Marine mammal activist Ben White, 53, dies of abdominal cancer

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2005:

Ben White, 53, died on July 30 in
Friday Harbor, Washington, after a six-month
struggle against abdominal cancer.
White “cut open dolphin-holding nets in
Japan, scaled buildings to hang anti-fur
banners, jumped in front of naval ships in
Hawaii to stop sonar tests, and slept atop
old-growth trees to protest logging,” recalled
Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter M.L. Lyke.
“In Seattle, he protested the capture of sea
lions at Ballard Locks by locking himself to the
cage used to hold them. In 1999, he marched as
head turtle at the 1999 World Trade Organization
protests [in Seattle]ŠThe turtle costumes became
the international emblem of opposition to the
White claimed to have informed on the Ku
Klux Klan for the FBI at age 16, while still in
high school. He joined the 1973 American Indian
Movement occupation of the Bureau of Indian
Affairs offices in Washing-ton D.C., and
traveled for a time with the Rolling Thunder
medicine show, which popularized Native American
causes and spirituality during the 1970s and
1980s. He was accused of fomenting strife within
both AIM and the Rolling Thunder entourage.

In 1981 White joined the Sea Shep-herd
Conservation Society. “He participated in the
Sea Shepherd invasion of Soviet Siberia to get
evidence of illegal whaling,” recalled Sea
Shepherd founder Paul Watson. “In February 1982
Ben participated in a Sea Shepherd raid on the
Grenada Zoo to release abused monkeys into the
jungle. In 1983,” Watson added, “Ben was
aboard the Sea Shepherd II voyage to blockade the
harbour at St. John’s, Newfoundland, to prevent
the Canadian sealing fleet from leaving. In the
Gulf of St. Lawrence, Ben was at the helm as we
did a high-speed pass by two sealing ships,
bouncing them about so badly that the sealers
fled for port. The next night, Ben joined me,
Paul Pezwick and Bernard Carlais in a 13-mile
trek over broken ice to Cape Breton Island. Our
plan was to get ashore and steal the Sea Shepherd
II back,” after it was inevitably impounded the
following morning.
The strategy did not work. All 24 crew members were arrested.
Watson said White was “instrumental” in
1985 “in helping to map out” the area where two
Icelandic whaling ships were docked, enabling
Sea Shepherd members Rod Coronado and David
Howitt to scuttle both ships and extensively
damage a whale meat processing plant in November
“Ben sailed on from Iceland to the Faeroe
Islands, where Sea Shepherd initiated the first
high-profile campaign against the slaughter of
pilot whales,” Watson continued. “In 1987, Ben
organized a Sea Shepherd campaign in the North
Pacific on the Divine Wind. The expedition,”
described by Watson as a failure in his 1985 book
Ocean Warrior, “focused attention on destructive
drift netting by the Japanese and Taiwanese
fishing fleets.
“In 1989, Ben participated in the voyage
of the Sea Shepherd II to the Eastern Tropical
Pacific to confront dolphin killing tuna boats,”
Watson added. “Ben assisted operations in the
Caribbean to oppose drift net fishing, and
helped to organize the early North Pacific drift
net campaigns in 1990 and 1992.”
But there was another side to White’s
work. In 1990-1991, White led dissidents who
came within a vote of ousting Watson from the Sea
Shepherd helm. Though Watson
praised White posthumously, he scathingly
detailed their conflicts earlier.
Employed by In Defense of Animals after
his Sea Shepherd involvement, White left that
post and in May 1994 helped Friends of Animals
lead a protest against the Greenpeace position of
not opposing whaling “in principle,” if whale
populations are recovered.
While at FoA, White was also involved in
the 1994-1995 breakup of the Sugar Loaf Dolphin
Sanctuary in the Florida Keys. Founded to
rehabilitate ex-Navy dolphins and ex-performing
dolphins for release, the sanctuary failed amid
infighting often fomented by one “Rick Spill,”
who was marine mammal consultant for the Animal
Welfare Institute from 1994 to 1997.
White worked closely with “Spill,” whom
ANIMAL PEOPLE suspects was actually nonprofit
lawyer and fundraiser Bill Wewer. Long involved
in both far-right and animal advocacy causes,
Wewer was founding attorney and direct mail
fundraiser for the Doris Day Animal League,
1986-1990. His wife Kathleen Marquardt formed
the now defunct anti-animal rights group Putting
People First in 1989.
Documents produced as result of a PETA
lawsuit against Feld Entertainment established
that Putting People First in 1989-1992 received
documents stolen from PETA and the Performing
Animal Welfare Society by agents of the private
security firm Richlin Associates, who were
supervised by former CIA deputy operations
director Clair George.
Wewer boasted in a 1997 fax to ANIMAL
PEOPLE that he had again infiltrated the animal
rights movement, under “deep cover.” Days
later, “Spill” quit AWI on short notice, after
ANIMAL PEOPLE “outed” him to founder Christine
Stevens and current AWI president Cathy Liss,
who said they doubted the identification.
White replaced “Spill” at AWI, having
been fired by FoA in January 1997, according to
FoA memos obtained by ANIMAL PEOPLE, for acts
including leaving a threatening message on the
Sea Shepherd answering machine. Telephone
records showed that more than a third of White’s
calls billed to FoA were made to “Spill.”
Wewer reportedly died in San Francisco on
April 1, 1999, but the San Francisco coroner’s
office never saw the body. “Spill” reappeared
once thereafter, with White, at the November
1999 Seattle anti-WTO protest.
White mostly kept a low profile after
joining AWI, but was involved in the fall 1999
break-up of the Sea Defense Alliance (SeDnA),
founded a year earlier by Jonathan Paul. After
Paul was voted off the board by the other two
board members, they resigned and White took one
of the open positions. Paul then formed Sea
Defense Alliance, Oregon. In November 1999 Paul
sued White and the other new board members,
seeking dissolution of the original organization.
SeDnA appears to be long defunct. Paul’s
organization is now called Ocean Defense

Print Friendly

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.