SEAL WARS: Twenty Five Years on the Front Lines for the Seals

Author: Paul Watson
Book Review by Menkit Prince:
Publisher: Firefly, Paperback 248 pages Price US$16.95

There's a war going on at the ice floes off the east coast of Canada between the sealing industry (which includes the Canadian Government) and the intrepid crew of Sea Shepherd led by Captain Paul Watson. Watson and his crew are bent on stopping the atrocities committed against hundreds of thousands of gentle and incredibly beautiful baby harp and hood seals along with their parents who are being clubbed, shot and skinned alive by seal hunters determined to drive them to extinction - as if it weren't hard enough to endure the arctic weather!

It's politics as usual as Watson explains why the seal is being used as a scapegoat for overfishing. Incredible stupidity reigns supreme in the halls of the Canadian parliament who ignores the advice of research scientists in determining kill quotas and who continues to subsidize the hunt heavily at a heavy cost to the economy, whilst ignoring the protests of its citizens.

Since Sea Shepherd is non-violent in its approach, it must fight the war with wits and strategy using as its main weapon the tremendous power of the media to engender international outrage by exposing the heartless, twisted and cowardly tradition of clubbing baby seals to death.

Watson puts himself and his crew on the front line at every opportunity, enduring not only extremes of weather but also putting themselves directly in front of tankers barging into ice floes with harp seal nurseries, hurling their own bodies on top of babies to protect them from being bludgeoned, being confronted by mobs of violent sealers and local townsfolk, along with the never-ending sagas with politicians, police, judges and fishing authorities who try to stop them at every turn.

Paul's writing style is very colourful. He paints scenes with words so clearly that you feel you are right there with him. He takes you right into the action where hundreds of angry sealers are breaking down his hotel room door to kill him (and came very close on several occasions) - to being spat on by toothless Newfoundland pensioners who tell him him they'll see him on the evening news, dead - to being kissed by an enthusiastic Brigitte Bardot who tells him he is a hero - to being attacked by sealers then plunged into sub-freezing arctic waters.

Driven by his love for these utterly defenseless animals, ready to do whatever it takes to protect them, he comes across as remarkably calm, even as he faces death squarely in the face, landing on his feet each time. You get the distinct feeling this guy has more than one guardian angel working full time to protect him!

Paul strategizes and dances his way around not only dangerous sealers but also smug Canadian Mounties, fisheries officers and legal authories as it it was a game. How ridiculous is it for him to serve time for breaking the Seal Protection Act when he was the only one protecting them? Never at a loss for a new plan, no matter how outlandishly impossible or dangerous, Paul Watson is unstoppable! He just does not quit, no matter how high the odds are stacked against him.

Master of repartee, Watson never misses a beat. At the University of CA Earth Day, Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau angrily strode up to him and said "How can you oppose the seal hunt and stand there in leather shoes. You're a hypocrite and a troublemaker." Paul smiled "Mr Prime Minister, you're right. I suppose they are leather - technically. The Prime Minister looked down at Paul's bare feet, reddened slightly, turned and quickly got in his limo and sped off. The laughter of the students followed him.

Given several 50 gallon barrels of chocolate pudding mix that the crew of Sea Shepherd could never eat, they decided to load it into the cannon of the ship and succeeded in repelling Fisheries officers from boarding their ship at one point!

Canada made many laws specially to prevent Watson approaching the seals or videotaping a kill, so fearful were they of his power to collect worldwide support. Some of the action scenes where he encounters sealers and antagonistic Coast Guard and fisheries authorities seem just too fantastic to be true - but he makes a point of meticulously detailing names of his crew and reporters, newspapers, TV stations along with dates for verification.

It's excruciatingly painful to read about harp seals being tortured and killed. Take a break and came back later because this is a powerful study in human nature. Here in this arctic heaven lies also an arctic hell, and it's real. Just as the blinding white of the ice contrasts with the jet black of the water, so too does the darkest side of humanity contrast with the lightest. The sadism and brutality of the sealers who enjoy torturing and killing babies; the arrogance, corruption of power-hungry governments; the lies of the media; the ignorance and stoneheartedness of the Newfoundlanders; the greed and petty rivalry in the animal rights movement thwarting Sea Shepherd's success (specifically Greenpeace which Watson co-founded) - all these contrast with the unselfish love, compassion and untiring dedication to the cause of those who fight for the seals' right to live. The parallels are just too obvious to miss.

This is the most captivating, spellbinding book I have ever read. It reads like a world class thriller. The action and drama far surpasses any James Bond movie I’ve ever seen - perfect material for a Hollywood box office attraction. The phone may be ringing, work may need to be done, meals may need to be prepared, nevertheless, I guarantee you will NOT be able to put this book down! Why? Because this is a battle between the forces of Light and the forces of darkness - it's a battle between the most earnest, loving, compassionate, life-affirming and gentle people versus the most savage, twisted and totally heartless people.

Seal Wars will break your heart, have you laughing hysterically at the hilarious antics and biting wit of the author, on the end of your seat shaking and breathless in anticipation, and angry enough to want to do something. It will transform your life.

I take my hat off to Captain Paul Watson - he is a legend in his own time.


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