|Friday, August 26, 2011|
The Makings of Operation Desert Seal
Commentary by Pat Dickens, Sea Shepherd South Africa Coordinator
I am often asked how I got involved with Sea Shepherd. I remember that day very clearly, the first of June 2010. I had heard a snippet of news on a local radio station that 91,000 seals were going to be beaten to death in Namibia. I was absolutely shocked and horrified, convinced that the number was being grossly exaggerated. I got home and did some research. What I discovered was nothing short of a true horror story, a dirty secret that Namibia was hiding from the world, an endangered species, bludgeoned to death, their pelts sold for a mere $7.00! I also found YouTube footage of the slaughter that pushed me over the edge. I could not stand by and allow this barbaric and iniquitous savagery to continue to happen virtually unnoticed. I reached out to every single animal rights organization I could think of, literally sending out thousands of emails. The best response I got from Greenpeace was an out-of-office reply.
And then I found out about Sea Shepherd. Sea Shepherd pretty much immediately responded to the message I sent them. I was connected to the local Sea Shepherd chapter and not long after time, was offered a volunteer coordinator position for South Africa. I raised my concerns surrounding the Namibian seal massacre with Sea Shepherd CEO Steve Roest, and was instructed to research and write a short commentary for Sea Shepherd’s website. By simply publishing the information about the seal cull on their official website and Facebook pages, thousands of people were instantly informed about the atrocities taking place miles away in a country they may not previously even heard of. Becoming a volunteer for the Sea Shepherd organization enabled me to become a mouthpiece and soon after, we had numerous news articles published about the seal slaughter in both local and international media, along with broadcast as well.
While all of the media attention was still being generated, there was a flurry of activity behind the scenes, with many back and forth messages between Sea Shepherd and myself. While I cannot go into detail, I can assure you plans were being laid that would provide the foundation for Operation Desert Seal. Things were actually HAPPENING! Soon after, I had the opportunity to meet with an undercover operative who traveled to Namibia to do a pre-scout for the mission. It was then that I realized the scope and complexity of such an operation. From that point on, we began a very thorough period of research and things started moving quickly from there. Equipment of all kinds began arriving from all corners of the world. Soon thereafter, I met with Sea Shepherd’s European Director Laurens de Groot and other crewmembers at a secret location on the outskirts of Cape Town. And so began Operation Desert Seal.
I would like to thank the entire campaign team including Captain Paul Watson, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, and all of the individual donors involved who made this operation possible. Without each and every one of you, this disgusting practice would still be Namibia's dirty little secret.