jim robertson wolfcrest at
Tue Mar 9 23:14:39 EST 2004


LONDON, UK, March 9, 2004 (ENS) - Whaling is too cruel to continue, a global 
coalition of 140 nongovernmental organizations in 55 countries said today at 
the launch of an international campaign to halt the practice everywhere in 
the world. Led by the World Society for the Protection of Animals, the 
coalition is lobbying the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to maintain 
the current ban on commercial whaling and focus on the issue of cruelty at 
the 2004 IWC meeting set for July in Italy.

A simple reason to stop whaling: it's cruel
142 organisations unite to highlight horrific impact of harpooning
By Michael McCarthy, Environment Editor
09 March 2004

Animal welfare groups from around the world presented a report on whaling 
yesterday that aims to take the argument back to basics: the cruelty of the 

The report, likely to be seen as one of the most significant contributions 
to the whaling debate for many years, is a detailed scientific study of how 
much violence is needed to slaughter the world's largest animals in the open 

Its premise is that much of the argument in the annual conferences of the 
International Whaling Commission (IWC) now tends to be about whale 
population statistics, and this has obscured the main issue - that the act 
of killing the great whales, usually by explosive harpoons, isunacceptably 

The report,Troubled Waters, comprehensively reviews the animal welfare 
implications of modern whaling activities. It has been produced by 142 
animal welfare organisations from 57 countries, including several from 
Britain, who have come together in a new coalition,Whalewatch. Its avowed 
purpose is to bring the issue of cruelty back to the fore at the next IWC 
meeting in Italy in July, and maintain the international moratorium on 
commercial whaling.

The moratorium has been in force since 1986, but is increasingly being 
challenged by the three main pro-whaling nations - Japan, Norway and 
Iceland. Since it was introduced, more than 20,000 whales have been killed 
by the whaling countries - by Japan and recently Iceland under the guise of 
"scientific" whaling, and by Norway as a simple commercial hunt. In this 
coming year they are likely to kill more than 1,400 animals between them, 
mostly minke whales.

But the new report does not concern itself with numbers. It sets out to 
demonstrate, in extensive technical detail, that the great whales are so big 
and powerful that the amount of force needed to dispatch even one of them is 
unacceptably inhumane.

Britain's best-known naturalist, Sir David Attenborough, stresses the point 
in his foreword to the report. "The following pages contain hard scientific 
dispassionate evidence that there is no humane way to kill a whale at sea," 
says the broadcaster.

"Dr Harry Lillie, who worked as a ship's physician on a whaling trip in the 
Antarctic half a century ago, wrote this: 'If we can imagine a horse having 
two or three explosive spears stuck in its stomach and being made to pull a 
butcher's truck through the streets of London while it pours blood into the 
gutter, we shall have an idea of the method of killing. The gunners 
themselves admit that if whales could scream, the industry would stop for 
nobody would be able to stand it.' The use of harpoons with explosive 
grenade heads is still the main technique used by whalers today."

Sir David suggests that any reader of the report should "decide for yourself 
whether the hunting of whales in this way should still be tolerated by a 
civilised society."

Peter Davies, director general of the World Society for the Protection of 
Animals, one of the leading groups in the coalition, said: "The cruelty 
behind whaling has become obscured in recent years by abstract arguments 
over population statistics. The fact is that, whether it is one whale or a 
thousand, whaling is simply wrong on cruelty grounds alone."

The technology used for killing whales has altered little since the 19th 
century, when the grenade-tipped harpoon was invented. The penthrite grenade 
harpoon, the main killing method today, is fired from a cannon mounted on 
the bow of a ship. It is intended to penetrate a foot into the whale before 
detonating. The aim is to kill the animal through neurotrauma induced by the 
blast-generated pressure waves of the explosion.

However, if the first harpoon fails to kill the whale, then a second 
penthrite harpoon or a shot from a rifle is used as a secondary killing 
method. But given the constantly moving environment in which whales live, 
there are inherent difficulties in achieving a quick clean kill, the report 
says, and despite its destructive power, the whaler's harpoon often fails to 
kill its victim instantaneously, and some whales take more than an hour to 

The difficulties in hitting a whale with any degree of accuracy can be seen 
in the margin for human error. For example, despite similar killing methods 
being used, Norway reported that one in five whales failed to die 
instantaneously during its 2002 hunt, while Japan reported that the majority 
of whales - almost 60 per cent - failed to die instantaneously during its 
2002-03 hunt.

Tests to determine the moment of death of a whale are inadequate, the report 
says, and the question remains whether whales may in fact still be alive 
long after having been judged to be dead. The full extent of their suffering 
is yet to be scientifically evaluated.

Compassion, in which all ethics must take root, can only attain its full 
breadth and depth if it embraces all living creatures and does not limit 
itself to humankind.
Dr. Albert Schweitzer, Nobel Peace Prize winner

Get a FREE online computer virus scan from McAfee when you click here.

More information about the AR-News mailing list