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Violence in Earth's Name

October 04, 2003

Kirkpatrick Sale referred to me and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in his Sept. 29 commentary on the Earth Liberation Front, "These Elves Are Up to More Than Mischief." He wrote that "ecotage," or eco-sabotage, began in this country in 1977 when I founded the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Sea Shepherd operates outside of the U.S. primarily, and the organization has undertaken only one action within the territory of the U.S., a completely legal opposition to illegal whaling by the Makah tribe in Washington state in 1998 and 1999.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has been established as an international marine wildlife conservation organization for almost three decades. We don't commit crimes, and we do not support the use of criminal tactics in our activities. We specialize in intervention against illegal activities that exploit marine wildlife in international waters, where we are empowered to intervene in accordance with the U.N. World Charter for Nature. I resent the implication that our legal intervention against high-seas poaching, sea turtle poaching, illegal whaling, illegal drift nets and long lines and the unlawful killing of baby seals can be connected to illegal crimes of arson and sabotage committed by unknown perpetrators whom I don't know and don't care to know. The least Sale could have done was pick up a phone to question me directly or refer to

Capt. Paul Watson

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, Malibu


Unfortunately, I have to disagree with Sale's premise that no good comes of such apparently disdainful and destructive practices as those engaged in by ELF "representatives." In this case, two overplayed aphorisms come to mind: "one man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist" and "any publicity is good publicity." I was an activist working "within the system" as national conservation chairman of the American Cetacean Society during the days when Watson and the Sea Shepherd were ramming pirate whaling vessels. Who was more effective in bringing attention to and fundamental change in world opinion and policy toward the great whales? I would like to think we both helped, but I know there was nothing my organization could do that could compare to the graphic and dramatic images and descriptions of Watson's efforts that appeared in the media and the sense of outrage and engagement these fomented.

Where is the sense of outrage today over President Bush's dismantling of protection for the planet's humans, wildlife, ecosystems and global climate? One can argue about where the line is drawn between civil disobedience and directed attacks on the despoilers of the planet, but until the media and public truly awaken to the daily assaults on the environment being approved and even perpetrated by our "leaders," it is hard to imagine anything less than fires and car wrecks, the daily fare of most newscasts, gaining the attention of the public. Shameful, yes.

Martin Byhower



Much thanks to Sale for his commentary on the recent actions of the Earth Liberation Front. I would like to add that eco-terrorism hurts the cause. All these eco-terrorists have really hurt are the insurers. What they have done isn't going to stop that developer in San Diego by more than a couple of days, and I rather doubt that those dealers are going to stop selling Hummers just because a few got torched or spray-painted.

What they have done is to make all environmental activists look bad. Please, if any of you good-intentioned folks at ELF are reading this, reconsider your actions. You could have accomplished much more by having a demonstration in front of that Hummer dealership or filing an injunction against that developer. There are better ways to accomplish what we need to get done, and your actions will ultimately run off the very people we need to have involved -- namely, the people who can afford to donate the money that we need to pay for lawyers who will help us save places like the Ballona Wetlands.

We recently accomplished saving 350 acres of Ballona, and we want to save more. I know that doing this the right way is a long, complicated and sometimes frustrating process, and we will never win all the time, or all we want. But please, pool your energies with us and let's do this the right way.

If you don't, you are ultimately "monkey-wrenching" the very movement you are trying to help.

Jim Bean

Santa Monica

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