For those of you who haven't seen it, Whale Wars is an Animal Planet channel reality TV show. It follows Paul Watson, and his environmentalist group the Sea Shepherds, as they try to combat Japanese whaling in the southern ocean (near Antarctica). What's the catch? They're all a bunch of incompetent morons.
At least their flag would look cool, if it wasn't for that "Greatful Dead" thing going on in the middle of the skull's forehead.
It's such a circus, it's hard to even know where to start, so I'll begin with actual issue of killing whales. The way the situation boils down, is that long ago, a bunch of countries signed a treaty to ban international whaling for commercial purposes, and everyone disputes what "commercial purposes" are. The Japanese have apparently whaled since the dawn of time, and desire to continue killing some whales to eat in traditional meals. The Japanese try to get around the ban on whaling by exploiting a loophole, and immediately after killing a whale they do scientific research on it, before packing it up to sell for food. They impose a limit on themselves, to only kill something like 1000 whales each year. The Sea Shepherds have come up with a fantastic plan to stop this whaling, by spending their money in the one place it can actually make a difference, by lobbying in international politics. NO, I'm totally lying. Instead, they bought a bunch of boats and drive down to the frigid antarctic waters to annoy the Japanese into stopping. That's right, they're just going to pester the whalers, because being a giant pain in the butt is the only tactic in the hippie playbook.
Do I actually think the Japanese should be down there killing whales? I don't know. But I do know that the reality of the situation is highly inflated by the delicate sensibilities of our modern culture. Killing 1000 whales per year isn't likely to make them go extinct, but modern life has allowed people to become removed from the realities of killing animals, so the reaction is not entirely unexpected. People like whales, and they seem docile and harmless, so it gets people all emotional, just like killing 1000 kittens would do. The Japanese are exploiting a loophole in the legalities, and so they're going to feel they have the law on their side until you do something about that loophole. I'm not all that concerned about them actually killing a reasonable number of whales, and I'm glad that at least they stick to their quota, perform scientific research on the animals, and then use the whales for food. It seems like a moderately positive situation to me.
Yep, that's what dead whales look like. No suprise.
The Sea Shepherd's war against Japanese whaling has been going on for many years... many years of burning hundreds of thousands of gallons of fuel, many years of feeding a crew and maintaining ships, and many years putting their lives at risk to save whales. (And they really do put their lives at risk, but more on that in a minute.) They literally spend millions of dollars, and the only thing they're really trying to do is harass the Japanese. Without becoming pirates, the only thing they can do is sail around throwing stink bombs at the whalers, trying to tangle ropes in their propellers, and generally being a nuisance. Nothing they do has any concrete ability to actually stop whaling.
"Maybe if I dress like a real sailor, and strike a heroic pose, people will believe I actually know what I'm doing." - Paul Watson
Now to the really stupid part, about how they're all idiots. They bought some boats, and headed to the southern ocean. Can you guess what you find in the waters off Antarctica? ICE! Lots and lots of ice. And can you guess what their ships are not rated to sail through? Yep, ice. In some episodes, they have to put someone down in the lower areas of the ship, to watch the ice dent and bend the hull, to make sure they don't spring a leak. And they're happy about it. Every episode, at least one person is shown expressing their dedication to the whales, by saying they will gladly give their life to save a whale. What? No thank you. I'll have a discussion about whether killing whales is good or bad, but I'm not giving up my life to save any animal, any time, anywhere. To do that isn't elevating animals to a human status, it's reducing humans to an animal status.
Nobody told them there would be ice... near Antarctica.
Then there is the fact that they are completely inept at almost all facets of the sailor's craft. Someone is dangerously hurt, or nearly so, in almost every episode. Their lives are in constant danger from their own inability to perform their activities in a safe manner. They have flipped inflatable boats into near-freezing water because they were trying to launch them while going to fast or in unsafe seas. They have nearly crushed people between the inflatables and the large ship's hull. They've driven directly into the spray of powerful water cannons while trying to get close enough to throw stink bombs. They've climbed out onto tiny pieces of ice to retrieve ropes. They've rammed their weak-hulled ship into whaling ships that have heavily plated ice-rated hulls. They've driven their inflatable boats far outside of radio and radar range... in the middle of the empty ocean waters. The list just goes on and on. It's comical to watch, really. It's like watching a sitcom of deliberately quirky and stupid characters, expect they're all real people, not actors.
The Sea Shepherds ramming a whaling vessel with their side.
To top it all off, they're total hypocrites. Anything the Japanese do to thwart them, foil their plans, or fight back against them, is endlessly criticized as being over-the-top, or unfair to them. The Sea Shepherds are a conservation group that spends millions of dollars a year to drive boats thousands of miles into an ocean mostly devoid of people, to throw stink bombs and propeller-tangling ropes at a Japanese whaling corporation that they intend to annoy to death. Who are the extreme ones? And yet, when the Japanese do pretty much anything to them, it's unbelievable. In one episode, one of the Sea Shepherd's boats named the Ady Gil, made of fiberglass and Kevlar composites, gets cut in half and sinks when it collides with a harpoon ship (the ones with the extra-thick ice-rated hulls). The show interviews dozens of the environmentalists, who literally cry for the camera at the unthinkable outrage, while actually wearing hats that say "PREPARE TO BE RAMMED" and t-shirts that proudly list the names of ships they have rammed. It seems logical to me that if you're out there ramming people, you should expect that getting rammed yourself is part of the job. In another episode, the Sea Shepherds are all up-in-arms because while they were attempting to throw stink bombs on the whaling ship, the whalers threw nuts and bolts back at them. Once again, if you're throwing glass bottles at people, getting nuts and bolts thrown at you seems like fair turnabout.
The bottom line, is that these "73 die-hards on a mission" (as Discovery Channel claims they are), are really a bunch of irrational, weak minded, highly motivated, untrained, emotionally charged extremists. I don't think "eco-terrorists" is fitting, because it gives their special brand of stupidity way too much credit. They picked a hopeless mission, exercise it with ridiculous vigor, and forget that training would allow them to accomplish their goal better and safer, assuming they could actually do something to stop whaling by being in the southern ocean. I would like to give them the benefit of the doubt, and think that they realize just how stupid their actions are, and that they're really just putting on a good show so that someone will pay attention to their message. After watching the show many times though, I teeter back and forth because they're "stupid act" is just so believable.