Iceland suspends its annual whale hunt in a move described as a compassionate ‘major milestone’

Author: Maria Chiorando

Read Time:   |  17th August 2023

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The government of Iceland has suspended this year’s whale hunt until the end of this month in a move that has been praised by animal advocates.

A statement by food minister Svandis Svavarsdottir said he had taken the decision to suspend whaling until August 31.

This followed a report commissioned by Iceland’s government which concluded that the hunt is not compliant with the country’s Animal Welfare Act.

The suspension of the hunt has prompted speculation that the controversial practice of whale hunting could be permanently banned – a move that would be welcomed by animal welfarists.

Speaking about the current suspension, the Humane Society International called it a ‘major milestone in compassionate whale conservation’.


Whale hunt

One of the objections against the whale hunt is that killing the animals takes too long, when the objectives of Iceland’s Animal Welfare Act are taken into account.

Iceland’s Food and Veterinary Authority recently monitored the fin whale hunt.

The organisation broadcast video footage from a whale hunt, which showed an animal suffering for five hours.

According to Svandis Svavarsdottir: “If the government and licensees cannot guarantee welfare requirements, these activities do not have a future.”

This statement was met with positive response from the Humane Society International.

Its executive director for Europe, Ruud Tombrock, said: “There is no humane way to kill a whale at sea, and so we urge the minister to make this a permanent ban.

“Whales already face so many serious threats in the oceans from pollution, climate change, entanglement in fish nets and ship strikes, that ending cruel commercial whaling is the only ethical conclusion.”

Icelandic hunting boats. Photo © Gestur via Adobe Stock

Icelandic hunting boats. Photo © Gestur via Adobe Stock


Dwindling support in Iceland

Opposition to the practice seems to be dwindling in Iceland, with a survey published in early June indicating the level of public support.

According to the poll, just over half (51 per cent) of Icelanders are opposed to the hunt.

Under a third (29 per cent) are in favour of it, with older people (those over 60) most in favour.

There is only one remaining whaling company in the country now, Hvalur, whose licence to hunt fin whales expiring this year.

Another company chose to stop activity in 2020, citing its lack of profitability.

Speaking about whaling, Robert Read, head of Sea Shepherd UK, said: “Whales are architects for the ocean. They help boost biodiversity, they help fight climate change by affecting the carbon cycling process.”

Are you interested in finding out more about the whale hunt? Check out our guide to the History of commercial whaling and how it affects the ocean today

Featured photo © neurobite via Adobe Stock

Written by

Maria Chiorando

Maria is an editor and journalist. Her work has been published by the Huffington Post, the Guardian, TechnoBuffalo, Plant Based News, and Kent on Sunday among other national and regional titles.

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