“Ships are expendable; the whales are not.”
– Paul Watson, founder of Sea Shepherd.
As I scroll down my Twitter feed, it seems that almost every other post is distressing images of blood red seas, vulnerable creatures, or an idyllic tourism image which has been edited in some way to shock the viewers. Don’t visit Norway, they hunt whales. Icelandic nature is beautiful but their whaling practices are ugly.
Like most people, I’m very anti-whaling, but I just want to say for the record that we shouldn’t point fingers of blame at the Norwegian people. Most of them are just as disappointed that this practice still goes on. When I lived in Iceland, I saw far more anti-whaling information being spread in the streets than I ever did pro-whaling. Calling all Icelandic people whale hunters is like calling all British people badger cullers, or fox hunters.
Why Does it Still Go On?
With this is mind, with so many people against whaling, why does it still go on? As whale-watching has now become the biggest eco-tourism activity out there, it is clear that these beautiful ocean giants are far more beneficial to human populations alive rather than dead. I wouldn’t want to put a price tag on another creature, but if it meant saving them from needless slaughter, then that is what we should do.
People will pay anywhere between $50 to over $100 to see a whale in its natural habitat, and there are a lot of tours that will take enthusiastic guests out to catch a glimpse of a breaching beauty. So again my question is, why does it still go on?
Whale hunting is prominent in three countries: Japan, Norway and Iceland (and the Faroe Islands). Between them, they kill around 2,000 whales per year. Not only that, but the way these creatures are killed is slow, painful, and degrading to the animal. The whales are killed with a mere profit in mind, making the people actually doing the hunting look like money-grabbing fools.
I don’t think its just about profit. If it were, then they would know by now that they would be so much richer changing their boat into a nature sightseeing tour or something. Whalers from Japan claim they are hunting whales for scientific purposes, however many environmental groups argue that this just a cover up so that they can find a loophole to hunt legally. Besides, the scientific purposes excuse is not satisfactory in my opinion. Why would you want to research and count whale populations by slaughtering them? I’m not an expert, but surely simply tagging a whale would be the more preferable option. Better yet, why can’t humans just stay out of their business?!
“Tradition is an Explanation for Acting Without Thinking”
I think, on some level, commercial whale hunting is related to power, and let’s not forget the good old tradition excuse! Aside from all participating in whaling, Iceland, Norway and Japan all share a common history. They have been doing it since as early as the 10th century, and they did it to survive. By this logic, modern day whale hunting is completely justifiable (according to them). You know what I think? I think you should all put your harpoons down and eat some vegetables. It’s 2016, you don’t need whale meat to survive.
Stop using tradition as a way to justify cruelty. It’s wrong, and brings out the very worst in people. Traditionally, black people were slaves. Does that justify slavery today? Of course it doesn’t.
I’ve been called out before for being too insensitive when getting angry about unnecessary traditions, but I kind of think that 3,000 whales’ lives are a little bit more important than offending some self-righteous humans.
Is it Going to Get Better?
The good news is yes. I think it will. Iceland’s tourist population is rapidly on the rise, which is the country’s main source of income, so if it looks like their whaling practices will affect their tourism figures, they will definitely back track. I have high hopes that this, combined with organisational pressure, will push whaling back into the cupboard for good.
The same applies for Norway and Japan. Norway is a beautiful, desirable Scandinavian country with varied landscapes and nature. People have, and will continue to travel to the country to experience this. Would the government really jeopardise this in favour of needless hunting? I don’t think so. Japan, too, is a unique place on our planet, and they hosted 19.73 million tourists in 2015, generating 3.48 trillion yen for their economy. Think about how much more money their country would make if only they threw out their whale hunting boats.
Activists, too, are actually making a significant impact. NGO Sea Shepherd forced Japanese whalers to retreat early in 2009/10, meaning less whales died that year. In fact, Sea Shepherd has been the ocean’s saviour for the past 30 years, working tirelessly to protect all sea life from the destructive nature of humankind. Every year they combat whalers using direct approaches and stopping the action at the roots – in the oceans themselves.
Voices on social media are also making a difference. By sharing vivid images, gifs, and petitions, we are spreading the word. Our online voices are making noise, and that noise can’t be ignored.
So stand up, speak out, and support organisations like Sea Shepherd. If you do go on holiday to one of these places, make sure to boycott any company that supports whaling, or serves whale meat. If you live in one of these countries, your activism can be more direct by doing public protests, or writing letters to your government.
The more we do, the faster things will change. And things need to change. For the sake of our planet’s whales.