Hayden Panettiere said Thursday that she might never have been involved in a recent protest in which she tried to save the dolphins in Japan without inspiration and influence she's gotten through her hit TV series, Heroes.
The NBC show "is about being a hero. And you know, Heroes has kinda rubbed off on me," the 18-year-old Panettiere said on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
"I don't think if I was as recognizable in the public eye that it would have made as much of an impact," Hayden told Ellen DeGeneres.
Panettiere took part in an anti-whaling protest in Japan last month with a group called Sea Shepherd. The activists paddled on surfboards to confront fishermen who slaughter dolphins for food but were driven back - and in a video shot by Sky News, Panettiere was seen weeping when she got back to the shore.
Hayden Panettiere said that while she was afraid of the fishermen, and possible sharks in the water, that faded when she saw the dolphins.
"Every ounce of fear disappeared just watching those animals," Hayden said. "They know exactly what is going to happen, and as soon as they felt our presence, and knew that we were coming in peace... All we wanted to do was go and cut them out of [their enclosure], and we couldn't."
Ellen Degeneres, a noted animal lover, told Panettiere, "I admire and respect you and all the people who do that for a living for being able to witness it."
Hayden Panettiere added that the group's mission extends beyond interfering with the dolphin hunts, and is more educational than known by the public.
"We are trying to educate people that whale and dolphin meat is highly toxic," she said. "They are basically poisoning themselves by eating them."