Back in the cold war days when an American nuclear submarine was tailing a Soviet submarine, they would cruise in the prop wash of the Soviet sub undetected. Every once and awhile however the Soviet submarine commander would perform what was called a "crazy Ivan." He would suddenly perform a one hundred and eighty degree turn to catch the stalking sub on his tail. Needless to say this was a dangerous maneuver that sometimes resulted in some embarrassing collisions.
Down here in the much colder war in the Ross Sea, the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin and the Japanese whaling fleet are engaged in a hot pursuit across the icy waters. The Steve Irwin has had the fleet on the run for three solid days and no one, not even the Japanese whalers have any idea where the ships are running to.
It's a voyage to nowhere and the whaling ships are literally running around in circles. We have been calling their crazy Ivan movements "crazy Joes" in honour of the crazy guy in charge of the Japanese whalers, Joji Morishita.
So it's unexpected turns, circles and a back and forth scurrying across the Ross Sea. At 0720 on February 3rd, the Nisshin Maru did a one hundred and eighty degree turn and headed back the way she had come on a course of one hundred and ninety seven degrees. Twelve hours and a hundred miles later, the Nisshin Maru did yet another one eighty and proceeded back on the path it had just covered. And throughout the day the whaling ship would do circles as if confused as to what direction to go.
Onboard the Steve Irwin, we don't really care what direction they go or how many circles they perform. We're quite satisfied to follow along knowing that they are not killing whales.
Today the seas were quite rough and it was a bouncing, bucking, rolling, ride but tomorrow promises to be a calmer day, perhaps even a sunny day, and if so we will dispatch our small boats and our helicopter to harass them some more.
Every day they run without killing whales, they burn twenty-five tons of fuel for nothing. They keep their high pressure water cannons on continuously and that alone burns about two tons of fuel a day. Burning fuel without doing anything profitable for the company is not good business. On top of that over a hundred workers are sitting idly in their cabins and the whale meat processing machinery necessary for their "research" is shut down.
Without whales to cut up, package and freeze for shipment there's not much else to do. They could of course be taking observations of whales, testing water temperatures, conducting experiments to investigate global warming but such research does not fall into their narrow definition of what whale research is.
Japanese whale research is restricted to marketing and product development. There is also work being done to improve the efficiency of quick freezing techniques. Since 1986 when this weird research program began (the same year that the global moratorium on commercial whaling was made law), the Japanese "researchers" have not published a single peer reviewed scientific paper on their observations or discoveries.
The Japanese Institute for Cetacean Research however says it is necessary for this "research" to be lethal. The very idea of lethal research leaves a bad taste and conjures up memories of Dr. Mengle and the infamous medical research conducted on Jews and Gypsies in Germany or upon Chinese and Australians during World War II by the Japanese associates of the Nazi monsters who tortured, maimed, terrorized and killed so many millions.
Whereas German society now looks on in absolute abhorrence of those atrocities, the Japanese government has not evolved much in the last half century. They still refuse to acknowledge the injustices perpetrated on thousands of Korean women, and they still refuse to acknowledge the brutal rape of Nanking. And what they do to the gentlest and most intelligent creatures in the sea is merely an extension of the merciless nationalistic horror that they so recently inflicted upon their fellow human beings.
The stabbing, spearing, slashing and bludgeoning of over twenty thousand defenceless dolphins every year on Japanese beaches and the merciless harpooning of endangered and protected whales using grenade tipped harpoons that kill these magnificent animals in a manner so cruel that no abattoir in the civilized world would ever tolerate such abuses.
The Japanese whalers love to say that there is no difference between them eating whale and Americans eating a hamburger or the Australians eating lamb. They use this comparison to suggest that their critics are hypocrites. And yet when my crew and I reply that we are vegans and vegetarians, they retaliate with charges of fanaticism. Eat meat and oppose whaling and they view you as a hypocrite. Refrain from eating meat and they call you crazy. So meat eating whale defenders are hypocrites and fanatical vegan whale defenders are no different in the eyes of the whalers.
Yet there are profound differences between eating that hamburger and eating a whale. First the whale is a natural creature of the wild, living in highly social family units, displaying incredible abilities in communication and self awareness. It is a thinking animal on a level equal to and perhaps more than a human being. It is an animal that possesses the largest and most complex brain on the planet. Whereas the human brain is around 1300 cubic centimetres, the brain of an Orca is 6,000 cubic centimetres and the brain of the Sperm whale, the largest brain to have ever evolved on this planet is 9,000 cubic centimetres and all cetaceans, dolphins and whales have four lobed brains with more convulsions on the neo-cortex than the three lobed human brain.
Would we kill a highly intelligent alien being that came to Earth to visit us just because it looks different? Well, of course some ignorant people would, but for the most part we would spare the life of an alien in return for the knowledge that the alien could possibly teach us, just as there is so much to learn about the oceans and about consciousness and intelligence from cetaceans.
The whale is a wild animal, stolen from the wild ocean from a relatively small population base. This is much different than a domesticated animal, fed and raised by a farmer in massive numbers. There is no danger of a cow going extinct because it is eaten. There is a danger of it going extinct if it is not eaten. There is a very real danger of whales and dolphins going extinct if they are eaten.
One could say the same for fish and it would also be true because most commercial fisheries are in a state of economic collapse because of over exploitation. Fishermen don't raise fish in the sea, they steal them from the wild and the salmon that they do raise in floating pens are fed fish that are stolen from the wild.
From the perspective of animal welfare there are also great differences. As mentioned before no abattoir in the civilized world including Japan, would condone the practises of the whaling industry. Consider the outrage if cows were killed by driving a spear into their back as they ran through the field until it dropped from exhaustion and then had a car battery attached to it and electrocuted for another 10 minutes to kill it. The Spanish bullfights are of course exactly like that and condemned because of the bloody brutality of their so called sport.
The killing of whales and dolphins today represents one of the cruelest treatments of any animal species on the planet at the hands of man. Imagine the outrage if a large slaughterhouse on wheels traveled across the Serengeti with smaller trucks firing spears into the backsides of elephants and rhinos, chasing them down and then dragging them by their feet along the ground to the slaughterhouse where they are hauled up and cut to pieces under a sign saying "elephant and rhino research project."
People would be outraged. In fact people are already outraged when animals like Mountain gorillas, chimps, and giraffe are slaughtered for "bush meat" in the Congo. And they are outraged by the elephants and rhinos butchered by poachers on the plains of Africa.
The only difference between the bush meat eaters in the Congo, the poachers in Kenya and the Japanese whalers is the colour of their skin. The world condemns the impoverished black poacher and uses polite diplomacy to appeal to the rich Japanese poachers. You don't see Australian Environment Minister Peter Garrett sending diplomatic missions to Somalia or the Congo to talk with elephant poachers yet he appoints a special envoy to negotiate with Japanese whale poachers.
The plain and simple truth is that Japanese whalers are criminal poachers breaking numerous international conservation treaties. A Congolese poacher can't export Mountain gorilla paws or elephant ivory or giraffe steaks to foreign markets yet Iceland loads up a container with endangered Fin whale meat and ships it off to market in Japan without even a slap on the wrist.
Talk about hypocrisy - the tolerance of poaching by wealthy white and Asian nations and the condemnation of poaching by poor black nations is unpardonable hypocrisy. Perhaps if the African poachers could afford public relations firms like the whalers can, they would be getting away with their crimes also.
Meanwhile back here in the Ross Sea, we continue to chase and harass some of the wealthiest and most ruthless poachers on the planet. It would be nice to get a little help from all the governments that posture and talk, attend conferences and make election promises about saving the whales from these poachers yet do absolutely nothing of consequence to actually protect them.
For all their talk, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Environment Minister Peter Garrett have not saved a single whale. All of their talk about diplomacy has not cut down the Japanese quota by even one whale. And the other so called pro-whale nations have done absolutely nothing to pressure Japan into abiding by international conservation law.
What is it about the word "sanctuary" they do not understand? Japan is slaughtering endangered whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary in violation of a global moratorium on whaling and in contempt of an Australian Federal Court ruling prohibiting their whaling activities in the Australian Antarctic Territory. They are violating the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the regulations of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and the Antarctic Treaty. They are threatening and shooting at non-governmental organizations trying to stop their illegal activities and accusing anyone who opposes them of being "eco-terrorists."
Yet not one of us "eco-terrorists" have been accused of, let alone charged with any crime for our activities in opposing their already proven illegal operations. So year after year we come down here to these isolated and remote waters to uphold the law in accordance with the United Nations World Charter for Nature and every year we cost the poachers their profits and every year we save the lives of whales, well over a thousand whales so far.
As politicians prattle and large international conservation organizations send out direct mail appeals and solicit money to save the whales, we remain the only organization actually down here on these waters actually doing something real and physical to stop the slaughter of the whales.
Watching the Nisshin Maru flee before us as I write this commentary is all the validation that I need to know that what we are doing is the absolute right thing to do.
We may be called eco-terrorists, pirates, radicals, extremists, fanatics, militants and all the other adjectives deployed in the media against us but the one thing that matters, the only thing that matters is that we are down here doing what governments and other organizations are not doing - we're upholding the law and we are damn well saving the lives of a great many whales and we are doing it without injuring a single one of these despicable poachers.
If we are doing something illegal then we should be arrested and after five campaigns to the Southern Ocean we have not been charged with a single crime. It's all name calling without substance to which we respond, "arrest us or shut up."
So it really does not matter what names they call us. We're fighting for the whales and the oceans, and our clients are the whales, not people, and when I saw today, two magnificent Fin whales surface right beside our ship in full view and striking distance from a harpoon ship and when I saw the frustration and the anger in the eyes of those whalers because they could not make their kill, I had all the validation in the world that I needed to know that what we are doing down here, right now in this remote part of the planet is the right and proper thing to do. I would not wish to be anywhere else but here doing exactly what we are doing.