As whaling season begins new poll reveals strength of UK opposition to Iceland’s whale slaughter

Tuesday, 26 May, 2009
(London – May 26, 2009) - As Icelandic whalers head to sea today to begin the slaughter of 250 whales, leading anti-whaling groups are gathering in protest outside the Icelandic Embassy in London – joined by a life-size inflatable minke whale and armed with new evidence of the British public’s opposition to the cruel and unnecessary killing.

Representatives from Campaign Whale, Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) and World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) are handing in a letter of protest to Icelandic Ambassador Sverrir Haukur Gunnlaugsson at the Embassy this morning, calling for the country to act now to end whaling.

They also release the findings of a new opinion poll which reveals that the overwhelming majority of the British public (82%) is opposed to Iceland’s whaling. Almost two-thirds of those polled (64%) were prepared to avoid purchasing Icelandic products such as fish, prawns and other produce in protest at the country’s resumption of commercial whaling.*  

Campaigners are adamant that the resumption of whaling will do the ailing country far more harm than good. 

Iceland's decision to resume whaling was taken by outgoing Minister Einar Gudfinnsson, who announced in January that 100 minke whales and 150 endangered fin whales could be hunted each year until 2013. However, since then a new government has been formed and with it a significant shift in the whaling policy.

The new government recently issued a statement saying that whaling, ‘will be totally reassessed with regard to sustainability and importance for national economy as a whole as well as Iceland’s international obligations and Iceland’s image’  but in the meantime a quota for this year remains in place.

“The cruel slaughter of whales will not help Iceland out of its financial crisis at all, in fact it promises to make things worse,” said spokesperson Andy Ottaway of Campaign Whale. “Iceland needs friends right now and the cruel slaughter of whales makes you enemies, not friends. We are calling on the Icelandic government to call off the whaling immediately.”   

Kate O’Connell from the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) said: “Iceland’s decision to resume large-scale commercial whaling is a desperate attempt to secure income from whale meat sales to Japan. It is a sad day for whales that they now become the latest potential victims of the world economic crisis. We have not seen a hunt of this scale in the North Atlantic since the 1980s. And there is still a ban on whaling in place.”

Campaigners are calling on the Icelandic government to stop the killing of whales and instead protect the more lucrative, sustainable and humane industry of whale watching. In 2008, more than 100,000 tourists went whale watching in Iceland. One of the biggest tourist attractions in the country, whale watching is a multi-million pound a year industry, demonstrating that in Iceland whales are worth far more alive than dead.

Claire Bass of the World Society for the Protection of Animals concluded: “Brussels and Strasbourg are watching Iceland’s actions very closely – whaling is not tolerated by EU citizens nor is it allowed in EU waters. Iceland is building itself a rocky road towards joining the European Community.”

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