A musical celebration of whales in Iceland

Icelandic musicians perform in Reykjavik in support of whale protection.When the eight International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) volunteers stepped into the magnificent Whales of Iceland Exhibition in Reykjavík for the first time last week, they were not only excited to see the various types of life-size whale models – but also because on that night they were to become a part of history.

These volunteers were part of a team hosting the biggest anti-whaling concert ever held in Iceland, one of only three countries still killing whales for commercial reasons.

Around 250 people bought tickets online or at the venue and more than 100 invited special guests showed up, altogether up to 400 people. Both staff and volunteers wore IFAW T-shirts with the highly visible ‘Meet Us Don´t Eat Us’ logos on the front, and the clear message of ‘Whales are killed to feed tourists’ on the back. Polls and studies have showed that only 3% of Icelanders eat whale meat regularly and it is foreign tourists who consume most of it out of curiosity.

Gallup opinion polls, conducted for IFAW, have in recent years showed a trend where general support for whaling has decreased but neutral attitudes have increased. Last October, 42% of Icelanders said they supported fin whaling (which did not take place in Iceland this year) and 51% said they supported minke whaling. 

READ: Icelanders, tourists create Iceland’s largest online petition ever, pledge not to eat whale meat

This was the first time in history that a minority of Icelanders supported fin whaling and that only just over half would state that they supported minke whaling. While the opposition to whaling has grown ever since 2013, the number of Icelanders not having an opinion, or taking a neutral position regarding the matter grew the most. This has left an important space open in order to re-evaluate the situation.

The overwhelming majority of guests at the IFAW concert were Icelandic, which was one of the aims of the concert. As we have actively influenced tourists’ behaviour since the Meet Us Don’t Eat Us campaign started in 2011, now the opportunity was to have a positive impact on Icelanders. And it worked. 

The supportive artists performing on the night, (Hogni Egilsson, Soley and Sindri) were led by DJ Margeir, the most popular DJ in Iceland and a dedicated vegan, all talked against whale hunting and encouraged guests to sign the IFAW petition.

Many did sign this petition pledging not to eat whale meat and calling on the Icelandic government to end whaling.

In fact, the online petition is now the biggest in Iceland’s history and very close to reaching 100,000 signatures! As the event ended, concertgoers had a lot of food for thought as they stepped out into the late August night.

The concert, entitled Hvalir – Live (Whales - Live) was a quintessential Icelandic event; it was composed purely of Icelandic artists and the guests were surrounded by the incredible diversity of every whale species to be spotted in Icelandic waters. Backstage loomed one of these 23 different types of whale.

This whale was hanging over the artists’ heads – and each of them that night demonstrated their determination and dedication for whale protection: the whale in question was the fin whale. From 2009 and until last year around 150 fin whales were hunted annually in Icelandic waters. Standing below the enormous model of this second largest animal on earth, just after the blue whale, is mind blowing. 

To think that anyone could have organised and executed the hunting of them in the 21st Century is quite simply shocking and surreal. This part of the whaling saga is hopefully behind us, at least, as we continue to campaign for an end to minke whaling.

Sadly 46 minke whales have been harpooned so for in Iceland this summer.

However, with growing support from Icelanders as well as tourists, a new chapter is being written in Iceland now.


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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Beth Allgood, Country Director, United States
Country Director, United States
Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Jason Bell, Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Jimmiel Mandima at IFAW
Deputy Vice President of Conservation
Executive Vice President
Executive Vice President
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation
Rikkert Reijnen, Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Program Director, Wildlife Crime