Captain Paul Watson + Yana Rusinovich of Sea Shepherd
How their lives as activists began, the top ten enemies of the planet, and an easy recipe for vegan cheese | Interview: The Barbi Twins
Barbi Twins: Paul, you’re the most famous, heroic protector of the ocean and its creatures. You cofounded Greenpeace, went on to create the top marine conservation organization, Sea Shepherd, and have the hit TV show Whale Wars. What was your life-changing moment that made you dedicate your whole life towards improving the planet?
Paul Watson: It was June 1975, and I was a crew member on the first Greenpeace campaign to protect the whales. It was off the coast of Northern California. Before us was the Soviet whaling fleet. We [arrived] on the scene just as a harpoon tore into a young sperm whale. I could not take my eyes off the dying whale closest to us. I saw his huge eye, and I could see that he saw me. At that moment, he dove once again, and I saw pink, bloody bubbles coming to the surface, moving closer to our boat. Within seconds, the whale’s head shot above the surface of the sea, angled so we could see that his intent was to come crashing down upon us. As his head rose ever higher, I saw that eye once again. Suddenly, I was struck with the realization that this whale understood what we were doing. His muscles tensed and he began to slowly slide back into the sea. I kept eye contact with him until his eye sank beneath the surface. And so he died. He could have killed us, but he had not, and the look in that eye has haunted me ever since. It is from what I saw in the eye of that whale that has led me to devote my entire adult life to the defense of whales and other creatures of the sea, because I know that if we cannot save the whales, turtles, sharks, tuna, and complex marine biodiversity, the oceans will not survive. And if the oceans die, humanity will die, for we cannot survive on this planet with a dead ocean.
BT: Sea Shepherd is basically the only organization that legally upholds international conservation laws through a direct-action, global, environmental movement. Why doesn’t the government uphold international laws?
PW: Governments today represent corporations and the interests of the politicians that comprise governments. There is certainly a lack of vision or even concern for the future. It’s all about now— short-term investments for short-term profits. If we are to protect this planet, it will have to be done by passionate, compassionate, concerned, and courageous citizens who take it upon themselves to act to uphold the laws their governments refuse to uphold. Sea Shepherd is not an organization. We are a movement of activists with the will to defend the future for all life on this planet.
BT: Yana, you’re one of the most dedicated, informative animal activists in the movement— a leader in your country for animal rights. You also host LA Talk Radio’s State of the Oceans. What changed your whole life to dedicate it towards helping animals?
Yana Rusinovich: I think the love and respect that I have for animals I received, when I was a child, from my grandmother. I grew up in a small village in Tatarstan, near the river Volga. I learned from her that we have to respect what we are eating and respect all life of all species, not just humans. My grandmother showed me that cows and pigs and chickens can show love and compassion and that they are intelligent and sensitive and have the same feelings that humans do.
BT: Who would be in your top ten Interpol list of real villains that slaughter and destroy our planet, Paul?
PW: One, the Spanish syndicates that run much of the world’s illegal fishing operations. Two, Japanese companies like Mitsubishi and the Institute for Cetacean Research. Three, Monsanto. Four, Big Oil like BP, Shell, Exxon. Five, climatechange-denying politicians. Six, corrupt politicians that betray their own people for bribes. Seven, the plastic industry, for destroying our ocean. Eight, the pharmaceutical industry. Nine, the animal agricultural industry, as the largest source of greenhouse gases, groundwater pollution, and water wastage on the planet. And ten, ourselves—human society and our obsession for uncontrolled growth, both in our numbers and our material consumption.
BT: Yana, you’re an incredible vegan spokesperson, especially for the organization L214. Tell us what their main goal is.
YR: They send spies to the farms to film and expose the horrors of production of foie gras. They win big respect, and for that, they have become first place as one of the biggest animal rights organizations.
BT: You have a Facebook group, Veganpower. Can you give us a favorite vegan tip?
YR: I am going to give you the most easy and quick way to do your vegan cheese, since this is the most popular. You need a blender, a pot, a mixing spoon, and a container. Take soy milk, cashew nut powder, almond paste, lemon juice, grapeseed oil or olive oil, agar powder, miso paste, vegetable stock, white pepper, salt, garlic powder, and onion powder. You put all this in the blender and mix it up till it gets creamy; then you put this on the stove and mix. Keep stirring on the stove for ten minutes. After, put it all in a container, put this in the fridge for one hour, and you get your vegan cheese.