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Bye, Bye Rotten Butter Bombs


Operation No Compromise will see us retiring one of our tactical devices and implementing some new ones.

Starting with the next campaign, Sea Shepherd crews will no longer deploy C6H12O6 > C4H8O2 + 2CO2 + 2H2, also known as Butyric acid, as an offensive measure against illegal whaling operations.

Sea Shepherd ships pursuing illegal Japanese whaling ships in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary have effectively used bottles of Butyric acid for five years as stink bombs on all campaigns between 2005 and 2010.

The chemical, which is simply rotten butter, is an organic biodegradable substance with a Ph of 4.82 making it less acidic than beer. We chose it because it does not pollute the marine environment and it does not cause harm to humans or other living things. It is not poison nor is it corrosive.

However the Japanese public relations flacks have continued to spin the story as if we have been throwing battery acid in the faces of whalers. One Japanese whaler histrionically testified how he was “burnt” by the acid at the recent trial of Captain Peter Bethune.

This is nonsense of course, because C6H12O6 > C4H8O2 + 2CO2 + 2H2 simply does not cause irritation and certainly not corrosive burns, but the continued repeating of this lie by the whalers has led to people actually believing that this is a dangerous substance. It isn’t.

Butyric acid is simply fatty acid occurring in the form of esters in animal fats and plant oils. The triglyceride of butyric acid makes up 3% to 4% of butter. When butter goes rancid, butyric acid is liberated from the glyceride by hydrolysis leading to the unpleasant odor. It is an important member of the fatty acid sub-group called short-chain fatty acids. Butyric acid is a weak acid with a pKa of 4.82. The acid is an oily colorless liquid that is easily soluble in water. In other words, despite its smell it is a food grade product actually used in food additives.

But it stinks really badly. One hint is that Butyric acid is found also in vomit. Organic but not exactly appealing.

And that is why we have used it. Stinky but harmless.

But we are getting bored with the Japanese spin about Sea Shepherd throwing “acid” at their defenseless whalers. The whalers of course toss nuts and bolts, concussion grenades, and bullets at Sea Shepherd’s crew but that seems to be more acceptable to them than rotten butter.

It is time to make them whine about something else so out with the Rotten Butter, and in with some new improved and hopefully more effective tactics.

So a message to all the whalers, we’ll be giving your olfactory nerves a break next season but only because we’ve developed some more effective disruptive tactics and quite frankly it’s always a little nauseating every time we find ourselves downwind of your ships.

Our use of rotten butter bombs has certainly been an attention getter. The Israeli armed forces took up the idea from us to develop a non-lethal crowd control dispersant. Below is the Wikipedia description of uses of Butyric acid.

Butyric acid is used in the preparation of various butanoate esters. Low-molecular-weight esters of butyric acid, such as methyl butanoate, have mostly pleasant aromas or tastes. As a consequence, they find use as food and perfume additives.

Due to its powerful odor, it has also been used as a fishing bait additive. Many of the commercially available flavors used in carp (Cyprinus carpio) baits use butyric acid as their ester base; however, it is not clear whether fish are attracted by the butyric acid itself or the additional substances added to it. Butyric acid was, however, one of the few organic acids shown to be palatable for both tench and bitterling.

The substance has also been used as a noxious, nausea-inducing repellent by anti-whaling protesters, against Japanese whaling crews…

All devices, chemicals, and equipment used tactically in Sea Shepherd campaigns must be non-lethal, non-injurious, and non-harmful to the environment.

Despite bogus claims by Japanese whalers and Libyan fishermen, Sea Shepherd has never caused an injury to any of our opposition. It is a record we intend to maintain.

Captain Paul Watson is director of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.






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