When Will Greenpeace Ships Go Vegan?

On November 1st, the Greenpeace Esperanza Facebook page posted this question: "Should we eat meat on board Greenpeace ships? Let us know what you think."

After nearly 1,000 comments, most of them critical of eating meat on board Greenpeace ships, Greenpeace responded with: "Hi everyone! Thanks to all of you who took the time to weigh in on this important question. We are still sifting through all your comments, but we wanted to say thanks for being a part of this conversation. We on the Espy really appreciate hearing from so many of you! Greenpeace is constantly reviewing internal policies around issues like meat, and we really value hearing straight from Greenpeace supporters. Thank you!"

I have to say I am surprised that Greenpeace even asked this question. They must have known they would be inviting criticism for their long standing policy of consuming animal products on board their ships.

I like the part where Greenpeace states they are constantly reviewing internal policies around issues like meat.

The review of this "issue" has been going on now since 1978. That's forty years of constant reviewing on the ethics of eating meat and consuming animal products.

"Vegan meals fit into our mutual primary motivation - to save this planet from ourselves." - Captain Paul Watson

As a co-founder of Greenpeace, I tired to promote vegetarianism on Greenpeace ships in 1976 and received only looks of amusement in return. That is one of the reasons that when I established Sea Shepherd, I instituted a policy of vegetarianism in 1978 when we outfitted our first ship.

We changed that policy in 1998 when the ships converted to veganism.

In 2005 when the Greenpeace ship Esperanza and the Sea Shepherd ship Farley Mowat were both in Cape Town, South Africa, some of our crew were invited on board the Esperanza for dinner and were shocked to see they were serving a fish dinner on the eve of departing on a campaign to protect fish.

When our cook said to their cook that Sea Shepherd ships were vegan, the Greenpeace cook replied, "That's just silly."

One of the arguments Greenpeace pushes is that they have professional engineers and ship's officers who insist on having meat included in their meals. The implication being that if the ships became vegetarian, they would not have the crew to run their ships.

This is not a credible argument.

Greenpeace has three ships. Sea Shepherd has nine ships and finding officers and crew who accept an on board vegan diet has not been a problem.

In addition there are products that look like meat, taste like meat and have the texture of meat. The meat-eating crews would not even be able to tell the difference.

Vegan meals have more variety. They are healthier and most importantly vegan meals fit into our mutual primary motivation - to save this planet from ourselves.

At our 30th Sea Shepherd anniversary dinner in Santa Monica, California, back in 2008, we served mock duck and a great number of guests swore they could not tell the difference. The Greenpeace crew can still have their "meat" and be vegan at the same time, if they make the decision to do so.

Sea Shepherd even has vegan chefs that would gladly be advisors to Greenpeace. Three of them have published their own vegan cookbooks.

"You really can't be a credible environmentalist if you consume products from the animal agriculture industry." - Captain Paul Watson

Sea Shepherd does not demand that all crew must be vegans but we do expect all crew to be vegan while serving on the ships.

Some 40% of the fish removed from the sea by commercial fisheries are fed to domesticated animals in the form of fish meal. Chickens on factory farms now eat more fish than all the albatross in the Ocean. Pigs, chickens, cows, domesticated salmon and housecats have now become the largest group of marine predators on the planet.

Animal agriculture is the largest contributing factor in producing greenhouse gases and thus a major contributor to climate change. Animal agriculture is the largest source of groundwater pollution and dead zones in the Ocean.

A person has to be in wilful denial to not see the connections and the reality is that you really can't be a credible environmentalist if you consume products from the animal agriculture industry.

Greenpeace opposes the oil industry yet the reality is that animal agriculture contributes more to producing greenhouse gases than the entire transportation industry.

It is not just Greenpeace. Most of the large environmental organizations do not see the connection or refuse to do so.

For example, I was a national director of the Sierra Club from 2003 to 2006 and was appalled at how hostile the Sierra Club was to vegetarianism. At my very first Sierra Club meeting in Billings, Montana in 2003 we were served buffalo burgers and antelope steak. The high point for many directors of each meeting was the culinary expectations of the dinner in each region. Lobster in Boston, Blue Crabs in Charleston, Steak in Albuquerque etc.

Four of the 15 directors were vegans and in response to our complaints we were begrudgingly served a token vegetarian meal at the dinners and it was almost always the same thing - a Portobello mushroom dish with white rice. Carl Pope, the Executive Director of the Sierra Club made it very clear that vegetarians were not welcome.

By the time I resigned from the Sierra Club, I was referring to it as the Siesta Conversation and Gourmet Club. I resigned because they were sponsoring an essay contest with the subject, "Why I like to hunt?"

"Animal agriculture is the largest source of groundwater pollution and dead zones in the Ocean." - Captain Paul Watson

Back to Greenpeace and their contradictions.

How many more years will Greenpeace continue to review their internal policy on meat consumption?

Veganism and vegetarianism is becoming more popular each year and I assume at some point Greenpeace will be forced to change but it looks like they will do so while kicking and screaming.

They refused to be interviewed for the documentary film Cowspiracy. They refuse to support the argument that meat consumption is a major contributor to climate change despite the United Nations stating very clearly that it is.

The powers that be in the Greenpeace administration are not stupid - they see the contradictions. However their fear is the same as that once expressed to me by Carl Pope and the Sierra Club - the fear of losing donations because the majority of the population, at least in the developed world, eat meat. They see veganism as a radical and dangerous idea to promote and their research convinced them they would lose some support from their existing base.

Greenpeace last year raised some $400 million in donations compared to Sea Shepherd raising around $12 million.

Despite this huge difference in income, Sea Shepherd has nine ships at sea actually doing continuous campaigns and with an average of 100 volunteer crew at any given time. Greenpeace has three ships and much fewer campaigns and far fewer active sea-going volunteers.

Sea Shepherd simply does not make decisions by what is popular or politically correct. Sea Shepherd decisions are based on what is ecologically and ethically correct.

We have had people tell us they refuse to contribute to us because of our vegan policy. We have had people tell us they cannot crew with us because of our vegan policies. Our response is okay, that is your decision, but we have no intention of compromising our values for your donations.

What we have discovered with Sea Shepherd is that a vegan diet can sustain our crew in the harshest environments. We have sent our ships to every sea on the planet from Antarctica to the Arctic, and on voyages that last as long as five months. The incredible vegan cooks on the ships have kept the crews well fed and most importantly, happily well fed.

Sea Shepherd has demonstrated that a vegan diet works very well at sea and there can be no practical excuses to not incorporate a more ecological, and a more ethical regimen.

Sea Shepherd has not only established an example for Greenpeace, we have proven that it can be easily implemented.

Greenpeace likes to promote themselves as non-violent while insinuating and sometimes blatantly accusing Sea Shepherd of violence. However the reality is that Sea Shepherd is much more non-violent than Greenpeace. Yes, we are aggressive and we can be intimidating but we have never caused an injury to any person nor suffered any serious injuries to our crew. Greenpeace has suffered serious injuries and even two deaths.

But what makes Sea Shepherd the more non-violent of the two organizations is that not a single animal has had to die for decades to feed the Sea Shepherd crew, not a single fish, chicken, cow, pig, lamb, or anything else.

Additionally Sea Shepherd's carbon footprint has been significantly lower than Greenpeace despite having three times the number of ships.

"Animal agriculture contributes more to producing greenhouse gases than the entire transportation industry." - Captain Paul Watson

Veganism is the most ecologically positive lifestyle for humanity and the evidence is abundantly clear in supporting this fact.

I am not really sure how much more evidence Greenpeace needs in their on-going review of their policy on meat consumption. They state right at the beginning that they consider this to be an important question yet for more than forty years they have not implemented a policy change on board their ships.

In the BBC documentary Battleship Antarctica the cook on the Esperanza boasted that she had 700 kilos of meat on board for the crew. That's a huge carbon footprint and represents the death of a large number of animals on a campaign to protect a relatively fewer number of animals.

When Sea Shepherd saves a whale or a seal, a turtle or a shark, we want to do so without sacrificing the life of another animal. Otherwise the contradiction is exceptionally disturbing unless one willfully chooses to deny the hypocrisy of the situation.

Therefore, as a co-founder of Greenpeace, my message to Greenpeace today is a simple one: It's been a long time for reviewing this important issue, a very long time. When will the decision be made to change this policy or will this internal review process be doomed to eternal review and continued denial?

Greenpeace needs to convert their ships to veganism, or at the very least to vegetarianism.

The question is, will they?