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TROUBLED WATERS - Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society

TROUBLED WATERS - Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society

whale to ‘excitement,

whale to ‘excitement, pain or suffering’ to the point where, in some cases, this may induce exertional myopathy, a potentially fatal syndrome (Maas, 2003). The entire ethos of slaughtering cetaceans during whaling operations differs fundamentally from the responsible attitude now taken by many states towards the slaughtering of food animals. In the UK, for example, legislation requires that animals awaiting slaughter should be inspected and “any animal found to have experienced pain or suffering during transport or following arrival at the slaughterhouse or knacker’s yard, or which is too young to take solid feed, must be slaughtered immediately” (MAFF, 1995). In contrast, during whaling operations, animals are chosen for slaughter on the basis of proximity to the vessel, ease of access, or on economic grounds (usually relating to size). No consideration is given to choosing an individual for slaughter on the basis of welfare, indeed the practical difficulties of whaling often inhibit this, although at least in some cases a whale that has been injured and then broken free from the harpoon or line may be pursued and killed. It may be argued that the killing of suckling humpback calves in order to entice a lactating female closer to a whaling vessel, a historical practice in the St Vincent hunt, demonstrated a disregard for the welfare of both the female and the calf taken. In relation to the general treatment of animals during slaughter, UK legislation further prescribes that “no person shall strike or apply pressure to any particularly sensitive part of the body of an animal, nor twist or break the tail, or grasp the eye(s) of any animal” (MAFF 1995). Such safeguards against injury to more sensitive parts of the body do not exist for whaling operations, and although whalers may aim for the head or thorax (depending on the type of whaling conducted) harpoons and bullets can enter any region of the body, causing a variety of different wounds. Moreover, in the Faroese drive hunts a blunt ended gaff is placed in the blowhole in order to secure the cetacean. The blowhole is a region with a rich nerve supply and is likely to be very sensitive to pressure and to trauma. Use of competent well-trained, caring personnel The achievement of high standards of animal welfare requires an awareness of the physical and psychological needs of the animals involved. It also requires responsible and responsive management; informed, skilled and conscientious stockmanship; considerate handling and transport; and humane slaughter (FAWC, 2003). A key component of achieving these aims is that slaughter personnel are competent and properly trained. EU law requires that such employees possess the necessary skill, ability and professional knowledge to do their job humanely and efficiently (EU, 1993). UK Slaughtermen, for example, must hold a registered licence that can be revoked on failure to comply with its conditions, or failure to observe other laws concerning animal welfare (MAFF, 1995). Additionally, in every UK slaughterhouse, a competent person is given authority to take action to safeguard welfare. During whaling operations, some degree of training for gunners is required. However, the training process itself is inherently flawed since training takes place using dead targets. This training process does not mimic the many variables that affect the accurate shooting of a live whale at sea (Stachowitsch & Brakes, 2003). This potential for error was illustrated in a report by Ishikawa (2002) regarding the 2001/2002 JARPA season – “TTD and instantaneous death rate of whales taken by the new gunners were, on average, worse than that for whales taken by experienced gunners”. Simulating the many variables that effect the accurate placement of a ‘clean’ shot is highly complex. Furthermore, A COMPARISON BETWEEN SLAUGHTERHOUSES AND METHODS USED DURING WHALING 95

96 A REVIEW OF THE WELFARE IMPLICATIONS OF MODERN WHALING ACTIVITIES the emphasis during some whaling operations (particularly Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling (ASW)) is often on securing the animal rather than on killing it with speed. This means that in ASW insensibility or a lethal shot can usually only be achieved after the animal is secured, and hence, often after a protracted period of time. Appropriate equipment which is fit for the purpose The humane slaughter of livestock animals is traditionally a two-stage process. First the animal is stunned to bring about unconsciousness, and this is immediately followed by severing of the major blood vessels in the neck (carotid arteries and jugular veins) to bleed out the animal (exsanguination) and induce death by circulatory collapse. Stunning and killing can be achieved in a one-stage process by using a ‘stun-kill’ technique that induces both immediate loss of consciousness and cardiac arrest. This technique is only achievable with the use of complex and well regulated electrical stun-kill equipment in slaughterhouses. The normal slaughter of livestock animals takes place within a controlled and often purposelydesigned environment. At the time of slaughter, animals are moved from the holding pen to the stunning point. Cattle are usually moved singly to a stunning box where the animal is restrained to enable an accurate stun. For sheep and pigs, a relatively small-group stunning pen is often used. Animals are not physically restrained within its confines and move around until they are in a position to be stunned. Stunning can be achieved by: • Mechanical means – the transfer of energy delivered by a cartridge or compressed air powered captive bolt or percussive head, via the skull, to the brain and spinal cord. • Electrical means – the application of electrical energy to the brain via electrified stunning tongs (mammals) or a water bath (birds). • Gas stun/kill methods – the use of Carbon dioxide, Argon or Nitrogen mixtures to induce insensibility and death in birds and pigs. Modern commercial whaling activities involve the capture and killing of whales with a grenade tipped harpoon fired from a cannon. The harpoon is targeted to strike the animal in the thorax, however, in practice it may strike a range of locations on the animal’s body, including, on occasion, the tail. If this primary method has been unsuccessful in killing the whale, then either a second harpoon may be fired, or a rifle used as the secondary killing method. Finally, once the whale is assessed by the whalers to be dead (chapter 11) it is winched aboard the whaling vessel. There is no method for non-invasively securing cetaceans before a killing method is applied during whaling operations. In addition, even when a cetacean has been secured using a harpoon (either a cold harpoon or an exploding harpoon that has failed to render the animal instantaneously dead), this does not guarantee the efficiency of the slaughter, since the cetacean is not ‘restrained’ in the sense that the whale may still be moving and the medium in which it rests (the sea) may also be moving. The gunner will also be aiming at this moving object from a moving platform compounding the margin for error in any given shot (van Liere 2003). Sea conditions and visibility (chapter 8) and marksmanship, can therefore have a significant impact on the efficiency of any killing method used during whaling.

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