From Iceland — Why Whale?

Why Whale?

Published September 30, 2009

Why Whale?

I’m worried. Quite troubled and downright concerned. But before looking further into the subject at hand, I would like to plea for some sort of understanding from the general public, from which I expect to get my ass kicked after the statements to come.
That said, let’s get down to business:
Since moving to this rock of a country there is one matter that has caused me an extensive amount of distress. It was while driving along the ring road and passing Hvalfjörður the other day when I saw the old whaling station up and running. A boat was either coming or going, I couldn’t tell which. The thought of a whale potentially being offloaded made me sick to my stomach, and reminded me of the reality of which I am now living. A reality where whaling is considered fine and dandy.
What shocks me the most is the fact that no Icelander seems to either
a) care
b) know what the hell whaling is about.
The consumption of whale meat is something so natural and common I’m beginning to wonder if anyone has ever considered how or why the animal ended up on their plate. It’s time for an eye opener.
Back in the day, an orgy of unrestrained whale hunting almost sent a hell of a lot of species to near extinction. Finally, in 1986, environmentalists reached a breakthrough when the International Whaling Commission (IWC) voted to prohibit whaling with a global moratorium. That means whaling was banned, people, banned and prohibited everywhere. Or as the IWC states: “the commercial whaling moratorium sets commercial catch limits on all whale species in all areas to zero.” However, some countries (Iceland being among them) thought: “Fuck this.”
For the unversed, Iceland officially resumed commercial whaling in 2006—this after a 17 year standstill of the industry. Along with Norway, Iceland is openly flouting the IWC’s rules being the only countries in the world conducting commercial whaling. Japan hunts whales using the pretence of “scientific whaling,” something Iceland had also been doing since 2003.   
So back to why this whole whaling business is oh so wrong. First and foremost I would like to make very clear that I oppose all forms of animal suffering and that I am against any kind of industry where animals are harmed for our own sakes. I personally believe that there is no difference in eating cow vs. whale; one is just as bad as the other. Many seem to have the impression that the argument of being against whaling is based on cuteness. To be honest, that’s just stupid. Besides, the basic fact that there is a global moratorium on whaling, the main issues on why whaling is so screwed up comes down to three points: it’s not OK to kill endangered species, whales cannot be guaranteed to be killed humanely and the industry does more harm than good to Iceland as a nation.
Fin whales are endangered. Iceland hunts fin whales. Whalers often argue that they conduct sustainable whaling and that their catches will not deplete the populations. These arguments are based on doubtful science, often brought on by the whaling nations themselves. The fin whale is on the Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. They are also listed as endangered by the UN World Conservation Monitoring Centre. Endless numbers of NGOs will agree. As far as I’m concerned, it is a fact. I rest my case.
Next issue: compared to the somewhat more humane slaughter of livestock, the process of killing whales is nothing less than brutal and cruel using explosive harpoons that puncture the skin, exploding inside the body and all. More often than not it takes quite some time before the whale actually dies, which causes excessive suffering. There is no way to guarantee an instant death. Which just isn’t nice.
Last but not least, whaling isn’t all that great for Iceland’s international reputation and neither is it all that profitable. The whale watching industry brings in more revenue than whaling possibly could, and there is little or no market for exporting the stuff.
Before leaving office this year, the former government issued a major increase of the whaling quota to 100 minke and 150 endangered fin whales annually for the next five years. It should be stated that fin meat is not eaten in Iceland and again, the export market is looking extremely slim. Sadly, the newly elected government has allowed the proposed quota at least for this year.
All I ask is that one ought to think twice about what purpose whaling serves. But if you simply couldn’t care less for the creatures themselves, maybe you should think again before eating whale meat for your own sake. The blubber of dead whales in some areas is so highly contaminated with PCBs and pesticides that it would be classified as toxic waste; that, among other things, affects reproduction.
And that’s just not right, is it?

Support The Reykjavík Grapevine!
Buy subscriptions, t-shirts and more from our shop right here!


Show Me More!