New Episode: Interference with Captain Paul Watson
In the latest episode of The Animal Turn Podcast, I talk to Captain Paul Watson about his recent book “Hitman for the Kindness Club: High Seas Escapades and Heroic Adventures of an Eco-Activist.” Our conversation is centered on ‘interference’ a philosophy and tactic that has been central to Paul’s career and emerges several times throughout the book.
Essential to Paul’s philosophy of interference is the idea of ‘Aggressive Non-violence.’ According to Paul, aggressive non-violence means “to aggressively intervene but not [to] cause any injury to the people that you are intervening against.” For Paul this strategy is essential to preventing animals from getting hurt. Paul’s aggressive, but what he would consider non-violent, interference into whaling and sealing operations in the 1970s are also why he parted ways with Greenpeace, an organisation he helped found but whose commitment to bearing witness he could not abide by. For Paul simply observing was not enough because at “some point, morally, you have to intervene” However, such interventions must, Paul notes “operate within the boundaries of the law and practicality.”
Law, however, operates at different scales and sometimes different laws conflict with one another. Paul has historically used international laws to justify his actions. “The fact is, the activities we are opposing are illegal,” Paul says, and laws such as the UN Charter for Nature enable individuals and organisations to uphold conservation law. Despite the existence of numerous international conservation laws, state’s have not invested in enforcing such laws. Organisations such as Sea Shepherd and the Captain Paul Watson Foundation have made it their mission to do so.
It is essential that there are people fighting on behalf of marine life because, as Paul bluntly states “the Oceans are dying.” Phytoplankton are diminishing because the species who supply them with the nutrients they need, such as blue whales, are being killed. Furthermore, the fishing industry is immensely destructive, trawling up tons of fish and making use of ever-advancing technologies which leave the fish with nowhere to hide.
Paul remarks that “there is no sustainable fishing anywhere on the planet today,” and he says fishing operates using ‘the economics of extinction.’ Simply put, “There is money to be made by driving species into extinction” because scarcity drives prices, and in turn profits, upward. Startlingly, Paul notes that a large portion of the fish caught are fed to farmed animals.
While Paul has a career of engaging in high-speed chases and intervening against the operations of industrial shipping and hunting operations, he says that anyone has the capacity to intervene. He believes individuals can make a massive difference by challenging the status quo, arguing that imagination, courage, and passion will save the planet. Scholars, he argues, should use their credibility to highlight abuse and for activists, the media remains an important tool for fighting injustice. It is not only a matter of justice, but of planetary – and indeed human - survival. Throughout the episode Paul was at pains to note that the destruction of many species and the oceans spells doom for the planet and for humans. Said simply: “If the oceans die, we die" - Paul Watson.
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