Thursday, January 17, 2008

Protestors or Pirates?

The outlaw protest organization Sea Shepherd has achieved its aim of prompting an international diplomatic incident and the attendant publicity. But has it actually achieved anything to stop Japan’s whaling program? The boarding of the Yushin Maru has resulted in a standoff that threatens to reach ridiculous extremes. On the one hand, the Japanese are accusing the protestors of committing an act of piracy, and in return Sea Shepherd has labeled the Japanese as terrorists for taking hostages and making demands for their release.

The fact of the matter is that Benjamin Potts and Giles Lane boarded a vessel without permission. In international maritime law that falls into the category of piracy. While Sea Shepherd legitimately disputes the legality of the Japanese whaling operation, they have absolutely no authority of any kind to act on that dispute. As our parents always told us, “two wrongs don’t make a right”. Sea Shepherd operates outside the law, but expects to be taken seriously when it accuses Japan of unlawful behaviour. It is hypocritical.

It is also counter-productive. While Australian and British authorities are now tied up in diplomatic efforts to secure the return of the two protestors, the focus is shifted away from negotiations on the matter of the whaling. Where our diplomats and politicians might have been working quietly and diligently to put the pressure on Japan to change its ways, those efforts have now been redirected to dealing with the fallout of ratbag activists who have made the mistake of confusing headlines with headway.

Sea Shepherd have actually done more to hurt their cause than to help it.

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