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TROUBLED WATERS - Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society

TROUBLED WATERS - Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society

Welfare

Welfare and the modern IWC From 1980 onwards, the issue of humane killing has been regularly discussed at the IWC. So as to avoid unnecessary suffering, in 1984, the Commission backed the Technical Committee’s recommendation that the use of electricity, drugs and high-pressure gases were not suitable methods for killing whales. Killing methods used in Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling were discussed and some improvements made, although much concern remains regarding the protracted death times reported from these operations (chapter 6). Since 1992, regular workshops on humane killing have been convened and an IWC resolution against the use of the cruelly ineffective electric lance was adopted in 1994 leading to Japan voluntarily discontinuing its use in 1997. However, the degree of cooperation from whaling nations in providing data, and the ‘quality’ of the data provided on killing methods has often remained poor (chapter 6). Since 1993, the IWC has been developing a Revised Management Scheme (RMS), a set of management rules for whaling that must be agreed before any consideration can be given to lifting the ongoing moratorium on commercial whaling. However, the RMS contains no welfare provisions. In 1996, the UK proposed some guidelines for collecting data that could be incorporated into the RMS. A formal protocol for the collection of welfare data was proposed by the UK in 2001 (IWC 2001). However, the proposal met fierce opposition from the whalers and as yet no agreement has been reached on its adoption. Conclusion The inherent cruelty which is thought to exist within whaling remains a potent argument against this industry and yet for the first three decades of its existence, the IWC seems to have not fully addressed these welfare issues to prevent cruelty. The failure to address welfare concerns in whaling operations appears to have played a significant role in the IWC’s decision to introduce the moratorium on commercial whaling that exists today. Despite apparent improvements in estimated times to death (TTDs), as reported by some whaling nations, the question of how to determine the point of insensibility and death in whales remains unresolved (chapter 11). Consequently, any estimated death times are not considered to be reliable. Over the years, the IWC has focused its efforts upon reducing TTDs, rather than addressing the issue of the pain and suffering inflicted on the target animal, both during the pursuit and by injuries sustained from the killing method. Additionally, the killing methods used by subsistence hunters for both large and small cetaceans are also cause for concern (chapter 6). Progress is very slow in improving the humaneness of these hunts. Unfortunately, some IWC contracting governments are increasingly reluctant to cooperate with the IWC on issues relating to small cetaceans or humane killing. The future of animal welfare considerations within the IWC currently depends to a certain extent on reaching an agreement on a data collection protocol on welfare proposed by the United Kingdom, but this has so far been vigorously resisted by the whalers. The protocol, entitled ‘Suggested Guidelines for Collecting Data on Humane Killing of Whales’ will only become operative if the Revised Management Scheme (RMS) is agreed and adopted, and the existing moratorium on commercial whaling is lifted. However, the debate about the accuracy of present IWC criteria used for determining insensibility and death in cetaceans is yet to be resolved. In these circumstances, if the RMS is agreed and adopted and the commercial whaling moratorium is lifted, the inherent THE IWC AND WHALE WELFARE 33

34 A REVIEW OF THE WELFARE IMPLICATIONS OF MODERN WHALING ACTIVITIES TABLE 1 A chronology of key welfare decisions at the IWC 1957 Humane killing of whales defined as – The process by which the animal is rendered instantaneously insensible until death supervenes. 1959 First working party on humane killing convened with ‘time to death’ (TTD) identified as the main indicator of humaneness. 1975 IWC working party on humane killing disbanded in 1962. The Scientific Committee is tasked with addressing issues relating to humane killing. The IWC adopts the ‘New Management Procedure’ (NMP) for whaling in response to UN call for moratorium. However, the NMP has no welfare provisions. 1978 Commission passes Resolution requiring member states to report routinely on TTDs and on the reliability of killing devices. 1980 First Workshop on Humane Killing convened to “consider methods of improving existing killing techniques or to suggest alternative, more humane, methods”. Working definition of humane killing agreed as “death brought about without pain, stress or distress perceptible to the animal”. ‘Cold’ or non-explosive harpoon banned for commercial killing of all whales except minke whales. 1982 Moratorium on commercial whaling agreed, from 1985/6 season, with many countries citing cruelty as a reason for their support. Commission agreed to hold the first Working Group on Humane Killing the following year. ‘Cold’ harpoon ban extended to include minke whales. 1984 IWC endorsed the Technical Committee recommendation that electrical harpooning, use of drugs and of high-pressure gases are not suitable methods for killing minke whales and recommends discontinuing their use. 1985 Commission adopts Resolution urging, “the prompt adoption of more efficient methods of killing whales, that reduce cruelty and inhumanity, in areas where aboriginal and subsistence whaling is practised.” 1991 Terms of Reference for the Humane Killing Workshop expanded to cover ‘other whaling activities covered by the Convention’. 1992 Workshop on Whale Killing Methods (WKM) convened and Resolution on humane killing, adopts the 11- point ‘Action Plan’ 5 from the Workshop. Resolution on pilot whales adopted, requesting more information from Denmark on the killing methods used in the pilot whale hunt in the Faroe Islands. 1993 IWC adopts Resolution calling on parties to continue to progress the ‘Action Plan’ and calls for another Workshop to be convened prior to the 47th annual meeting. Another Resolution on pilot whaling is adopted6 . 1994 Resolution on the use of the electric lance is passed expressing concern regarding its ineffectiveness and urging member governments to develop more satisfactory methods of killing whales. 1995 Workshop on WKM – Action Plan’ reviewed, two welfare Resolutions adopted 7 .

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