Whaling isthe act of hunting and killing whales, this is usually for their meat, oil, andbones.
Different communities hunt whales for different reasons, there are threestandard types of whaling; commercial whaling, where the whale’s parts are soldfor profit; scientific research whaling, this requires a permit, the whale isexamined to learn more about the animals; and finally, aboriginal subsistencewhaling, which allows aboriginals to complete traditional hunting practiceswhich keep their heritage alive as well as giving them a source of food andincome. TheInternational Whaling Commission (IWC) temporarily banned commercial whaling in1986, this prohibition is still in place. This committee is a voluntary unionof currently 40 countries that provides limits on whale hunting as well asstatistical records and reports on the mammals, monitoring their populations.The IWC itself cannot enforce any of the laws it creates; but the ban forcedmember countries to completely stop hunting whales for profit, and meant thatanybody caught doing so in their waters could be placed in prison and facedwith large fines. Theban was introduced due to rapidly declining and unsustainable whale populationsto allow them to replenish, as well as the increased pressure from growinganimal rights movements. However, Norway and Iceland brazenly continuecommercially whaling despite the bar, and Japan kills large numbers for its’scientific program’, between them over one and a half thousand whales arekilled each year.
Whaling is a particularly heated topic between international animalrights groups and certain governments, both campaigning for opposite agendasand producing conflicting evidence which supports their own claims. I aminvestigating this topic as I’m personally very interested in animal rights,but also how far we should be allowed to push our own beliefs on others, especiallywhen it’s such a large majority against a small minority, as well as the roleand enforcement of international law. The literature will be presentedthematically to explore the different key elements of debate over this topicand to analyse the opposing arguments and evidence for each area.Due to whales being such large animals, the hunting method is “just barbaric”, “they’re hitwith an explosive harpoon sending shrapnel and hooks through their bodies”-Jess Hansen (Sea Shepard’s director). Animal rights groups argue that it’s needless cruelty to make intelligent,emotional beings suffer, that “all whales have the right to life,liberty and wellbeing” -WDC (Whale and Dolphin Conservation). Hansen, who has been witness to many whalehunts states “it takes a long time for them to die”, completely obverse to Setsuo Izumi (aJapanese whaler) who argues this is completely false propaganda, and thanks tothis modern technology the whales “usually take 2 and a half minutes to die,but sometimes pass instantly from the shock”. SeaShepard and the WDC actively campaign and publicize to end whaling, they sharevery strong and similar views on the subject and produce alike research.
Hansen’s claim that the whales take a long time to die is also supported by aveterinary scientist Dr. Kestin, he says there is evidence showing thatnearly half the animals hit by Japanese whalers are struck in a region whichwould not lead to rapid death and he “can’t visualise a humane way of killingwhales.” This data came from a report Kestin collated on his findings from thedata on Minke Whale deaths from 1983-2001, published by the British VeterinaryAssociation which supposedly “support transparent, evidence- led findings”.Although you could argue his findings may be outdated and doesn’t consider the moderntechnology Izumi sited, and that the BVA may not actually be completelyunbiased considering their job is to look after the wellbeing of animals. Izumion the other hand is actively for whaling, and has been actively hunting themfor over 40 years, giving him lots of first-hand experience witnessing thedeaths. While you could reason this makes his claim more reliable, he is undoubtedlybiased so going to counter anti-whaling arguments, and perhaps his first-handexperience isn’t actually as straight and truthful as the data collected byKestin. Nevertheless, the only way to completely stop the supposed crueltywould be to ban all forms of whaling, no matter the motivation.
Many view acomplete whaling ban as unjust, as various small coastal communities have longhistories and heritagesof subsistence whaling, where only relatively small numbers are killed. TheFaroe Islands especially still practice community whaling events known asgrinds, Bjarki Dalsgaro, a Faroese who takes part in the proceedings says hispeople “feel a real cultural attachment” to the events, as they’re a majortradition to maintaining cultural ties with ancestors, “everybody comestogether”. Not only this, but the grindsare for “food primarily”, and the aboriginals eat the meat themselves due tothe apparent health benefits. Currently the IWC allows for the aboriginal’s cultural practices,and they are permitted to kill a set number of whales each year. Dalsgarois a whaling advocate, having grew up on the islands with the tradition aroundhim, he argues the hunt should be allowed for the traditional and communalbenefits, however this is very one-sided and does not take into account thedamage the island could be doing to the environment.
Sea Shepard who attendedthe 2017 summer grinds said they witnessed at least 200 dolphins and over 400whales killed, an arguably excessive number considering the small islandpopulation and number of other food supplies available. Not only this, but underthe IWC guidelines, aboriginal communities should consume the meat locally,although due to lose restrictions it can, and has been “sold to supermarketsand even exported as surplus” -Chris Butler (a BBC News associate) notes. Thisis almost certainly true as the BBC is a reliable producer of truthful unbiasedresearch; I believe it could be viewed as unfair and hypocritical to bancommercial whaling but allow this solely because it’s performed by minoritygroups. Norwayand Iceland also view hunting whales as part of their histories and cultures, havingdone so since at least the early 13th century. However, theirpopulations are too large to be allow them to hunt under the aboriginal whalingclause. Their reasons are the same as the aboriginal groups throughout Canadaand Russia, to honor their “long traditions” -Genevieve Desportes (of the NorthAtlantic Marine Mammal Conservation), he himself admits “it’s sustainable inthe long term”. Yet some may try argue that the aboriginal groups are mostlikely taking in much smaller hauls, as it is intended for just self-consumption,the Faroe Island 2017 hunts took in 400 whales, whereas Iceland only capturedunder 200.
You would expect Desportes to put down pro-whaling arguments becauseof his position, so the fact that he’s saying it’s sustainable must be thetruth as it’s his job to analyze the figures and ensure the maintenance of thiswildlife.Similarly, before1986, countless whale species were becoming endangered and on the verge ofextinction due to larger whaling efforts and advancements in technology whichmade the hunting easier and more efficient. The over 30-year suspension hasallowed the majority of the species to grow strongly and more than recover. Theminke whales, at an estimated population of “760,00” -IWC; Joji Morishita,deputy director at Japanese Fisheries doesn’t understand why there “are morethan minkes ever, and they say we cannot take one”. The scientific departmentof IWC estimated Japan could safely “take up to 2,000 minke a year” however the40 members rejected this suggestion, due to each associate country’s stronganti-whaling public opinion.
Morishita argues “International law has to bebased on science, which is the bridge between different cultures. It can’t bebased on one group trying to impose their values on another.” I agree with him,as the IWC was set up with a primary goal of ensuring our whale populations aresustainable, and if this valued tradition can be continued at maintainablerates with set quotas in place, the other member states have no reason toobject other than for personal reasons.
Greenpeace argues that even a limitedresumption would unleash forces leading to a return to wholesale anduncontrolled exploitation, however if the IWC’s own scientific program hasdecided on a safe rate for the whaling, I find this a more reliable estimatedue to it being their primary concern and having all the figures to accuratelyjudge the situation. Evena former US whaling commissioner admits “they will no longer object onconservation grounds, they will object on ethical grounds” -The Guardian, whichparticularly angers the pro whalers. Despite sound, neutral scientificevidence, agreed upon conservation terms and good motives, they are stilldenied due to the west’s ethics. Setsua Izumi (a Japanese whaler) maintainsthis objection is completely unfair and “cultural imperialism”, “the west istrying to force their values on us”, he even compares it to “banning killingcows for the sake of Hindus”. The former US whaling commissioner’s statementagrees with what the pro-whalers like Morishita and Izumi have argued, it isonly still outlawed for ethical reasons.There are two sides to this argument, as westernizationhas already changed countless cultures, some believe we should try preserve andencourage any original traditions and beliefs that remain. In this situation,this would result in us removing the ban and allowing for commercial whaling,as we allow many of our own desirable species to be hunted.
However, it could be argued that we have had goodreason to interfere, as the majority stance of the world, and us doing so hassaved countless whale species from going extinct. Not only this but manysocieties have had “barbaric” ceremonies as part of their history, but as wethe world developed we have moved on and put these behind us to be moreconsiderate of our surroundingsWhaling is not for the money, in a year it produces “£70million” (-The Guardian, a well-known, neutral and reliable source), arelatively small figure when compared with the annual “£2 billion” whalewatching generates. This is perhaps a reminder of how the public values conservationefforts and believes in protecting our wildlife as it has grown alongside us.
When I first started this essay, I was very against whaling as a supporter ofanimal rights and especially having seen the particularly cruel nature of thehunts as well as knowing how complex and intelligent whales can be. However,having read into how certain people view the hunts as a way to bond with theirancestors, and are willing to hunt at low levels they’ve proven are sustainableyet are denied by other cultures, even demonising them, I can understand howfrustrating it must be and why they actively campaign against them, andsometimes even continue hunting regardless. Despite this personally I believethere should be a global, enforced ban on whaling, the scientific research hasbeen proven to be able to happen while they’re alive, and the aboriginals couldjust try eating something else . Overwhelming public opinion supports this, andother cultures before have been encouraged to stop killing endangered animalsneedlessly, if not to preserve diversity, to minimise unkind human interferencewith the natural world. Myconclusion may be bias due to the majority of resources on whaling beingcharity websites, actively campaigning to end it.