Tourists in Iceland Urged by Human Whales to "Meet Us, Don't Eat Us"

We hope that by presenting tourists with the full facts about whaling and whale meat consumption in Iceland, many of them will satisfy their culinary and cultural curiosity and “meet” these amazing creatures on a whale watch off the coast of this beautiful country in lieu of “eating” them.

 

The author next to one of the human whales.

Throughout the summer, tourists in Reykjavik, Iceland, might be greeted by International Fund for Animal Welfare volunteers from around the world will be donning ‘whale tail’ costumes to discourage visitors from sampling whale meat.

The campaign, using the slogan ‘Meet Us Don’t Eat Us’ is targeting tourists based on recent IFAW data showing around 40% of Iceland’s visitors try whale meat while in Iceland. The data also shows many of these tourists are eating the meat out of simple curiosity and because they mistakenly believe it is a traditional Icelandic dish.

However, most tourists probably don’t stop to think the whale meat served up in many restaurants in the country actually comes from whales which have suffered an incredibly cruel and often lingering death after being shot with explosive harpoons.

They may be even more surprised to learn that whale meat is neither a traditional nor common meal for most Icelanders. In fact, only about 5%* of Icelanders claim to eat it regularly. And far from being a centuries-old dish, Iceland’s commercial whaling started in 1948 and stopped in 1989, with only a few people resuming whaling eight years ago.

Sadly, the amount of whale meat sold in Iceland has risen in recent years and we extrapolate from our survey data this can only be due to the number of tourists persuaded to try it.

This led us to launch our “Meet Us Don’t Eat Us” campaign, urging tourists to avoid ordering whale meat when visiting Iceland’s excellent restaurants and instead enjoy seeing whales in the wild on a responsible whale watching trip which offers a humane and sustainable alternative to the cruelty of whaling.

Each year thousands of tourists go whale watching in Iceland, providing employment and income for coastal communities. IFAW is working with local whale watching operators on the “Meet Us Don’t Eat Us” campaign, and many of these were among the 60+ VIPs who attended our launch event in Reykjavik’s Old Harbour to lend their support for whales.

As well as having our volunteers hand out leaflets to tourists and talk to them about the whale meat issue, the “Meet Us Don’t Eat Us” slogan is also being displayed at Keflavik Airport in Iceland and on leaflets which are being carried on all airport buses and excursion coaches. The issue is also receiving prominent coverage in the media in Iceland, including publications aimed at tourists.

We hope that by presenting tourists with the full facts about whaling and whale meat consumption in Iceland, many of them will satisfy their culinary and cultural curiosity and “meet” these amazing creatures on a whale watch off the coast of this beautiful country in lieu of “eating” them.

-- RM

For more information about the International Fund for Animal Welfare effort to save whales around the world visit https://www.ifaw.org

* Gallup poll, June 2010

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