Last Saturday, I marched shoulder to shoulder with WDC colleagues as we braved the January cold to protest in central London with hundreds of like-minded people. The air rang with voices, accompanied by a merry cacophony of whistles, drums and tambourines as we headed along Regent Street, past Hamleys, through Piccadilly Circus and past The Ritz, attracting stares - but also whoops of support - from shoppers and tourists.
As we neared the Japanese Embassy, the chants became louder: ‘STOP THE SLAUGHTER IN THE WATER!’’ Marchers on the kerbside, holding aloft placards bearing the legend ‘Honk if you love whales!’ were rewarded by a chorus of horns and toots so loud that they almost drowned out the assembled throng. Almost.
That day, the main agenda was to be a voice for the whales. We were gathered to stand together in an outpouring of indignation at Japan’s defiant Boxing Day message that they would leave the IWC (the International Whaling Commission, the global body that regulates whale hunting) on 1 July and the very next day, start killing whales blatantly for commercial profit in the waters around Japan.
Earlier, we had assembled in Cavendish Square, off Oxford Circus, to hear speakers - including friends of WDC: philanthropist and passionate conservationist, Peter Hall and environmentalist, Stanley Johnson (father of Boris) - urge the Japanese government to halt its plans to resume commercial whaling and stay within the IWC.
Perhaps the most poignant message of all was delivered by 16-year-old Bella Lack, who gave an impassioned plea to Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, to leave these beautiful, peaceful, intelligent and awe-inspiring creatures alone. ’How’ she asked ’will you justify to your children and grandchildren why you were privileged to experience some of the most magnificent creatures on this planet - and yet chose to destroy them?’
Will our march help? I don’t know for sure but I hope so. What I do know, beyond a shadow of doubt, is that joining with others who feel strongly about the same issue fulfils a really important purpose: it stops us feeling so alone. It allows us to reach out and DO something positive, rather than sit at home feeling helpless and frustrated. It is life-affirming to speak out - with one voice - in support of a cause we believe in.
And it helps bring others into the throng. Think of all the passers-by who listened, even for just a few seconds, to the speakers in Cavendish Square and then went on their way, knowing just a little bit more about the issue. Think of how many thousands of shoppers witnessed the marchers and heard the chants as we passed - the children who asked their parents about the whales, or the teenagers who shared Facebook and Twitter posts.
I am a huge believer in people power. If enough good people stand together, we can move mountains. And we CAN save whales.
‘What do we want? TO SAVE THE WHALES! When do we want it? NOW!’
Please add your voice to ours and email the Japanese Embassy in your country - we are strong when we all stand together.