High Seas Activist Says He's No Pirate

Among Watson's statements excerpted in the newsletter was: "Between the year 1980 and the year 2040, we will eradicate, exterminate and destroy a great percentage of the species of plants and animals that are living on this planet. More species of plants and animal will be destroyed in this 60 year period of time, will be driven to extinction, than have gone extinct over the last 65 million years and that rate of extinction is unprecedented and we will be at fault for that.

"It is the greatest crime that any species on the planet has ever committed and we are in the midst of committing it. So therefore, when you take this incredible crime of speciescide and destruction of life, what's the smashing up of a few laboratories in comparison to that?"

Watson told ABCNEWS.com that it is true that he does not consider the destruction of property "violence."

"I maintain Martin Luther King's understanding of violence," he said. "You can't commit an act of violence against a non-sentient thing."

He said that since Sea Shepherd was founded no one has been hurt by its activities, even though it has sunk numerous whaling and fishing boats that were operating illegally.

‘Preserving Life, Not Taking It’

Had the Sportsmen's Alliance's initial report been accurate, it would have represented a major change in the professed philosophy of environmental activists.

The movement has by and large avoided injuring humans, despite causing millions of dollars worth of property damage across the United States. The most destructive of the activists, the Earth Liberation Front, maintains that one of its goals is to avoid injuring anyone, saying it considers all life sacred, even the life of people who despoil the environment.

The one real exception has been the campaign against Huntingdon Life Sciences, an international company that carries out research on animals. Officers of the lab have been attacked in both England and the United States, and there have been harassment campaigns as well.

Watson said that in his view there is no place in the movement for violence against other people.

"I think it would be self-defeating," he said. "The entire animal rights movement and environmental movement is based on non-violence. It's based on preserving life, not taking life."

Arrested Police

He said he finds it ironic that he should have been chosen as the figurehead of an alleged ratcheting up of the activities of animal rights groups, because he says that all he does is try to enforce international laws and treaty agreements that too few people are trying to uphold.

"We only damage property being used in illegal things," he said. "We're actually more like a police organization than anything else."

Sea Shepherd has working agreements with Ecuador, Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago and Indonesia to help those countries fight poaching, and he said that in 1995 to 1996 the group worked with the U.S. government to help stop poaching of salmon and sturgeon in the Pacific Northwest.

Governments have not always been pleased with Watson's efforts.

Canadian authorities arrested him in 1993 when his ship drove off Cuban and Spanish trawlers that were fishing off Newfoundland. He faced trial on charges that could have put him in prison for life, but he based his defense on sections of the United Nations World Charter for Nature that call on nations, companies, organizations and individuals to do whatever they can to ensure that the charter is upheld.

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