonable evidence to drive arguments either way, not the least because we really don't have any clear guidelines and definition of "intelligence". Note I was careful to say "intelligence similar to our own", not just "intelligence".

An example of a fairly easy to read (if just slightly dated) rundown of some issues of comparing cetacean intelligence, by a researcher in the field of mammalian ecology and animal welfare, can be read here. I won't deny that someone could easily find something arguing the opposite case. I also won't deny that essay was written before some of the latest info e.g. that spindle neurons similar to those found in primates have been found in certain whale species.

Really, I don't have a leg in either camp. Except to note that if we do collectively decide, without a clear definition of what makes any other animal worthy of special protection due to its intelligence, we're opening a huge can of worms. For instance, on some behavioural measures, certain corvids / pigs / mustelids show more 'intelligence' than whales. That may, in fact, be a can of worms worth opening sometime soon.

Apart from that, I'll agree the methods used to kill whales during hunting are barbaric. However, to deny that our distaste for whaling is based on anything other than sympathy for a particular imagined and/or unproven level of fellow intelligence is disingenuous.

(Sorry, no more from me - it's bedtime...)
posted by Pinback at 5:10 AM on January 16, 2008


I used to argue about this with my Tokyo-born griflriend all the time... where I see an intelligent, endangered creature she sees a whopping big piece of tasty sea meat. Whales were commonly served as a part of school lunch in Japan, so it almost yells "comfort food." The Japanese get stuck on the stubborn idea that the Outside-World is telling "us" what we can do and eat, which of course, is not what "we" will do. The idea that a whale - or an ape, or a parrot - is considered to possess intelligence comparable to a hman is side splittingly laughable to a Japanese. Telling my girlfriend that whales are mammals came as a surprise - "look at them" she said, "they are fish!" And then, there is the sense that if it lives in the sea, it should be on the market at Tsukuji Fish market at all costs. I'm cool with the wonton slaughter of sea squirts, fugu and urchins... but I kinda think whales ought to have a chance to develope capitalism on their own time.
posted by zaelic at 5:14 AM on January 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


More than guilt over an ignorant mistake - cetaceans represent a great deal that we do not know about our planet and the oceans that cover most of it.

We barely even know our oceans - and we've damn near half killed them already.

I've seen grey whales up close, and I've been in the ocean with wild dolphins. I know at least a bit about them and the history of whaling.

I've seen cows up close, probably more than I have whales or dolphins. I know a bit about them, and the history of cattle and modern farming and slaughterhouses.

I'll eat cow.

I probably wouldn't eat whale, dolphins or other cetaceans. It would feel way too close to eating people to me.

It's an arbitrary judgement, I suppose. Cows are really, really dumb. Cows are so dumb that the'll get stuck in shallow hollows or ditches because they can't "see" any way to get out. Granted, it's partially our fault for selectively breeding them for it.

Cetaceans have a remarkable amount of intelligence. There's signs of complex language in many species. Dolphins may even have a "image" based language in which complex descriptions of three-dimensional objects (visible to their sonar/echolocation - like ultrasound or infrasound imaging) are rendered by whistling and repeating the sounds they sensed while imaging.

Some cetaceans have shown to be self-aware - able to infer that video or mirror reflections are indeed themselves. They solve puzzles, understand logic concepts as primates do, if not with more skill. They're so intelligent that keeping them captive is extremely difficult, and I can only imagine any attempts to farm them for whatever reason would be disasterous.

These aren't dumb animals. Remember, cetaceans are mammals that once walked on land, but somehow returned to the ocean. Some species have vestigal thumbs. Some species have body-to-brain ratios competitive with ours.

Most importantly to me, cetaceans represent the possibility or potential for other intelligent, reasoning or thinking life right here on Earth with us.

Wouldn't it suck if - perhaps along with the apes and primates - we managed to kill off all the other species on this planet that we might ever possibly be able to have a real conversation with?
posted by loquacious at 5:17 AM on January 16, 2008 [8 favorites]


I was principally concerned as to why it gets pushed up the news agenda further than other stuff.

I believe the technical term is Me-Too-ism. The more likely it is that you think others will share your belief, the more likely it is that you'll raise a ruckus.

See also: pedophiles.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:26 AM on January 16, 2008


I'm totally hoping that the Sea Shepherd folks sink some of those ships...
posted by schyler523 at 6:04 AM on January 16, 2008


mattoxic: My inner PR agent is telling me that they should have politely accepted the letter then bade the protesters goodbye.

Far East nations handle PR quite differently than Western nations. Which brings up this earlier question:

ClanvidHorse: If you read what I said, I didn't really comment on the barbarism of whaling itself, I wanted to know why the debates were so bitter around it compared to other environmental stories.

Due to the whole idea of "losing face", the Japanese whaling industry (and to a lesser extent, Japan in general) just doesn't play by the same PR rules and expectations that western whale conservationists are used to, and vice versa. So you end up with big high-profile shouting matches and potentially racially offensive protests that pretty much do nothing constructive to advance matters. If anything, they just alienate the two sides even further.

It's great for playing to your base, though, which is why it continues despite its impotence. Japanese nationalists can continue decrying the foreigners who refuse to show respect, and the conservationists can continue keeping their emotional egos and the cause celebre in the limelight. It's win-win situation for everyone except the whales.

---

Given that:
(1) Japan's current large-scale food whaling was actually introduced by General MacArthur after WW2, and could be easily framed as a sign of Japanese weakness instead of Japanese tradition.
(2) Japan is currently experiencing a boom in "green" practices in general, partly tied to Shinto animistic traditions (as well as the usual practical reasons that living on a resource-poor island entail).
(3) Most Japanese really don't give a crap about eating whale anyway.

It would be straightforward enough to formulate strategies to halt whaling that don't require that the Japanese give in and "lose face" to foreign demands. But such strategies go contrary to what the whale conservation movement is used to. The movement is accustomed to adopting a directly confrontational hostile warfare mentality that "teaches those dirty whale-killers a lesson" through highly visible PR spectacles and emotionally-charged public shaming rituals.

In short, the whale conservation movement currently works mainly through "face-destroying" tactics, and the Japanese will never ever cooperate with that, even if they are sympathetic to the idea of environmental conservation in general.
posted by PsychoKick at 6:15 AM on January 16, 2008 [37 favorites]


PsychoKick, kudos! That's an excellent elucidation of the psychologies involved. Nail on the head.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:26 AM on January 16, 2008


So...do ships such as these still even have masts? And for what?
posted by Pecinpah at 6:28 AM on January 16, 2008


Better to be tied to the railings than keelhauled. (I know, that's kind of a dumb comment, but I just like the word keelhauled.)

Oh, and... blow-hole!
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:33 AM on January 16, 2008


mattoxic: My inner PR agent is telling me that they should have politely accepted the letter then bade the protesters goodbye.

According to the Japanese, the boarders threw bottles of acid and trying to entangle the propeller. With Sea Shepherd that wouldn't be out of form. So it seems completely justified to held the boarders. If you play pirate, prepare to be treated like one, sorry.
posted by Skeptic at 6:36 AM on January 16, 2008


As for eating intelligent animals, squid, octopus and other cephalopods are quite intelligent also, some are dexterous tool-users.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:38 AM on January 16, 2008


Nobody is answering the real question:

IS MR. SPLASHY PANTS OK?
posted by Rock Steady at 6:40 AM on January 16, 2008


Thanks Psychokick that was exactly the kind of thing I was looking for prior to the srboisvert snarkattack.
posted by ClanvidHorse at 6:40 AM on January 16, 2008


Whales are also one of the species that cannot be protected locally due to their vast migrations. Protecting them off the coast of Hawaii does little to protect them if they're being slaughtered elsewhere. When people spend vast amounts of time and energy to protect something, only to have it undone by others, it obviously raises the emotional anger level.
posted by Crash at 8:27 AM on January 16, 2008


From the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea:

Article 101. Definition of piracy

Piracy consists of any of the following acts:

(a) any illegal acts of violence or detention, or any act of depredation, committed for private ends by the crew or the passengers of a private ship or a private aircraft, and directed:

(i) on the high seas, against another ship or aircraft, or against persons or property on board such ship or air-craft;

(ii) against a ship, aircraft, persons or property in a place outside the jurisdiction of any State;

(b) any act of voluntary participation in the operation of a ship or of an aircraft with knowledge of facts making it a pirate ship or aircraft;

(c) any act of inciting or of intentionally facilitating an act des cribed in subparagraph (a) or (b).

Article 103. Definition of a pirate ship or aircraft

A ship or aircraft is considered a pirate ship or aircraft if it is intended by the persons in dominant control to be used for the purpose of committing one of the acts referred to in article 101. The same applies if the ship or aircraft has been used to commit any such act, so long as it remains under the control of the persons guilty of that act.

-----

Ignoring the emotional issue of killing whales and all that, I think the Japanese captain displayed remarkable restraint in only detaining these guys and not repelling their boarding with force.

I'm with Skeptic...do the crime, do the time.
posted by kjs3 at 8:29 AM on January 16, 2008


They must be researching Encephalon Surround Sound. (Mentioned on Gary's blog at Infinite Solutions).
posted by christopherious at 9:04 AM on January 16, 2008


Nobody is answering the real question:

IS MR. SPLASHY PANTS OK?


Should be - the Japanese declared a moratorium on the humpback hunt this year. Greenpeace activists are blogging their efforts to stop the rest of the commercial hunt from the deck of the Esperanza, and there's a general whaling info page here.
posted by gompa at 9:18 AM on January 16, 2008


If they looked like 50' long cockroaches, no-one would care.

Actually if their reprodcution rates were the same as cockroaches, no one would care...(as much).

I never did quite understand the argument that implies you only care about the one specified topic, rather than you are expressing a concern about the topic at hand.
posted by P.o.B. at 9:25 AM on January 16, 2008


Also: an informative Japanese activist's op-ed on his nation's attitudes toward the whale hunt.

The crux of it:

The fact that whaling was a non-issue to most Japanese was reflected in a 2006 survey conducted by the Nippon Research Centre, which showed that more than 95 per cent of the public had never or very rarely eaten whale meat.

It also found that 90 per cent of Japanese people had no idea their government hunted whales in the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary, and once they were aware of it, 69 per cent disagreed with it.

Japan currently has 4000 tonnes of frozen whale meat in storage, and in an attempt to get rid of the unwanted meat it is fed to schoolchildren and served free at some local festivals.


From this angle, it would seem to be a simple issue of raising awareness inside Japan. Greenpeace should've done the Mr. Splashy logo anime-style, made him the star of a manga comic.
posted by gompa at 9:26 AM on January 16, 2008


This is not a snark -perhaps someone can enlighten me- but why does whaling encourage such bitter debates?

First is the biological risk of losing entire species, even an entire family of organisms. Millions of years of evolution's slow work will be undone in decades. Cod will not go extinct from fishing, their populations will be reduced until the point where it's uneconomic to run the large boats to cause such damage. see EDGE; the explanations of their methodology for prioritizing conservation efforts in a dying world may convince you.

Second is the anthropomorphic similarities of cetaceans to humans, and the long-standing, institutionalized efforts at cetacean conservation, as noted.

Lastly, and not touched upon, is the lawless nature of the Sea. Sure, there are rules written in a book in Europe somewhere, but because no human actually regularly lives upon the seas, state and international / multilateral agreements are usually so much paper. I refer you to the giant gyre of waste plastic in the Pacific. All lawful, reasonable efforts seem to have been made.

The Sea Shepard crew, flawed as they are, are really the only ones forcing the issue, testing the legitimacy and contradictory nature of the laws on paper.

When the law is contradictory, can pirates and outlaws be blamed for acting in (one) spirit of the law? It reminds me that to be a legal immigrant into the US, you often have to break a few immigration laws.
posted by eustatic at 9:30 AM on January 16, 2008


Pirates and outlaws do whatever the hell they want. Personally I think whatever they get is too good for them. Hell yeah I blame them. You want individuals to enforce international conventions? I guess that'll work. We can just root for the terrorists we agree with as usual.
posted by Wood at 12:43 PM on January 16, 2008


We can just root for the terrorists we agree with as usual.

Yes... The Japanese culinary nation is held in thrall and horror. Wondering where, oh where, will these dastardly evil ocean going whale loving hippies strike next!?!

My god! They could take away our eleventh course Bento! Well. They must be stopped by any means necessary. Because in the absence of any international enforcement of international laws and treaties individuals protecting endangered species is EXACTLY like piratarcy and terrorism!

I mean, c'mon. Our appetites and recipes trump moral and legal considerations. We demand to have the right to hunt to extinction entire species that we think they are yummy!
posted by tkchrist at 12:58 PM on January 16, 2008


piratarcy... heh heh... "piracy"
posted by tkchrist at 12:59 PM on January 16, 2008


tkchrist, you agree with the hippies's goals, fine, root for them & I'll root for the whalers.

I used the word terrorism because they sink ships. What's legal about what they're doing? What court or institution justifies what they're doing? There have been thousands of people in history who have "taken the law into their own hands." This is an expression, not a legal act. Anyway I'm going to be late for jury duty. Gotta support the process ya know!
posted by Wood at 1:10 PM on January 16, 2008


whales are cool. they should not be killed. activists, however, sometimes go too far. that's what they do, act.
here in berkeley there are people living in trees to try and save them (the trees, that is). "the man" has put up big fences around them, with barbed wire on top.
I for one like trees and whales, but I do not live in a tree, I live in a house. Either the activists like trees and whales more than me, or they don't have much else to do. They are like tom cruise, and do not want to be spectators. So, in summary, I really think whales are cool, but I do not live in a tree. In other words: dead whales are sad, but I am content as a spectator.

pass the popcorn
posted by whahappen?! at 1:55 PM on January 16, 2008


tkchrist: (Overwrought histrionics deleted)

Ends justifies means. Got it.
posted by kjs3 at 2:01 PM on January 16, 2008


tkchrist: (Overwrought histrionics deleted)

I don't think you know what those mean. Perhaps you mean "Overwrought sarcasm."

Comparing the Sea Shepard people to terrorists? Now THAT'S hysterical.

Hysterically funny, that is.
posted by tkchrist at 2:06 PM on January 16, 2008


"taken the law into their own hands."

So what? Name an official LEO entity that is enforcing and preventing illegal whaling in international waters BY INTERVENTION. Who is Sea Shepard gonna call? The US navy? Ghost Busters?

There is no global entity to enforce these laws and treaties that Japan and other nations have agreed to. So while you wring your hands over the poor terrified Japanese whaling fleet an entire species is wiped off the planet forever. For profit.

Calling these people "terrorists" is absurd. Do you you even know what a terrorist IS? Use of force does not imply one is a terrorist.

If you are being mugged and there is no law entity to protect you and somebody jumps to your aid and beats up your attacker are THEY a terrorist for taking the law into their own hands?

No. We call that, at worst, vigilantism. And there are times vigilantism IS justified.
posted by tkchrist at 2:18 PM on January 16, 2008


his·tri·on·ics - 1 : theatrical performances 2 : deliberate display of emotion for effect

Nope. I pretty much think I've got it.

ter·ror·ism - : the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion

Attempting to disable a ship at sea. Committing what could certainly be considered an act of piracy, at least in the technical sense. Sinking fishing boats of people they don't agree with. Ramming boats of people they don't agree with. Destroying property of people they don't agree with. Throwing butyric acid on people (truely vile stuff if not terrible dangerous). Generally attempting to intimidate people into doing what they want through violent means.

Being on the "right side" of this issue isn't the point. One mans "direct action" (nice euphemism) is another mans terrorism. Wood has you pegged, you're just rooting for the terrorist you agree with.
posted by kjs3 at 2:22 PM on January 16, 2008


See also: Earth First.
posted by fandango_matt at 2:44 PM on January 16, 2008


the systematic use of terror

Oh fucking PLEASE. THIS is what qualifies as the systematic use of "terror" in your book?

You get the definition you deserve, my friend. Good luck with that.
posted by tkchrist at 3:20 PM on January 16, 2008


ClanvidHorse: If you read what I said, I didn't really comment on the barbarism of whaling itself, I wanted to know why the debates were so bitter around it compared to other environmental stories.

I suppose it depends on your definition of "bitter", but the debates around the listing of the Northern Spotted Owl on the endangered species list was white-hot. Judi Bari, an environmentalist and leader of Earth First! who gained recognition for her anti-logging/save-the-redwoods work, was badly injured in a car bombing. Likewise, see any discussion regarding water use in the Western U.S., e.g. the Klamath water wars. While the spotted owl was certainly cute, the Klamath basin situation eventually coalesced around the survival of the salmon that rely on the Klamath river. Salmon are delicious, but not cute (IMO).
posted by rtha at 3:48 PM on January 16, 2008


I'm not particularly attached to the word terrorism. I do think this goes beyond simple vigilantism, it has political and coercive goals. What do you call the systematic use of violence as a means of coercion?

Your mugging example, tkchrist, is barely even vigilantism. Is self-defense vigilantism now? Unlike your example, most vigilantism is noxious. If your example is vigilantism then it is one extreme and the other would be a lynch mob. I'm not comparing Sheppard to a lynch mob just pointing out that they lie somewhere in this continuum and neither example proves much of anything.

How are we to determine where to draw the line? Just gut check it? Because we obviously disagree & I admit that I'm going based on my gut and my experiences.

As to the law, though, I just don't buy it for a second. I've spent the last few days in jury duty. I believe law exists in a context. Sure that doesn't define morality but if you're going to go out and do what you feel is right don't pretend you're enforcing the law. The context for international treaties is that they are agreements between sovereign nations with extremely limited enforcement. The enforcement is in fact either also consensual or aggressive actions taken by other nations. There's precious little room in there for boat-owners. Japan didn't have to sign any whaling treaties & they didn't sign up for Sea Sheppard's bullshit in any case.
posted by Wood at 4:04 PM on January 16, 2008


Bush Attempts Illegal Override of Court Order Protecting Whales from Sonar
posted by homunculus at 4:39 PM on January 16, 2008


Japan didn't have to sign any whaling treaties

That's the core of the problem, really. The whalers are a commercial interest, not a national navy. International law comes down to bigger guns and brinkmanship. If the situation gets to the point where any given whaling ship is "escorted" by Australian navy ships and Japanese navy ships, that'll serve to warn off the whales, which will be just fine from the point of view of anti-whaling activists. The Sea Shepherd crew fully expected, I think, to have their members taken hostage and an international kerfuffle to develop. This is all to the good.

Now were I PM I would grant Sea Shepherd a letter of marque giving them the exclusive right to hunt whales by whatever offensive means they consider appropriate (for example, strong language and rude gestures) under the Australian flag, and to take whatever steps they deem necessary to resist interference with this hunt from other vessels. (That is, the same as whatever basis the Japanese are using to claim a right for their hunts to not be interfered with.) Amusing as that would be, it won't happen.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 7:26 PM on January 16, 2008


International law comes down to bigger guns and brinkmanship.

Or negotiation. In treaty bound negotiation forums. Which exist for all relevant treaties here. Along with the associated procedure for conducting those negotiations.

But it's much more sexy to make it about guns than about what's really in the treaty.

Granted, the Japanese are bucking the system, but as has been pointed out quite well in this thread, that's probably *because* of antics from people like Sea Shepherd.

Douchebags inside of Japan are being enabled by douchebags outside of Japan. Way to go.

Of course, in other context, declaring negotiations to have failed, the accepted international process abandon, and violence now acceptable is appalling.

See: Iraq.

It's all about perspective.

Now were I PM I would grant Sea Shepherd a letter of marque

Great idea. Let's let national interests in the service of highly emotional niche causes endorse state sponsored piracy. That won't escalate at all. It's not like you'd find those Japanese whalers mounting sophisticated anti-ship weapons 5 minutes after Sea Shepherd gets a license to kill. Then what? What happens when they sink the "Steve Irwin"? A shooting war?

This is a better situation?
posted by kjs3 at 7:58 PM on January 16, 2008


How about anti-douchebag vigilantism? Is that terrorism?
posted by saysthis at 1:31 AM on January 17, 2008


This is a better situation?

Well, no, not really. :)

But I think there is some core of merit in the idea of authorizing whalers who don't actually catch whales, to be out there competing for space and whatever with whalers who do. If the Japanese will agree to maintain a certain distance from other ships in the area, just put out more "whaling ships", none of which need even be big enough to catch a whale, and block 'em out. Wouldn't stop all of the whaling, but it would make it a lot more of a nuisance to do, and if it's not commercially profitable for a few seasons in a row, it will stop.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 4:02 AM on January 17, 2008


aeschenkarnos Now were I PM I would grant Sea Shepherd a letter of marque giving them the exclusive right to hunt whales by whatever offensive means they consider appropriate (for example, strong language and rude gestures) under the Australian flag, and to take whatever steps they deem necessary to resist interference with this hunt from other vessels. (That is, the same as whatever basis the Japanese are using to claim a right for their hunts to not be interfered with.)

First of all, privateering (state-sponsored piracy) is as good as forbidden by international law since the beginning of the twentieth century, by conventions ratified by both Australia and Japan. Secondly, even before that, it was an act of war. So, you want to start a war with Japan?
posted by Skeptic at 4:06 AM on January 17, 2008


Granted, the Japanese are bucking the system, but as has been pointed out quite well in this thread, that's probably *because* of antics from people like Sea Shepherd.

Douchebags inside of Japan are being enabled by douchebags outside of Japan. Way to go.


Sooo let them do what they want?

I always thought I might as well be an asshole if the other person else is being an asshole.
posted by P.o.B. at 8:37 AM on January 17, 2008


P.o.B.: Sooo let them do what they want? I always thought I might as well be an asshole if the other person else is being an asshole.

In this case, being an asshole is letting them do what they want.

Asshole behavior is exactly what the Japanese whaling industry wants. It can't survive based on food or scientific demand, because there basically is none. Whaling can only survive based on political usefulness. As long as the whale conservationists continue to fulfill the "asshole foreigner telling us what to do" stereotype, the whale hunters are politically valuable as "Japanese tradition to be protected from asshole foreigners".
posted by PsychoKick at 11:03 AM on January 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Lets get some things straight here.

First, the Paul Watson's Sea Shepherd ship is called the Steve Irwin...with Terri Irwin's permission and blessings.

Next, the Sea Shepherd is taking on the whale-genocidal boats of the Japanese after the whale-killers have 1) refused to stop killing whales in Australian waters, and 2) completely disregarded Australian sovereignty on the matter. Provocation for attack by Australian-supported/endorsed Sea Shepard on said whale-slaughtering ships thus justified and legal, as well as rendered quid pro quo.

And, cetaceans — all whales are cetaceans — have a significant and complex form of communication which includes names. Cows do not. Corvids/pigs/mustelids do not. Hypothetical 50-foot cockroaches do not.

Plus, the Institute of Cetacean Research is a flack organization supported by a private industry dedicated to the genocidal taking of a species that is historically well-established to be of profound emotional complexity.

What more, the emotional sensibility of cetaceans (whales and dolphins), something which has been understood and passed down in history as colloquial wisdom for millenniums [plural], is at last backed by precious science!

Not to mention, whaling and whalers are euphemistic anachronisms which (consciously or unconsciously) invalidate the atrocity to which they refer. Be that as it may that, "slaving has been around forever," and one's family has "been slavers for generations," such history did not, does not, or will ever validate slavery. Likewise, the same is (now/at last) true of whaling, whalers, and — [sic] — "whale industry."

Lastly, as for "the taste" of whale: Unable to make a distinction between food-hunted-for-family and family-hunted-for-food is to miss the bigger picture. Seen with correct perspective, the plate one believes to be eating from is, in this circumstance, the plate one is also being served upon.

It is the 21st Century. Either learn about whales and what they are really, or get in line with homo erectus.
posted by humannaire at 2:35 AM on January 24, 2008


Australian sovereignity over Antarctic waters is heavily disputed & the fact that the Australian government has done nothing practical to enforce their law only makes their claims more dubious.

What is Sea Sheppard's legal authority? Is your theory that they're privateers sanctioned by the Austrialian government or something?
posted by Wood at 2:21 PM on January 28, 2008


Heavily disputed? Australia only exerts its sovereignty in order to sustain and support the Antarctic Treaty System, which Japan signed, and which includes the Agreed Measures for the Conservation of Antarctic Fauna and Flora ('82 addendum, "to further international collaboration within the framework of the Antarctic Treaty to promote and achieve the objectives of protection, scientific study, and rational use of these fauna and flora"), and 2) the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources ('82 addendum, "to safeguard the environment and protect the integrity of the ecosystem of the seas surrounding Antarctica, and to conserve Antarctic marine living resources").

Where's the dispute? Australia signed the agreement essentially forfeiting its sovereignty as long as all the other signee nations uphold their end of honoring the Antarctic Treaty System. When the Treaty is being in ethically circumvented, Australia, as one of the five signing nations who actually had territorial claims, is well within their rights to argue for violation of national waters, which is what it is doing. What more, Australia is doing so to bring attention to the auspices of the Treaty which Japan is failing to keep.

What else you are missing, wood, is that Japan signed the Treaty. Japan is legally and ethically bound by its own international guarantee not to kill whales in Antarctic waters. But that's the whole point of using the Institute of Cetacean Research; as I pointed out above, it's is an industry shill.

Now perhaps you understand Japan's entire whale-killing-for-scientific-purposes. It's a work around to kill whales in order to argue that Japan is keeping their end of the Treaty, and that's all.

"Legal authority"? Again, you fail to grasp the situation here, wood. Whales are being killed, and the nation doing the killing is intentionally circumventing the law, and they are being killed in the waters of another nation whose official scientific position since the mid-1970's has been that species of whales may well not only be intelligent but people.

And if whales are people, what question is there then about "legal authority" when they are being slaughtered? Do people who fight against slavers require specific legal authority? Do people who protect children from marauding bands of killers during times of civil war need a social contract to do so?

Wrong and injustice is being done to innocents within the framework of law. Paul Watson is one of the people who is authorized by many nations and many individual to defend our whales.
posted by humannaire at 5:24 PM on January 29, 2008


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