Commentary by Captain Paul Watson
Founder and President of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
The day before arriving in Melbourne onboard my ship Steve Irwin, a reporter from Japan asked me how we could be so concerned about saving whales if we can eat kangaroos every day.
Apparently the Japanese media is reporting that all the people trying to protect the whales eat kangaroo.
Of course this is ridiculous and especially so for the Sea Shepherd crew. After all there is no meat or fish or animal products served on Sea Shepherd ships. As a matter of policy Sea Shepherd ships are vegan vessels.
But I can understand the spin that the Japanese are weaving in their effort to defend their illegal whale killing activities.
Australia is presently slaughtering kangaroos at the same time the Minister of the Environment Peter Garrett is condemning Japan for killing whales.
Despite the fact that kangaroos are a protected species under the 1975 Wildlife Act, the Minister is supporting the slaughter, saying, that the kill is "humane" and "properly administered."
"There's an immense difference between commercial, so-called 'scientific' whaling and Australia's scientific, sustainable and humane management of a non-threatened kangaroo, which has overpopulated an area, to save rare and threatened plants and animals on the site,'' the Minister said.
It almost sounds like the Japanese whalers and Mr. Garrett have the same public relations company working for them. The Japanese say the exact same thing about their whale slaughter - that it is humane and properly managed.
Peter Garrett is not acting like a responsible Minister of the Environment when he makes a statement that an indigenous species like the kangaroo poses a threat to native plants and animals. Native plants and animals are impacted by exotic species and the removal of or diminishment of an indigenous species like the kangaroo can have far ranging ecological consequences.
The real reason for the kangaroo slaughter according to many critics is that the 'roos are standing in the way of development plans.
Predictably the kangaroo slaughter is big in the Japanese media and the Japanese public is outraged by the killing.
Of course the Japanese are being hypocritical in condemning the Australian slaughter of kangaroos while supporting the illegal and inhumane slaughter of whales.
The hypocrisy of the situation is further compounded by the support of Greenpeace Australia for killing kangaroos. Last year Greenpeace Australia actually recommended the slaughter of three million kangaroos each year as a replacement for beef production arguing that kangaroos are more "sustainable" than beef. Apparently the thought never struck Greenpeace that perhaps people should not eat beef OR kangaroo. The Greenpeace Foundation remains opposed to vegetarianism as a solution to environmental problems despite the fact that the meat industry produces more greenhouse gases than the automobile industry.
Proponents of re-locating kangaroos had their advice rejected by the government on the grounds that it is "inhumane" to relocate the animals arguing that a lethal solution is more acceptable. In other words a lethal solution is less expensive.
What has this got to do with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, an organization dedicated to stopping the illegal slaughter of marine wildlife?
The answer is that Australia is undermining all of our efforts on the high seas to protect whales by giving the appearance that all whale defenders are hypocrites.
For the record, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is and will remain actively opposed to the Japanese slaughter of whales in the Southern Ocean. The whale slaughter is illegal under international law. The kangaroo slaughter is more comparable to the dolphin slaughter in Japan where over 20,000 dolphins are rounded up and slaughtered each year.
Sea Shepherd opposes the whaling ships on the highs seas and we have opposed the killing of dolphins on Japanese beaches because we protect and defend marine wildlife.
We are not involved with campaigns to protect animals on land, but we support the efforts of those who are doing so be they in the field in Montana protecting bison, in the bush in Africa defending elephants or in Australia protecting kangaroos.
Back in 1993, I stood with Mr. Garrett on the road blockades on Vancouver Island to protect the forests. He was there with his band Midnight Oil to give a free concert to the activists. Well not exactly free, he was paid by a wealthy local Tofino conservationist to perform but he was there, and he was outspoken about saving the forests.
Who would have thought that 15 years later he would be condemning me for saving whales and I would be criticizing him for defending pulp mills, kangaroo killing and bay dredging. I had high hopes for Mr. Garrett, I really did. He was the man who was going to save Australia's environment. He was one of us.
By contrast the previous Minister of the Environment Ian Campbell was always available to communicate with. He returned phone calls and now he is on the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Advisory Board because of his proven defense of the whales. Even George Bush has responded to our concerns and not only did he answer our letters he created the largest marine reserve in the world around the Hawaiian Islands (I still would not vote for him even if he could run again), but I say this to illustrate that Mr. Garrett has never returned a phone call or answered a single e-mail or letter from us. Apparently he views the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society as a nuisance and an irritation.
And of course he is right. To politicians and bureaucrats we are exactly that, and we intend to continue being exactly that.
I sincerely wish that Mr. Garrett would see just how hypocritical he is and how the Japanese media are exploiting his support of the kangaroo kill to justify their whaling. And as Minister of the Environment he needs to remember that it is his duty to protect the environment for all Australians and there is nothing more authentically Australian than a kangaroo.
Leave the 'roos alone Mate and since it's St. Patrick's day this month, How about doing something green for the nation. Put out the fire in your own bed, and give the hoppers a pardon. St. Paddy will love you for it.