Iceland’s Whaling Suspension: The Beginning of the End of This Brutal Practice

Jun 26, 2023

In a landmark move for oceanic wildlife, Iceland has suspended its annual whale hunt. This unprecedented action, borne of a pressing concern for animal welfare, looks set to signify the end of a longstanding, controversial practice that has marred Iceland's reputation for decades.

Victory for the Giants of the Sea

The suspension of this horrific hunt, in place until 31 August, has been hailed as a significant stride forward in compassionate whale conservation by environmentalists and animal rights groups worldwide. Iceland's Food Minister, Svandis Svavarsdottir, announced the pause after a damning government-commissioned report found the hunt to be in violation of the country's Animal Welfare Act.

A Visible Agony

Recent monitoring of the fin whale hunt by Iceland's Food and Veterinary Authority exposed the torturous reality faced by these majestic creatures. The killing process was deemed excessively lengthy, defying the fundamental objectives of animal welfare. Video footage released by the authority revealed the gut-wrenching agony of a whale hunted for a gruelling five hours.

Whaling in Hvalfjsrour, north of Reykjavik. (AFP)

A Tipping Point for Iceland's Whaling Industry

Iceland's whaling industry, already in decline, is now standing on the precipice. The country has just one remaining whaling company, Hvalur, with its license set to expire in 2023. Another business ceased operations in 2020, citing a lack of profitability. The whaling season, typically spanning mid-June to mid-September, sees the killing of hundreds of fin and minke whales. But falling demand for whale meat has seen these numbers dwindle.

A Global Call for Permanent Ban

Activists are now urging Iceland to turn the suspension into a permanent ban. "Killing whales is barbaric and outdated and has no place in a caring modern society," United Earth Life founder William J. Furney said. "The people of Iceland must ensure their politicans end this cruel and entirely uncessary practice so that it can never take place in Icelandic waters again. They have a chance for real and lasting change now." 

As Ruud Tombrock, the Humane Society International’s European executive director, says there is no humane way to kill a whale at sea. Ending this cruel practice is the only ethical conclusion given the litany of threats already faced by these marine giants, including pollution, climate change, net entanglement and ship strikes.

A Rising Tide of Opposition

The tides are undoubtedly turning in Iceland, with a majority now favouring an end to this brutal practice. A recent survey by the Maskina Institute found that 51% of Icelanders oppose the hunt, with just 29% in support. As Iceland's economy has evolved, shifting from reliance on fishing and whaling to burgeoning sectors such as tourism, societal attitudes have shifted.

A Blow to Whaling Nations

Robert Read, head of Sea Shepherd UK, has highlighted that Iceland's decision is not only a victory for whales but a significant setback for other whaling nations. If whaling can't be done humanely in Iceland, it can't be done humanely anywhere, he says.

“Whales are architects for the ocean. They help boost biodiversity; they help fight climate change by affecting the carbon cycling process,” he said.

Whales are the unsung heroes of our oceans, their existence crucial to maintaining biodiversity and combating climate change. Isn't it time we granted them the respect and protection they deserve?

As we celebrate this significant progress, let's not rest on our laurels. It's essential to maintain the pressure on Iceland, and other nations who persist with this barbaric practice, to ensure that this temporary reprieve becomes a permanent ban. It's time to let these majestic creatures swim free, unthreatened by the cruel harpoons of humanity.

One Battle Won, The War Continues

It's essential to remember that this is but one battle in a much larger war. Japan and Norway still remain as the last bastions of this inhumane practice.

So today we turn our gaze and our voices towards these nations, urging them to follow Iceland's lead. Let's be the generation that ends whaling, not just in Iceland, but across the globe.

To our supporters around the world: join us in our mission. Take to social media, write to your representatives and let your voices be heard. We demand that Japan and Norway step into the 21st century, leave behind their outdated and cruel whaling practices, and embrace a future where all life is respected and cherished.

The world is watching. The whales are waiting. It's time for us all to stand up and say, "No more!" Let's make whaling a thing of the past, once and for all. Because every life, whether on land or in the sea, deserves to live free from fear and harm.