Marine conservationist Paul Watson attends a rally of animal rights activists in Berlin, May 23, 2012.
Credits: REUTERS/Thomas Peter
It's been a few days now since Paul Watson, the notorious Canadian eco-vigilante, went into hiding. The head of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society had been arrested by Germany, accused of ramming a shark-hunting boat off Costa Rica. Afraid he'd be extradited to Japan, where he could face a stiff prison term for attacks on that country's whaling fleet, the skipper skipped town, forfeiting more than $300,000 in bail money presumably funded by his loyal donors.
Now, shark finning is pretty despicable, and where it's not criminal, it should be -- fishermen capture sharks, slice off their dorsal fins and leave them to slowly suffocate. All so urbane gourmands can dine on expensive, exotic soup, or sexually challenged naifs can try to feed their libidos.
But still, the rule of law is the rule of law. We don't take it into our own hands. Especially when it involves ship-to-ship combat on the high seas. Generally speaking, that's not activism. It's naval warfare. Or piracy. Take your pick.
Watson's aggressive take on eco-activism drove a wedge between him and his fellow founders of Greenpeace, because he disagreed with its policy of non-violence. They might as well climb back into bed again. The group stars in a recently unveiled report by the Mounties and border security into "radicalized" environmental groups that pose a danger to Canada's energy interests.
In response to the report, which singled out Greenpeace for "trespassing, mischief and vandalism," as well as putting the lives of energy facility employees, ships' crews and emergency responders at risk, the group insisted it remains non-violent and peaceful.
But then there was this: "There is a difference between breaking the law and criminal activities."
Well, no. There isn't. The right to protest is a fundamental in Canada and other nations that embrace freedom. But so is the rule of law.
Paul Watson can't set himself up as judge and jury over those he disagrees with. Neither can his former friends in Greenpeace. And as long as they remain arrogant enough to think the law doesn't apply to them, the Mounties are right to keep an eye out. The difference between them and the Sea Shepherd's captain is of degree, not kind.