Meet Us Don’t Eat Us: Campaign to take whale meat off the menu for tourists

“Meet Us Don´t Eat Us,” a joint project between IFAW and IceWhale (the Association of Icelandic Whale Watchers), was launched in Reykjavík in the summer of 2010. To date, around 200 volunteers from 26 countries have participated in the project which runs annually from May to September in Reykjavík.

Meet us don't eat us!

The aim is to inform and educate tourists about a few key facts regarding whale meat consumption in Iceland and gain their support to protect whales by ending commercial whaling, instead of tasting whale meat in Reykjavík restaurants. In reality whale meat consumption by Icelanders is not that common (only around three per cent of Icelanders eat whale meat regularly, according to an October 2013 Capacent Gallup poll) so if tourists sample whale meat they are directly contributing to the number of whales being killed. Whale hunting is not a traditional activity in Iceland either. Commercial whaling only started in 1948 with the company Hvalur, Inc. in Hvalfjordur. Before that most of the whaling around Iceland was conducted by Norwegians, English, Danish, Dutch, Basques and others.

 

“Meet Us Don´t Eat Us” is a positive campaign because, although it deals with a serious subject, when we approach tourists and also Icelanders, we point out that the most sustainable way to enjoy whales is by responsible whale watching – better for whales and the Icelandic economy. By distributing informative leaflets, promoting whale friendly restaurants which do not serve whale meat (recognisable to tourists via ‘whale friendly’ stickers in their windows), collecting signatures on postcards we regularly present to the Fisheries Minister urging him to stop the whaling and encouraging people to support responsible whale watching, we are making people better aware how much their behaviour and personal choices matter.

Eighty percent of the minke whales killed in Iceland are harpooned close to the whale watching area in Faxaflói bay outside Reykjavík. These whales will never be seen again by people going whale watching. The biggest proof that whale watching and whaling cannot successfully co-exist is the fact that the whale watching operators say so and work closely with IFAW to help us end whaling. So far surveys show whale meat consumption by tourists has halved since our project started but we aim to reduce it even further.

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