Tue, Jul 13, 2010 - Page 5 News List

Anti-whaling protestor warns lives may be lost

HANGING IT UP Prominent anti-whaling activist Pete Bethune said he has no immediate plans to resume protests against Japanese whaling ships the Antarctic

AFP , WELLINGTON

Anti-whaling activist Pete Bethune of New Zealand speaks about his incarceration in Japan at a news conference in Auckland yesterday.

PHOTO: REUTERS

New Zealand anti-whaling activist Pete Bethune expressed fears yesterday someone would die in the “ugly war” between conservationists and Japanese whalers in Antarctic waters.

At his first formal press conference since being deported from Japan, Bethune also accused the New Zealand government of being a “lapdog” of Japan, leading New Zealand Prime Minister John Key to label the activist “downright ungrateful.”

Bethune, who was deported from Japan on Friday after receiving a suspended two-year sentence for obstructing Japanese whalers, said he was not contemplating further protests in the near future.

The 45-year-old was arrested when he boarded a Japanese whaler in the Antarctic Ocean in February during a campaign by the US-based Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to stop the annual Japanese whale hunt.

He pleaded guilty to obstructing commercial activities, trespass, vandalism and carrying a knife, with which he cut the ship’s security netting.

Although the sentencing judge took into account Bethune’s word that he would not join any more missions to Antarctica, the activist would not state unequivocally that his days of protesting in the southern seas were over.

“I’ve sacrificed a lot and whether I’ll be back in Antarctica this year I don’t know,” he said.

“I don’t discount that someone is going to die down there sooner or later, there’s no shortage of people willing to go down and risk their lives, but if someone were to die it would be someone from Sea Shepherd,” he said.

Bethune said the battle between conservationists and whalers had descended into an “ugly war” and he came “so close to being killed” when his powerboat Ady Gil sank after colliding with a Japanese whaler.

He also expressed anger at what he described as a lack of support from the New Zealand government over his arrest and five months’ incarceration until being deported.

“New Zealand has become like a fat little lap dog. We should be standing up for ourselves, not rolling over,” he said.

However, the Stuff Web site reported Key accusing Bethune of being “downright ungrateful” for the help he received.

Speaking in Hanoi, Key said New Zealand foreign ministry staff in Japan had done everything ­possible to assist Bethune.

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