From Iceland — Reader Letters: The Whale-Hunting Debacle

Reader Letters: The Whale-Hunting Debacle

Published March 14, 2017

Reader Letters: The Whale-Hunting Debacle


I just read on your site that more minke whales will be killed because of the demand of some tourists. I am certain that a vast majority of tourists are against whale hunting. Why the government is following the demand of a small percentage of foolish tourists? I thought that Iceland is a country where respect for nature is important, but I seem to be wrong. In my opinion it is immoral and disgusting and why not asking the opinion of the Icelandic people in a referendum?

Kind regards,
Danny Van Den Bergh

Hey Danny

The government does not conduct whale hunts; it’s the work of private companies. The last poll on the matter shows Icelanders pretty much split on the issue (, which may explain why the government hasn’t stepped in to shut it down. I think the attitude is “let the market decide,” and as long as tourists come here demanding whale meat, there will always be a supply.

Thanks for your answer. You are right, it is a private company but the government shouldn’t allow it, because there is a worldwide ban on whale hunting, it is against international legislation! I suppose it are especially Japanese tourists who ask for whale meat, as Japan doesn’t respect the international moratorium …. But European tourists are against for almost 100% ………

Kind regards,

Hey Danny,

There aren’t enough Japanese tourists in Iceland to explain the demand; there were only about 22,000 Japanese tourists in Iceland last year, ranking them 16th on the list of tourist nationalities. Anti-whaling activists contend it’s actually tourists from countries where whale meat is banned, who buy it in Iceland as a curiosity, that explains the demand ( But there is no hard data on that in front of me at the moment.

That is indeed strange. I didn’t personally met people who intend to eat whale meat in Iceland, I would never consider it, not even for free! I just don’t understand the government: respect for the environment is very important in Iceland, but they don’t respect a worldwide accepted ban on whale hunting. I think only Japan and Norway (and Iceland?) didn’t sign the international treaty ….
Kind regards,

Hello again Danny

Governments, you may have noticed, often speak in platitudes about the importance of particular “issues”, e.g. tolerance, equality, and environmentalism. But when it comes to enacting actual policy in a capitalist society, that policy can only go as far as capitalism will allows it to go.

So long as there are tourists looking to buy whale meat, there will be restaurants willing to sell it. So long as those restaurants pay taxes, there will be governments willing to tolerate the sale of whale meat. The trade of whale meat will continue until it becomes unprofitable, and will end no sooner.

Such is life in the eco-friendly banker-jailing elfin paradise of Iceland.

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