Cozying Up With a Rising Star of ‘Whale Wars’

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seashepherd / CC
Peter Hammarstedt

We’re just happy as clams that our roll dogs in the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society are rocketing to stardom on Animal Planet’s new show Whale Wars.

I, personally, watch week after week—heart pumping, cheering like it’s Monday night football! Well, just in case you were wondering what makes these selfless warriors tick, we thought we’d give you an inside look at their second mate, Peter Hammarstedt.

In Ingrid Newkirk’s new book, One Can Make a Difference, she got the chance to talk to Peter at his parents’ home in Sweden. She found out about the fascinating events that shaped his convictions on animal rights and learned exactly what it looks like to follow one’s deepest passions. Incredible! Check out this excerpt from Hammarstedt’s essay in the book:

The Canadian seal slaughter that I witnessed still gives me nightmares. People call it a “hunt” but I have yet to meet a single hunter who would call bashing baby seals over the head with clubs, “hunting.” I was there in 2005. The ice is absolutely surreal, heavenly, like a world made of broken fragments of mirrors that sparkle in the light, that reflect the colors of the rising and setting sun. It is a wonderland where mother seals come to have their babies, to leave them to bask in the sun, feeling that they are totally safe, being miles and miles away from man. Not realizing that the boats will come, that human greed will catch up with them and reduce them to a bloody pulp.

Humans don’t belong there at all. We must go there to confront the seal killers, to film what they do, to report their indefensible acts of unspeakable cruelty to the world, to witness their despicable acts that violate the International Seal Protection Act. We see an entire world of white turn to red as the seals’ blood runs across the ice. There are suddenly carcasses everywhere as the babies are killed with the blunt or sharp ends of the Hak-a-piks, and stomped, kicked more than once, sometimes six times or so with the sealers’ cleated boots.

During the hunt, I found myself running from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. They’re there on the ice to protect seal killers, not seals. I had video evidence, and I didn’t want them to seize it. But they tackled me and knocked me to my stomach. I lay there, practicing passive resistance, my arms held behind my back. And as I turned my head, there, just two or three meters away, was a pup. I was so close to her, and her eyes and my eyes were linked together. I do believe she knew the difference, she knew I was not a sealer. As long as I lay there, she was safe.

On a good day, we can stop sealing, but the hunt is massive, and they keep coming back. When I know I have saved a seal, it is an extremely personal experience. I don’t care then if I am locked up for years! We’re often assaulted, but we have to stand our ground. Our clients are the marine animals who have no way to fight for their lives; no power. I think Captain Watson (founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and founding director of Greenpeace Foundation) speaks for all of us, whether we are on the ice floes or the high seas. When he was challenged about sinking an empty whaling vessel in Iceland, he said, “The hell with you. I didn’t do it for you. I did it for the whales. Find me a whale who would disagree and I’ll stop.” These sea animals have real intelligence, which means they absolutely want to live in harmony with the world. Even the “stupidest” of animals wants that. Captain Watson was once confronted by a whaling boat captain who told him that the reason it is acceptable for human beings to slaughter these magnificent mammals is because “we” have moral reason and intelligence. Captain Watson just stared at him. What is the good of reason and intelligence if all you do is use it to harm others?

Written by Missy Lane

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