Anti-whaling activists still angry

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A Norwegian official’s claim that the country no longer faces international protests over its commercial whaling activity has been soundly trounced by anti-whaling activists. They claim opposition to Norwegian whaling is as strong as ever.

Anti-whale activists vow to continue trying to protect minke whales like this one. PHOTO: ©WDCS/Regina Asmutis-Silvia

“I respectfully disagree with former IWC Commissioner (and Norwegian diplomat) Karsten Klepsvik’s claim that anti-whaling protests against Norway have died down,” Kate O’Connell, an anti-whaling campaigner for the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) in the US, told Views and News on Wednesday.

Rather, O’Connell said there’s been an increase in anti-whaling activity by both Norwegian and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs). She pointed to, among other groups, NOAH, a local animal rights organization that has conducted public opinion polls revealing growing concern, also in Norway, over the welfare of the country’s whale hunt.

Klepsvik, who has been Norway’s representative to the International Whaling Commission (IWC), had told newspaper Aftenposten earlier this week that he and others in Norway’s foreign ministry have seen a marked reduction in the number of angry protests over the whale hunt that resumed nearly 20 years ago. He chooses to believe the reduction in large-scale demonstrations and threats of boycotts is a recognition that Norway’s whale hunt is sustainable and scientifically defensible.

Not so, responds O’Connell and other anti-whaling activists who commented online about Klepsvik’s remarks. One called Klepsvik’s own comments “a great piece of campaigning” but claimed that “in reality opposition to whaling has remained high and is as resolute as it has ever been.”

The mass street protests of the 1990s, it’s claimed, have evolved into “more sophisticated campaigns” targeting actual whaling interests. Some UK food retailers and wholesalers are reportedly refusing to buy seafood from any companies with a link to whaling.

O’Connell of WDCS agreed that the whaling industry in “in a downward spiral,” with the total number of whales actually killed only a fraction of the quota allowed.

“This does not mean that the anti-whaling community has walked away from the issue,” she said. A petition against whaling (external link) that was organized by the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) attracted more than 101,000 signatures last year, O’Connell noted, from people calling for “an end to the cruelty” of the whale hunt. Because of the sheer size of whales, WSPA argued, it’s impossible for whales to be killed humanely. A video of a minke whale being harpooned by the Norwegian whaling vessel Rowenta showed the impact of the harpoon and the failure of the vessel’s crew to ensure the whale was dead for 22 minutes.

Norway is one of just three countries in the world, along with Japan and Iceland, that has continued to hunt whales. Commercial hunts are in defiance of a global ban on commercial whaling. The IWC will hold its 63rd annual meeting next week in the Channel Islands (Jersey) and O’Connell said she’ll be there, carrying on the fight against whale hunts.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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