I recently attended an extra special book launch at the Bloomsbury Institute in London. The book in question, ‘Hunting the Hunters: At War With The Whalers‘ by Laurens de Groot, was an autobiographical account of one man’s journey from pen-pushing police officer to a law-breaking environmental activist.The book is an account of his time aboard the Sea Shepherd anti-whaling vessel, and an insight into the dangers faced by activists who spend their lives trying to protect nature’s giants. Although this might seem a little bit off the mark for this ‘foodie’ blog, I figured that I would probably learn a few things, and boy was I right.
Laurens told us all about his time aboard the Sea Shepherd vessel. Manned entirely by volunteers who even manage to adhere to an all-vegan diet while out at sea, it was the sense of being on the front line that attracted Laurens to life on the ocean. From throwing smelly chemical mini-bombs at the whalers to ruin their catch, to blocking their harpoons with their own boats, the tactics sounded incredibly dangerous and brave. It was also heartening to hear that the crew’s efforts helped save 300 whales whilst Laurens was on board.
Later in the evening, Laurens shared stories about trying to fly unmanned drones over the beaches in Namibia. Here, organised seal clubbing takes place between 6 – 8am, and is quickly cleaned up before the hoards of tourists arrive. He wanted to film the violence in a bid to increase public awareness and cause outrage, and therefore force it to change. These days, his company ShadowView is developing the same drone technology to watch over Kruger National Park, where Rhino poaching is exploding on a terrifying scale. If he can be the eyes and ears of the park, he might be in with a chance of stopping the poachers from wiping the species out.
Listening to Laurens talk, I was filled with a mixture of emotions. On the one hand, I was utterly depressed by listening to the unbelievable level of destruction suffered by endangered species that we should be protecting. On the other hand, I was inspired. Listening to a man who had given up a well-paid and respected job to make a difference to the causes he believes in – in the most tangible way possible – seemed like such a brave and scary thing to do. In fact, at the end of Laurens’ presentation, one girl actually asked what ‘ordinary folk’ could do to help. So, for those of us who aren’t ready to quit our jobs and live on a ship filled with seafaring vegans, here are Laurens’ secrets to making a difference:
1. Do something you really love.
Find a cause, a charity, a campaign that you are passionate about and find a way to make it part of your life – be that volunteering, regular donation, fundraising or even blogging I guess!
2. If the above doesn’t exist, make it yourself.
Laurens has now set up his own drone company ShadowView, because he believes that it is the future of conservation and can really help change the rate of decline in species like the Rhino.
3. Make informed choices about the food you eat and the products you buy. Investigate the companies that you buy from and choose responsible retailers. I guess this is what I am trying to facilitate with this blog, too.
4. If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. It might be that the first time you volunteer, it doesn’t feel right for you. A charity that you thought you’d love might turn out to be a bit, well, weird. Don’t worry, says Laurens, there’s something out there for all of us to get our teeth in to, so keep looking.
If you’d like to read all about Laurens’ experiences, you can buy his book Hunting The Hunters: At War With The Whalers now, on Amazon for £12.99.