The Whaling debate intensifies

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October 18, 2006 Man has hunted whales using boats and spears since at least 6000BCE and big business in Northern Europe for 500 years. Some countries such as Iceland and Japan have a long tradition of continuous whaling for more than a thousand years, and at points in history would not have survived without whaling. It is no coincidence that the Icelandic word "hvalreki" means both "beached whale" and "jackpot". Harpooning of whales by hand began in Japan in the 12th century, but it was not until the 1670s, when a much less dangerous and far more effective method of catching whales using nets was developed. This catalysed a whaling boom and whale meat became a primary source of food and protein for the population. In the post WW11 famine, the population became dependent on whaling again. So there’s a very staunch pro-whaling group, and there’s an equally staunch anti-whaling lobby.There are many arguments against whaling with the most emotionally compelling being that it’s unethical to kill an intelligent animal. There is also widespread agreement that it is morally wrong to exterminate a species of animal and agreements were made at the 1986 International Whaling Commission (IWC) global moratorium that are about to be broken because Iceland is preparing to resume commercial whale hunting for the first time in 20 years. The decision, which makes Iceland the second country along with Norway to hunt commercially, has drawn sharp criticism from both the UK government and animal conservationist groups like IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare). Officials from the Icelandic Fisheries Ministry say Icelandic fishermen will hunt nine fin whales (an endangered species) and 30 mink whales by August 2007.

IFAW officials say commercial whaling is unnecessary in Iceland, citing a recent poll in which only 1.1 percent of Icelanders eat whale meat once a week or more, while 82.4 percent of 16 to 24-year-olds never eat whale meat.

The announcement was made by Iceland’s Ministry of Fisheries, which said permits had been granted for the commercial hunting of 30 minke whales and nine endangered fin whales. While Iceland has not officially hunted whales commercial over the last two decades, it has hunted whales for what it calls “scientific” purposes that are allowable through an IWC loophole – though the meat from the whales is sold commercially within Iceland – generating outcry from both the global conservation and scientific communities.

In criticizing Iceland’s decision to resume the commercial hunting of whales, the U.K. government noted today in an official statement that: “Few Icelanders eat whale meat regularly; there is limited, if any, world market for the meat; and there is little scientific support for the theory that whales have a significant impact on the depletion of fish stocks. Furthermore, a growing number of jobs in Iceland depend on the developing whale-watching industry. In the past year, thousands of visitors from overseas (over 70.000 were British) have experienced the joy and excitement of sailing off the coast of Iceland to see whales swimming in their natural habitat.”

IFAW’s Director of Wildlife and Habitat Protection, Dr. Joth Singh, agreed, saying, “Commercial whaling is an out-dated and unnecessary industry that should have ended a century ago with the use of whale oil lamps. The government of Iceland should be supporting its nation’s thriving and growing whale watching industry rather than sinking money and its political reputation into promoting the hunting of whales.”

What we need is a synthetic whale meat.

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