Whaling has long been recognized as a gruesome, unjustifiable business. In 1986, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) established a Moratorium on Commercial Whaling, which would ostensibly bring an end to these senseless murders once and for all. Unfortunately, this effort was not successful, as countries including Japan, Norway, Iceland, and the Faroe Islands eventually found loopholes in the regulation, finding ways to continue the practice.

Today, Japan, Norway, and Iceland still kill 2,000 whales each year, and the Faroe Islands continue what is called a “drive hunt.” Despite an international condemnation of whaling, these countries disseminate propaganda to the public, all while the whale population diminishes at an alarming rate. If we are to put a stop to hunting, killing, and eating whales, we must recognize these excuses for what they really are: lies. Below, we take a look at some of the biggest farces told by countries who still whale.

1. “Whales can be hunted humanely.”

Countries that continue to hunt, kill, and eat whales may believe that they have been killed in a humane manner. According to inspectors, whaling operations comply with all protocols, and “ensure that as little pain and stress as possible is inflicted.” But anyone who has had to witness this brutal killing knows that there’s nothing  humane about the methods used to kill these magnificent animals that weigh around 100-150 tons Naturally, whales are a moving target in the already moving water, making it difficult for hunters to shoot the animal. Ships usually trail whales until they become completely exhausted. Exploding harpoons are often used on whales and aren’t always fatal, so they are shot multiples. Whalers will harpoon the whales by their tail and pull them upside down along the side of the boat, submersing their blow-holes which causes the whale to suffocate and drown. It can take a whale ten minutes or more to die. 


2. “Whaling is an economic boon.”

Whaling countries maintain that the business is an integral part of their economy. For example, in 2010, the Icelandic government reported that, as a result of whale culling, larger fishing quotas would increase and this could add as much as $94 million to the economy. However, this idea that reducing the whale populations to increase the availability of commercial fish has largely been refuted due to the fact that whales don’t consume large amounts commercially significant fish species

Additionally, the idea that whale meat sales are profitable has also been debunked. According to a 2010 poll, only five percent of Icelanders said they eat whale meat.


3. “It’s for research.”

Since the 1986 moratorium went into affect, Japan has used the loophole of “scientific research” to continue the practice. Though research clearly defies the spirit of the moratorium, the country continues to use it as a rationale to perpetuate the cruel practice. Over the years, Japan has conducted this so-called research on different species of whale, from minke to sperm to sei. When Japan needed to renew a research permit in Antarctica before IWC’s Scientific Committee, the review found that none of the goals of country’s previous research had been met.


4. “There is a high demand for whale meat.”

Just as these countries argue that the whaling industry supports their economies, they also assert that there is a high demand for the meat in their respective regions. In fact, demand has decreased significantly in most parts of the world. In Japan, whale consumption decreased from 2,000 grams per person in 1967 to just 50 grams in 2005. Moreover, the average Norwegian eats less than a pound of whale meat per year, and most citizens see it as an antiquated product.


5. “It’s for cultural preservation.”

On the Faroe Islands, a remote territory of Denmark, whaling is viewed as a treasured cultural tradition, one that has been carried through many generations. In what are known as “drive hunts”, the community captures whales by stabbing metal hooks into their blowholes and dragging them to the beach where they are killed. Despite what is seen as a time-honored tradition, activists are optimistic that this tradition can evolve over time and save thousands of whale lives.

Even Japan and Iceland have attempted to play the culture card to justify their whaling practices. After being told to cancel hunts by the International Whaling Commission, Japan claimed that whaling helped to preserve their cultural tradition … despite the fact that whale-fishing only began in the 20th-century in one small section of the country, on an industrial scale. Iceland’s cultural claim is equally weak, they cite their historic use of the sea’s resources to justify killing whales en masse … give us a break.


Image source: fiatlux/Flickr