Sea Shepherd’s Paul Watson – Interview With an Eco-Terrorist

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    Photojournalist Yoichi Watanabe and a studio audience of Japanese school children interview Paul Watson, the leader of the radical animal rights group Sea Shepherd:

    The video about 15 minutes long. Here is a summary of its contents, followed by a few comments of my own.


    Watson is introduced as a man who the FBI has called an eco-terrorist. His organization of modern day pirates has carried out unforgivable acts of violence against Japanese whaling ships in the Southern Ocean. Sea Shepherd has been obstructing the work of the whaling fleet, even though Japan’s actions are in compliance with international rules.

    Before going into greater detail, Watanabe introduces some basic information about Japan’s history of eating whale meat:

    Back in the old days, Japanese people didn’t eat beef or pork. Whale meat was seen as a valuable food source.

    Japan’s culture of eating whale meat survived into the modern era. It is still served in some school lunches today.

    Humans caused whale populations to decline, so international rules were created to protect whale stocks. Japan’s whaling program follows those rules.

    However, some countries with no cultural tradition of eating whale meat think it is bad to kill whales. They want Japan to stop. Japan has been trying to defend a culinary tradition that has existed for hundreds of years.

    The disagreements between Japan and other countries led to the emergence of Sea Shepherd, a violent extremist group.

    The narrator describes the various vehicles that Sea Shepherd has at its disposal. This includes high tech speedboats, a helicopter, and a large boat, which is sometimes used to ram Japanese ships.

    Paul Watson is the man in charge of it all. He thinks his organization has the authority to act as police on the high seas, and he thinks that the Japanese whalers are criminals.

    Watson’s past actions includes sinking several whaling ships in the 1980’s. His actions have led the FBI to brand him an “eco-terrorist” and Japan has issued an international warrant for his arrest.

    Yoichi Watanabe wants to know why Paul Watson thinks it is just to use violence. He wants to know why Sea Shepherd throws bottles of acid at Japanese whaling ships and injures Japanese whalers. He wants to know why Watson denies that Sea Shepherd is using violence.

    The popularity of the “Whale Wars” TV series has helped make Watson a hero in some parts of the world. A lot of people don’t seem to care about the Japanese arrest warrant. They like Watson and they support Sea Shepherd.

    On the TV show, Watson and his organization are shown as heroes fighting against the evil Japanese murderers. In one famous scene, Watson declares that he had been shot by the Japanese. His bulletproof vest and SS badge supposedly stopped the bullet and saved his life.

    Thanks to the shocking claims made on it television program, Sea Shepherd’s income has skyrocketed. But was the assassination attempt real?

    A Japanese whaler says it didn’t happen. There was no gunfire. The “muzzle flash” photo that Sea Shepherd had posted on its website was a clock. Watson’s was lying.

    They set up an interview Watson. Because of the Japanese arrest warrant, he cannot come to Tokyo to speak to them in person. Instead, they use a live video link. Watanabe and the Japanese audience are joined by Masaaki Sasaki of the Sankei Shimbun, a reporter who is knowledgeable about Sea Shepherd.

    Question 1: Is it justifiable to tell lies in the pursuit of your goal?

    Watanabe mentions the questionable nature of Watson’s claim to have been shot by the Japanese. Watson claims he never made such a claim. That claim may have come from the show’s producers (Animal Planet). He doesn’t know who fired the shot.

    [While Watson is answering, we are shown a clip from the show, in which Watson says that the Japanese (“they”) shot him.]

    Question 2: Ever since your TV program began to air in 2005, you’ve seen a huge increase in contributions. Do you think it is okay to use a dishonest TV program to raise money?

    Watson acknowledges that the television program has been an success, but he resents being called a liar. He says that he has not lied.

    Question 3: In your 2002 book Earthforce: An Earth Warrior’s Guide to Strategy, you write that activists should use dramatic tricks to confuse your enemies and use claims of victimization to increase public support for their causes. Isn’t that what you are doing now?

    Watson says he wrote that activists should not cause harm to other people. He says it is a book of strategy. It’s kind of like Miyamoto Musahi, only Watson advocates non-violence.

    A schoolgirl asks Question 4: We saw video footage of you throwing bottles of acid at Japanese whaling ships. Isn’t that an act of violence?

    Watson says his group doesn’t use acid. They throw rotten butter at the whalers.

    [As Watson says this, we are shown an image of one of the bottles that was thrown at the Japanese whalers. The word “ACID” is clearly visible on its label.]

    He says that Coca-Cola is more acidic than the rotten butter used by Sea Shepherd. It smells really bad (the kids laugh at this line).

    Question 5: In the video clips, we can see Sea Shepherd ships ramming Japanese whaling ships. We can also see Sea Shepherd members throwing bottles of chemicals at the Japanese whalers. How do you explain this?

    Watson says that Sea Shepherd hasn’t rammed any whaling vessels. They were hit by the whalers. The whalers are trying to murder them, but Sea Shepherd isn’t trying to hurt anyone. Sea Shepherd wants to protect the whales.

    Question 6: What about the Japanese crew members who were injured and hospitalized?

    Watson says that it’s not true. Nobody was injured by Sea Shepherd. It’s a lie.

    Question 7: And What about the Icelandic whaling ships you sank in 1986?

    Watson says Sea Shepherd sunk those ships. He challenged Icelandic authorities to arrest him, but they never did.

    He says that Sea Shepherd has never hurt anyone in its 35 years of activism. Watson is confident that they have done nothing wrong. He defiantly challenges those who seek to arrest Sea Shepherd members.

    Question 8: So you have never used violence?

    Watson defines violence as acts that hurt or kill. By this definition, Sea Shepherd does not use violence. The real violence is taking place when intelligent whales are being killed. Staining the seas with blood is violence.

    A little boy asks Question 9: If you think it’s bad to kill whales, what do you think of killing cows? In Australia, lots of cows are being killed and eaten.

    Watson says he doesn’t eat beef, and neither do his crew members.

    Another boy follows up with Question 10: So you don’t eat beef. Is that enough? Why aren’t you trying to protect cows?

    Watson says that they are the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Cows do not live in the sea.

    Question 11: Why don’t you come to Japan and spread your message?

    Watson responds by asking Watanabe to visit Sea Shepherd in the Southern Ocean. After being asked again, Watson says he’d come for a visit if Japan stops whaling.

    After the interview, Watanabe makes some closing remarks to the audience. He says that every country has its own unique history and culture, but all agree that violence and dishonesty are wrong. He thinks that the world will judge Watson’s words and deeds.


    Japanese-speakers will no doubt notice that Watson is continually referred to as “the accused” (容疑者). I suppose that it’s not improper to use that term, since Japan has issued a warrant for his arrest. However, I kind of got the impression that they were tying to say it as much as possible so they could emphasize the fact that Watson stands accused of a crime.

    This is not an unedited interview. At the very least, cuts were made to speed up the Japanese-to-English and English-to-Japanese translations. Watson’s original English answers were dubbed over with a Japanese voice. Some questions and answers may have been cut, and it could have been put together in a way that deliberately made Watson look bad. His answers, however, were consistent the things he’s being saying for years. I doubt they would have needed to do much editing to make Watson look like a lying douche.

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