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Whale hunting must be stopped!

Imagine you swim in the ocean just minding your own business. Then, suddenly, something sharp hits you. It enters your body and explodes. The pain is killing but it does not kill you, not yet. Again a sharp object hits you and explodes. Again and again you are hit. Your enormous body, however, does not give up that easily. It will take more than a half an hour to get unconscious. Maybe, if you are lucky, you will drown. Perhaps you will be dragged on a ship. Although you are still alive, conscious and in great agony you will be cut up in pieces, not able to make any sound to notify that you are still alive. This is what happens to hundreds of whales every year (IFAW, 2011). Therefore whale hunting is completely senseless, immoral and inhumane and it has to stop.

Bones and baleens
Pro-whaling countries, like Japan, Iceland and Norway claim there is a need of whale products (Joanne, 2006). Historically this need can be explained. For centuries whales were interesting to hunt because of the oil of their blubber, which can be used for lightning like oil lamps and candles. It was also used to oil machines like an industrial oil. The whale oil used to be important for the fabrication of soap, paint, varnish, textile and rope. The whales’ bones and baleen were used to fabricate corsets which were very fashionable during the 1800s. The bones and baleen provided a flexible fabric which can be compared with plastic. Many items that are made of plastic nowadays used to be fabricated from whalebone and baleen in the 1800s.The teeth of the whales were used as ivory. For example chess pieces, jewellery and piano keys were made of the whales’ teeth (McNamara Robert, 2012).

Nowadays, however, there is no explicit need for whale bones and blubber to produce these kinds of products. During the late 1800s oil wells were discovered. Oil extracted from the ground became an equivalent of the blubber of whales and therefore it was no longer necessary for industrial reasons. As a result of the Industrial Revolution the fabrication of plastic and steel replaced the products obtained from whale bones, teeth and baleens (Montagna Joseph A., 1981). In 1986 the International Whaling Committee (IWC) ‘s implementation of a moratorium has put an end to the legal commercial whale hunting.

According to whaling countries such as Japan, Norway and Iceland the meat of the whales is considered to be a delicacy. Although from the perspective of the anti-whaling lobby the joy to eat a whale steak does not compare to the cruelty of the hunt for whales (Zee in Zicht, 2012).

A third pro-whaling argument claims that whale hunting is needed for scientific purposes (WWF, 2012). According to the IWC it is important to use scientific research on whales by obtaining samples from internal whale organs. It gives a clear identification of the condition of the world seas (IWC, 2010). Recent studies, for example, have found high contents of mercury in the whale organs (Soeder Jon, 2010). The IWC moratorium has put a ban on commercial whale hunting, but it still approves of whale hunting for scientific reasons.

Opponents of whale hunting, however, state that there is no need to kill a whale for scientific research. Scientists can use special small projectiles to gather samples of skin tissue and blubber from whales. The projectile only hits the skin of the whale and is therefore far less harmful than the use of an exploding harpoon, for this alternative method will not kill the whale (Hayes Jeffrey, 2009). Another way to do research on the condition of the world seas is to examine the thousands of whales which are washed ashore every year (Hoare Philip, 2011). It goes without saying that there will be enough material to analyse scientifically without the need to take the life of any whale. Apart from this opponents of whale hunting fear that the permission to hunt whales for scientific reasons will create a loophole in the regulation. Whaling countries might claim to hunt whales for scientific reasons meanwhile they sell the meat for consumption (Cotgrove Bob, 2012).

The economic benefits of the whale hunt is another argument pro-whalers proclaim. They argue that most of the whale stocks are big enough to hunt. (Herrera and Hoagland, 2005) The hunt will be sustainable by the use of catch quota. The trade in whale meat has been a very welcome benefit for the Icelandic economy, especially since the economy has collapsed in 2008 (Capell Kerry, 2008).

Meet us, don’t eat us
The rebuttal to this argument is very clear by the opponents of whale hunting. Economically whales are of much more value alive than when they are hunted and killed for meat. Ecotourism such as whale watching is a trending topic. In 2010 IFAW and The Icelandic Whale Watching Association launched the campaign ‘Meet us, don’t eat us’ to encourage tourists to enjoy whale watching instead of eating a whale steak in a restaurant. (Planet Whale, 2010) Worldwide the concept of whale watching makes for about $1 billion in revenue. Nine million tourists visited 87 countries just to go whale watching (WNF, 2012). According to Greenpeace International (2009) every year 115.000 tourists visit Iceland to go whale watching. The Húsavík Whale museum in Iceland actually believes that whale watching will stop whale hunting. This museum was founded in 1997 provides information about whales in a small exhibition. Fascinating is the eye catching exposition of skeletons from whales which have washed ashore. The Whale Museum promotes whale watching all over Iceland. Together with the Icelandic Whale Watching Association it has created a list of guidelines to make sure whale watching is ‘performed professionally and with respect’ (Húsavík Whale Museum, 2012).

The use of catch quota in whale hunting is according to the anti-whalers just another loophole in the regulations. It authorises countries to continue to hunt whales and quota are easily defrauded (Cotgrove Bob, 2012). In contrast to the pro-whalers’ statement that whale stocks are big enough to hunt, an inquiry by the International Union of Conservation of Nature shows that at least 25 percent of all whale species are severely threatened with extinction (IUCN, 2008).

Credibility and morality
A last objection to the pro-whalers’ argument about the economic benefits of whale hunting is that whale hunting countries lose their international credibility. Commercial whale hunt is banned by the 1986 moratorium of the IWC. Nations that will not subscribe this moratorium will be seen as betrayers of morality. The country’s brand equity is damaged and tourists might stay away for principal reasons (Greenpeace International, 2009). Whale hunting for Iceland in particular is threatening the negotiations for its wish to join the European Union (EU). Whale hunting is banned in the EU. Therefore, Iceland has to subscribe the IWC moratorium in order to become a serious candidate for EU membership (Europees Parlement, 2011).

Finally it should be very clear there is absolutely no need for whale hunting. Any excuse given by the pro-whalers make no sense. Whale hunting belongs to the past. All products obtained from whales are replaceable nowadays. Scientific research does not have to take the life of these wonderful creatures. Furthermore there is obviously no economic benefit in the brutal kill of whales for whale watching is the alternative to this. Just imagine that instead of the senseless and horrific murder by the use of exploding harpoons whales should be respected and live their lives in peace. It must happen, therefore whale hunting must stop!

Ester Versloot