July, 2008

In July, 2008, activists from all over the world traveled to Chile to lend a voice of resistance to the slaughtering of whales with a united message to end all whaling. Members from Cascadia Earth First! Joined local efforts in sending a clear message to pro-whaling nations that the majority of people around the world want to see whales protected. “It is only a small minority that could drive these animals to extinction and so it is the responsibility of the majority to protect the whales and prevent that from happening,” says one EF! activist from the US.

The IWC is the international commission that regulates whale related issues in the oceans including the controversial continuation of whaling by Japan, Norway, Iceland, and Indigenous tribes of North America. Commercial whaling has been banned since 1986, yet every year these rogue member nations have completely disregarded the majority vote passed by the commission to end whaling. The IWC is not equipped to hold these nations accountable, so the killing of whales continues.

Protesters oppose Japan´s pseudo scientific research whaling program where the country has killed an estimated 30,000 whales since the 1986 moratorium, including the endangered Humpback and Fin. Demonstrators oppose all forms of whaling primarily because whale populations are struggling to recover from near extinction. Local animal rights organization- Coalición por los Derechos Animales (CDA)- has been preparing for this meeting since December of last year by holding demonstrations outside the Japanese and Norwegian Embassies. The group, coordinated with several groups and individuals from all over the country, collected over 25,000 signatures against whaling to present to the Commission, networking and coordinating with other organizations, as well as holding educational tables. “It is the responsibility of everyone to take action against the whaling slaughter, so we have to do all that we can with our resources to alert people,” says Gabriela Penela of CDA. “Every form of life is intrinsic and valuable. This species is endangered because of corporations supported by a few governments that are trying to keep bloody and outdated traditions alive.”

Activists from CDA and Juvan, an animal liberation group from Concepción, rushed the hotel to disrupt the meeting. Repression surged on the activists as water-cannon and tear-gas vehicles arrived. With the intense police presence, most of the un-permitted protesters were detained and arrested.

Later that week, roughly 50 activists with CDA held a candlelight vigil for the tens of thousands of whales murdered by members of the (IWC), and by the greed and ignorance of humans. We are at a pivotal point in our history where we can determine whether we value the great whales and want them to continue to exist or not do enough to protect them and watch them vanish. Historically, there were millions of whales in the oceans. During the last four hundred years, humans perfected ways to hunt these animals to near extinction. While certain whale populations have slightly rebounded, their populations are only a small fraction of what they used to be. Whales have the right to exist, no human on this planet has the right to kill them.

During the scheduled lunch break of the conference, Japan gave a presentation detailing their “pseudo”-scientific research program, JARPA II. JARPA II doubles the number of whales killed each year in the Southern Ocean Sanctuary, compared to previous research programs. Up to 935 minke whales will be hunted each year. For the first time, the fin whale- the world´s second largest whale-is being hunted under the program. There has been repeated criticism of the validity and necessity of Japan´s scientific whaling program at the IWC. The IWC has passed more than 40 separate resolutions rejecting scientific whaling since the moratorium came into effect. In June 2005, a resolution was passed condemning the JARPA II program and calling for its amendment or withdrawl. The adoption of this resolution was co-sponsored by 26 countries.

This ridiculous facade of Japan´s presentation was met by stink bombs to demonstrate that Japan´s scientific research is not only unjust and unnecessary, but it ´STINKS!´ Today Japan received a foul-smelling reminder of what their whalers are accustomed to out at sea. We are here to make sure that Japan will be confronted with resistance wherever they go- city or sea- until they stop slaughtering whales. Particularly to the bogus scientific research program Japan has been hiding behind for the last 21 years as a front to continue to kill whales in order to appease an outdated tradition. We are facing a global crisis with pollution, global warming, and overpopulation. Japan keeps coming up with new ´programs´ as an excuse to keep killing whales to sell as food. Japan has no respect for protected Sanctuaries, and they have no respect for the demands of the rest of the world.”

Moments after the stink bombs were released, a member of CDA went toe-to-toe with conference organizers and police in defense of whales by locking his body to the front doors of the Sheraton Hotel. International media and police swarmed him as he passionately shouted a demand for an end to all whaling. After two failed attempts, police finally extracted him as a witness burst into tears from the protester´s emotional plea. “There are nations that are still killing whales with any excuse to make money. This is genocide that we must stop!,” said Wladimir Madrid. “Every tactic which applies pressure is valid to end whaling.”

Later in the evening, demonstrators returned to the IWC conference to hold a street theatre whale cemetery to honor the great whales massacred to near extinction. Two blood-splattered men posed as being freshly harpooned to make the connection between human and animal life. They stood in the middle of a cemetery with whale-tail tombstones labeled R.I.P. “We think that animals have the right to live just the same as humans,” said Abel Cisterna from Juvan. “Whales are living beings who can suffer the same as us, and they are at risk of being extict.”

Arrests numbered 20 for the week, a 75 foot banner was unfurled from the edge of a cliff and then a billboard, and there was only one run-in with the Chilean SWAT team...who let us keep our banner.