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TROUBLED WATERS - Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society

TROUBLED WATERS - Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society

These principles can be

These principles can be used to compare the welfare potential of humane livestock slaughter practices with current whale killing methods. There are a number of factors inherent in current whaling methods which diminish the potential for high welfare: whalers often must attempt a fatal shot, either with a harpoon or a rifle, at considerable range and in variable weather conditions; there is no method for non-invasively securing cetaceans before a killing method is applied during whaling operations; whaling operations can impose physical and psychological stress upon the animal pursued before any killing method is deployed; in general, whale killing methods are not well adapted for the specific anatomical requirements of the different species taken, further hindering the potential for a swift kill. The effect of these variables, as shown by reported data, is that whale hunts can have protracted average times to death, and poor instantaneous death rates. It can be concluded that current whaling operations have low welfare potential, and a propensity to cause severe pain and suffering to hunted cetaceans. Legal and ethical considerations • There is a notable lack of regulation to protect the welfare of whales within the IWC. There are no regulations designed to ‘avoid excitement, pain or suffering’, no maximum pursuit times, no limit on the number of weapons or bullets that can be used on one animal, no upper limit on the acceptable time to death, no specific requirement for the rate of instantaneous kills, and, in many hunts, there is no limit on the number of animals that can be struck and lost. • Special Permit or ‘scientific’ whaling proposals are not subject to an independent ethical review process prior to their commencement. Furthermore, there is no evidence that the principles of ‘Replacement’, ‘Reduction’ and ‘Refinement’ prescribed for animals used in scientific research, are applied to special permit whaling carried out in the name of science. • The emerging international customary law of animal protection is well illustrated in the case of cetaceans. Cetaceans, and whales in particular, often have a special legal status that reflects the highly migratory nature and unique life cycles of these species. In the future, it is possible that existing international treaties, such as the IWC and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), will be modified by emerging customary law and amended to adopt improved animal welfare protection measures. Overall conclusion Modern day whaling activities give rise to serious animal welfare concerns. A number of factors inherent in current whaling practices render it unlikely that truly humane standards could ever be achieved. On grounds of animal welfare alone, therefore, all whaling operations should be halted. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 5

6 A REVIEW OF THE WELFARE IMPLICATIONS OF MODERN WHALING ACTIVITIES 2 A background to whaling Philippa Brakes, Marine Consultant, c/o WDCS (Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society), Chippenham, UK. An introduction to the history of whaling In the age of modern technology and communication, it is difficult to imagine the lives of the earliest whalers, or the perils that they faced setting sail into unknown waters in search of their quarry. Humans from many regions of the globe have long been exploiting cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) for the food, oil and ‘whale bone’ (baleen) they yield. Some aboriginal peoples, such as the Inuit, of Greenland, arctic Asia and North America have an extensive history of whaling. Even Neolithic people from the coast of Denmark, are believed to have consumed cetaceans as a supplement to their predominately shellfish diet, through opportunistic takes of stranded cetaceans (Harrison 1988). As far back as 1100 BC, it is believed that the Phoenicians operated shore-based whaling for sperm whales in the eastern Mediterranean (Sanderson 1956). However, it was not until the 1600s that the true ‘industry’ of whaling, as we now know it, began to evolve. By this time, the pursuit of whales was being executed beyond the reach of coastal communities and out into the deepsea regions. Long range whaling was first undertaken by the Basque whalers, who had been catching northern right whales in the Bay of Biscay since the early 1100s. By the 1700s the Basques were travelling across the Atlantic to exploit the concentrations of whales found around the Grand Bank area of Westfoundland and the English, Dutch and Germans were exploiting the right whales they had discovered around the coast of Greenland. The most popular method for catching whales at this time was to harpoon the animals with a multi-barbed harpoon from a small catcher boat. The whale was then ‘played’ on the rope attached to the harpoon, which was slowly fed out as the whale attempted to escape. The aim was to exhaust the injured whale and then, as the opportunity arose, further wound it using a hand thrown lance. The lance was tipped with sharp blades, which were designed to sever a major blood vessel and induce death through blood loss. The advent of ship based ‘tryworks’ (brick ovens in which blubber could be rendered into valuable oil) during the 1760s, increased the economic efficiency of whaling operations and intensive exploitation proliferated across the globe during the following centuries, as various whale populations were discovered and utilised. It was not until the 1870s that it became possible to exploit the faster moving rorqual whales, such as the blue, fin and sei whales. This was brought about by the almost simultaneous advent of the motorised whale catcher and an explosive harpoon that could be fired from a cannon. These innovations facilitated the exploitation of the dense numbers of whales that occurred in the Antarctic, due to the springtime bloom in productivity in this region. These first forays into Antarctica were led by the British and Norwegians but, by the 1930s, the Japanese and Germans were also whaling in Antarctica. The advent of more efficient means of catching whales brought

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