Sunday, July 12, 2009

Whale Wars

One of my new favorite shows currently is Whale Wars on Animal Planet. It's a reality series about a ship (The MV Steve Irwin) that sales from Southern Australia to Antarctica to fight Japanese whalers from being able to kill whales. It's a noble cause. Americans generally don't eat or consume whales so it's easy for me to consider it a noble cause. If there was a band of animal rights activists that sailed the seas preventing lobster fisherman from fishing lobster, maybe I wouldn't think that was such a noble cause b/c I love lobster. I point is that Japanese culture use whale meat and see nothing wrong with it. The debate is that whales are supposedly protected by international law, which is not enforced - so the Sea Sheperds try to enforce it.

It's an enjoyable show to watch. People with passion to save the Planet and doing something about it. David vs Goliath types of odds. Whalers throw flash grenades while these guys throw buteric acid (rancid butter) & bags of flour. Plus they go to amazing locations not very many people get to see. Some of the footage of icebergs, the southern Oceans, whales, and other wildlife is amazing. And how about that bad-ass ship of theirs? Painted black and yellow with a skull and crossbones looking pirate -like logo - Sharp! Their adventures are fascinating too, to watch how they intimidate the Japanese whaling fleet using non-lethal methods and risk their own lives in the process.

I am not, however, without reservation about the show (part of the reason I like it so much). There are things that bother me about the Sea Sheperds and the MV Steve Irwin. First, is their disregard for the safety of their crew. They make it clear to everyone on board that the whales are the priority. If they are chasing a whaling vessel, and you fall off the boat in the line of duty, your ass is being left behind to die! That's messed up in my opinion. How about a little respect for human life and for the crew that are working so hard to make the mission happen? They are also grossly under trained. There are always a few experts on board, like Captain Paul Watson, First Mate Peter Hammarstedt, and a few other engineers but pretty much everyone else is a novice sailor and a volunteer - and they are doing dangerous things like putting zodiacs in waters so cold that it will kill you in 5 minutes if you fall in and chasing large ships. Seems some professional training could go a long way to preserve life and safety. Finally, the MV Steve Irwin itself - NOT equipped to go through ice, but being used to sail to Antarctica! Seems like that is like me taking my Volkswagen Passat on the Rubicon Trail. (dumb. disaster.)

Aside from these hang ups about their process and disregard for expertise, human life, and safety - I do enjoy the show and it has garnered some degree of sympathy from me regarding their cause. I can't get behind them 100% b/c I'd be a hypocrite. I eat meat and fish. So if I say save the whales, what about that chicken I just had for dinner? Is anyone going to save the chickens? Someone in Japan is having whale for dinner and it seems perfectly natural to them. The whales they hunt are not endangered. The chickens I eat are not endangered. Whales are intelligent. Chickens are (somewhat) intelligent. So I'm not about to put a Save the Whales bumper sticker on my car. Regardless, I think the world needs its radicals to keep things in balance and I appreciate the sacrifice the Sea Sheperds make for animal rights and global preservation. So mission accomplished Sea Sheperds with getting your name out there and gaining some public sympathy.

Spoiler Alert:
One comment I have to make though about this current season (2); what is up with now former first mate Peter Brown? I mean, what a jerk! He looks like he is absolutely horrible to work with. Seems like he makes terrible decisions that endanger the crew. He's not a team player at all - hates everyone and everything. I think he has been at it for too long (since 1982) and is not feeling the love anymore. It's like he wants someone to give him an award or something for all his years of service, but it ain't gonna happen! Few activists are bestowed with that honor. That is part of being an activist! It's a thankless job, and Peter Brown seems to have forgotten that. It's good he left b/c he clearly needs a break. I'm sure he was/is a great, dedicated, and smart activist - but all I have to go by is what I've seen on Whale Wars; and Whale Wars portrayed him like a total asshole. Peter, they did not do you any favors my man!!!


  1. WW is the most important show on commercial television right now.

  2. Peter brags that he has no formal naval training such as reading the radar. He sails by the seat of his pants. But he can't read the radar and sailed deeper into an ice field endangering everyone. As 1st mate he seems to run the ship. I have no idea what the capt is supposed to do.