Judge gavel hits lawyer cartoonThe Sea Shepherd Conservation Society — a militant environmentalist “direct action” group made notable by a Discovery Channel television show and led by Paul Watson, a man too violent to stay in Greenpeace and who is wanted by two countries, has been called “pirates” by many people. To that list we can now add the Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, Alex Kozinski.

In a ruling against the Sea Shepherds last week, Kozinski called out the group’s tactics—ramming ships, hurling acid, and similarly violent stunts —for what they are: Piracy on the high seas. He wrote, on behalf of a unanimous panel:

You don’t need a peg leg or an eye patch. When you ram ships; hurl glass containers of acid; drag metal-reinforced ropes in the water to damage propellers and rudders; launch smoke bombs and flares with hooks; and point high-powered lasers at other ships, you are, without a doubt, a pirate, no matter how high-minded you believe your purpose to be.

So, while Judge Kozinski’s ruling may make life and fundraising a bit more difficult for Watson and his acolytes, what does it mean for those who have helped him out in the past? Their number include Wayne Pacelle, boss of the Humane Society of the United States (not to be confused with your local animal shelter), who helped the Sea Shepherds raise money when he worked for the Fund for Animals some years back.

The answer? Probably not much, unfortunately. Consider Neal Barnard, head of the 90 percent doctor-free Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. A decade ago, he co-signed a letter with a representative of the violent animal liberation group SHAC who was later sentenced to six years in federal prison for animal enterprise terrorism. Barnard is now hawking his latest vegan-shilling diet book and cutting PSAs for PBS. The no-animals diet plan now purports to prevent Alzheimer’s Disease. (Nobody tell him about the proven brain benefits of omega-3 (n-3) fatty acids found in fish—that would be inconvenient.) Next week veganism will cure cancer, improve your vision, and tie your shoes for you, but we digress.

The Discovery Channel recently saw the ugly side of a nutjob with a wacky environmentalist agenda, so it’s bizarre that the station continues to make money off of eco-pirates. Hopefully the execs there will wise up to the not-so-controversial idea that cozying up with Pirate Paul or his crew can backfire in one way or another. As for Barnard and Pacelle, we’ll keep making sure people know that these two smooth-talkers aren’t who they seem.