I really like to stay on the offense at The HSUS. I want to press ahead with new campaigns that keep our opponents on the defense—whether on horse slaughter, cockfighting, factory farming, canned hunts, puppy mills or the like—so that the industries responsible for these cruelties have to defend their practices and cannot as readily try to strike at gains we have already secured.
But defense is required from time to time. And that’s the case with whales—a matter that should have long ago been settled by the world community in favor of the whales.
The 59th annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission began yesterday and continues through May 31 in Anchorage, Alaska to consider whale conservation and management worldwide. Many people believe mistakenly that whales are safe as a result of our victories of the 1970s and 1980s, after many species were hunted to the brink of extinction. I wish it were true, but it isn’t.
At last year’s IWC meeting, the pro-whaling countries secured an important symbolic victory when, by a single vote, they passed a resolution stating that the longstanding moratorium on commercial whaling was no longer necessary. This year, it appears the anti-whaling nations will secure the majority and be strong enough to prevent the three-quarters vote needed to overturn the moratorium. But more limited threats to whales will surely emerge (see our breaking news from the meeting).
The HSUS and its global arm, Humane Society International, have been a presence at IWC for more than 30 years. We are also active in the Whales Need US coalition of 20 non-governmental organizations—joined by more than 50 congressional representatives—who have called upon the United States to take a stronger role in whale protection (letters were recently circulated by members of the U.S. House and Senate urging renewed leadership within the IWC).
This year, four of our staff members will participate in the IWC deliberations and advise the nations that do not support expanded whaling. We’ve developed assessments of expected whaling proposals and continue to build a case for responsible whale watching tourism as an alternative to whaling.
Our opening statement to the IWC emphasized the uncertain impacts of global climate change as a factor in jeopardizing the well-being and survival of whales. Without scientific research to assess the likely threats to whales as a result of global warming, it’s irresponsible for the whaling nations to continue on their current course.
The three whaling nations—Japan, Norway and Iceland—and several dozen other nations that support them (mainly through a vote-buying scheme by Japan) will again press for expanded opportunities to whale and to continue their fraudulent efforts to kill whales for scientific purposes.
Japan, in particular, will renew its efforts to secure coastal whaling rights and promote its plans to expand its "scientific whaling" to yet another species—the beloved humpback whale (take action against this continued killing of endangered and threatened whales).
Every year at the IWC meeting it is “death by a thousand cuts,” as the Japanese chip away at whale protections, testing the tolerance of the United States and the rest of the world. Unfortunately, Japan’s geopolitical importance suppresses any strong action by the United States to confront the Japanese.
It amazes me that these nations persist in wanting to kill whales, especially the prosperous nations like Japan, Iceland and Norway, which alone has a federal surplus of $300 billion thanks to the bounty of oil revenues. Their commitment to whale killing is appalling and cruel, and why they persist in aggressive diplomatic efforts to gain the right to kill these majestic sea mammals absolutely mystifies me. The whales are as large as or larger than the dinosaurs that once roamed our landscapes. We should cherish their presence and do all we can to protect them—gentle and beautiful and extraordinary as they are.