The 18-year-old Heroes star, speaking without notes, told the crowd, "Not only are these animals being cruelly slaughtered, the meat is contaminated by huge levels of mercury," reports The Washington Post's Reliable Source column, which likened the Heroes star to a latter-day Jane Fonda – though less politically controversial.
Continued Panettiere at the rally: "And we're not taking a stand because Japan is one of our biggest allies in the war on terror, but Australia is an ally and they've told Japan what they think, and good on them!"
'Huge Animal Lover'Panettiere told PEOPLE she's a "huge animal lover. I don't trust people who don't love animals. I've got two dogs at home, Penny Lane and Madison. They're both rescue [dogs], so they're mutts. And I have a cat, Raleigh. I pulled him out from behind the dryer when I was 12. He had his foot stuck in a pipe and I pulled him out."
As for her confronting Japanese fisherman last fall, to protest the killing of dolphins – the incident let to a warrant for her arrest – Panettiere told the crowd at the rally: "I was wearing a wetsuit and shoes. I was like if I'm going to jail I ain’t going to jail in a bikini."
Panettiere, spokesperson for the Save the Whales Again! Campaign, added: "At one point this baby [dolphin] popped its head up and looked at me. To know what was going to happen and to know that I couldn't stop it is just such a helpless feeling.
To Visit EmbassiesFar from helpless, Panettiere is taking her campaign on Monday to the embassies of Iceland, Norway and Japan.
She also has a Web site, Panettiere's Closet, that makes available the clothing and accessories from her show. "All the money goes to the Whaleman Foundation," she says. "Tons of cute clothes on there."