Iceland Plans to Resume Whaling; Voting Rights Revoked

At the International Whaling Commission meeting in London, Iceland’s voting rights were revoked after that country refused to recognize the 15-year old moratorium on commercial whaling. Before the meeting began, Iceland’s whaling commissioner had said that Iceland would resume commercial whaling of minke and fin whales within that country’s coastal waters.

Iceland’s parliament voted to resume whaling as soon as possible in 1999, and a resumption of whaling has wide support on the island nation of 250,000.

Iceland maintains that the IWC lacks the authority to revoke its voting privileges. This could be an extremely important development since many observers believe that Japan and Norway have finally garnered enough support to overturn the moratorium in commercial whaling. Any decision to overturn the moratorium would require approval by 75 percent of IWC members.

Norway objected to the moratorium and is not bound by it — it kills about 500 minke whales every year.

The moratorium on hunting minke and gray whales is almost certainly going to collapse very soon as both species’ populations have recovered to the point where it is becoming increasingly difficult for the IWC to justify the moratorium on scientific grounds.


Iceland set to resume whaling. Richard Middleton, Associated Press, July 21, 2001.

Angry split at whaling meeting. The BBC, July 23, 2001.

PETA: Eat The Whales

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals launched its latest campaign in London over the weekend, urging people to eat more whale meat.

PETA’s Bruce Friedrich showed up at the 23rd International Whaling Commission meeting, where the international ban on whaling was the topic of much heated discussion. Iceland, Japan and Norway want to abandon the ban and threatened to begin commercial whaling with or without international agreement.

Which would be fine with Friedrich who said he would prefer that people converted to vegetarianism, “but meat addicts who won’t try to kick their habit would cause a lot less misery by abandoning their cultural aversion to eating whales.”

According to Friedrich, “If you’re not vegetarian you are responsible for far more suffering and deaths than one Japanese or Norwegian whaler.” Friedrich also suggested that people should stop eating “chicken nuggets and haddock fillets in favor of whale whoppers.”

Anti-whaling groups weren’t amused, with The Times (London) quoting an unnamed whaling opponent as calling the PETA protest an “irresponsible publicity stunt” (which is the best three word summary of PETA I’ve seen yet).

No word on what whaling representatives from Iceland, Japan and Norway thought about PETA’s claims, but at least the Makah will now have PETA in its corner when animal rights activists try to disrupt their upcoming whale hunt.


Outrage at ‘eat whales’ campaign. Chris Bunting, The Times (London), July 23, 2001.

People urged to eat whale meat. Hugh Muir and Peter Gruner, This Is London, July 23, 2001.

Whaling ban under threat. CNN, July 23, 2001.

Whaling Ban Likely to Fall

The latest meeting of the International Whaling Commission all but turned into a rout for anti-whaling forces and likely presages the sort of battles that will be fought around the world in coming decades over the best way to preserve endangered species.

It’s only slightly oversimplifying to say that the fight over whaling boils down to two incompatible positions — on the one side are countries and activists who maintain that whaling is simply wrong regardless of whether or not whales are endangered. On the other side are nations that advocate hunting whales as part of long term plans to sustainably maintain whale populations.

For those opposed to whaling under any circumstance, the main problem is that the IWC has been too successful. In 1986 it imposed a worldwide ban on whaling, although the ability of the IWC to enforce that ban is pretty much non-existent. Japan has in fact resumed hunting small numbers of whales on the pretense of doing so for purely scientific purposes and Norway opposed the moratorium in the first place and largely ignored it. Despite this, in large measure the conservation effort worked and many endangered species of whales have come back with a vengeance.

Now Japan, Norway and other nations say that the science is on their side — whale populations have recovered to a point to sustainably allow a resumption in commercial hunting. But many of the nations on the IWC oppose whaling because, as the BBC summed it up, “they regard whaling as inhumane, unnecessary, and deeply unpopular with their electorates.”

The Japanese representative to the IWC blasted this “no whaling at any costs” view, pointing out the hypocrisy of the Australian position given that Australia opposes any resumption of whaling but on the other hand slaughters millions of kangaroos each year. “Perhaps if we renamed minke whales the ‘kangaroos of the sea,’ the Australian public would support” a resumption in whaling.

Ultimately regardless of who is right about the scientific case, the IWC’s steadfast insistence on no whaling ultimately may backfire and result in less protections for whaling. As the even the IWC secretary, Dr. Ray Gabmell, told BBC News, the pro-whaling nations are likely to leave the IWC if it maintains its ideological opposition to the resumption of whaling. Whaling outside the purvey of the IWC would almost certainly be worse for the whales than hunting under the aegis of the IWC.

“I would think it much better that it was brought within international regulations and oversight,” Gambell said. “I think the commission will need to move forward on measures which would allowed controlled whaling, otherwise it will lose credibility. If the commission cannot set its house in order, people will start to ask: ‘Why do we need it at all?'”

This is not dissimilar to the issue currently facing species preservation plans in the United States, such as for wolves, where activists fight to bring a species back but then fight tooth and nail any attempt to control their population through hunting. Unfortunately, if political communities know that once an endangered species recovers that they will have no means to control its numbers, this creates an enormous disincentive to preserve endangered species, as well as leaving the impression that preserving endangered species is not about science but about Green sentimentality.

Around the world the self-interest of communities is being used to spur efforts to save endangered species, but the irrational attempt to ban culling and hunting of species once they have recovered threatens to reverse that progress.


Australia accused of whaling hypocrisy. The BBC, July 2, 2000.

Whaling ban stans – for now. The BBC, July 6, 2000.

Whaling commission struggles to survive. The BBC. July 4, 2000.

Whale sanctuary rejected. The BBC. July 4, 2000.

Controversy swells around whaling commission meeting. ENN. June 29, 2000.

Dr. Spock, AntiDairy Coalition take aim at milk

In the latest (posthumous) edition
of Benjamin Spock’s Baby and Child Care, the famous pediatrician
attacks meat and milk arguing that, “children can get plenty of protein
and iron from vegetables, beans and other plant foods that avoid the fat
and cholesterol that are in animal products.” Meanwhile a newly formed
group called the AntiDairy Coalition made its debut in June decrying “the
health and nutritional risks of consuming dairy products.”

What’s going on here? I tend
to agree with one of Spock’s friends, pediatrician T. Berry Brazelton,
who described Spock’s recommendations as “absolutely insane.”
Much the same applies to the AntiDairy Coalition.

Lets tackle Spock first. According
to Spock’s co-author, Steven J. Parker (who also believes Spock’s
dietary advice is too extreme), the famous pediatrician believed his conversion
to vegetarianism helped extend his life. But Spock didn’t become
a vegetarian until he was 87 years old. Clearly his meat and dairy eating
did not interfere with his longevity in any meaningful way.

Second, as Brazelton told the New
York Times
, “Meat is an excellent source of the iron and protein
children need, and to take away milk from children, I think that’s
really dangerous. Milk is needed for calcium and vitamin D.”

As junk science debunker Steve Milloy noted, after becoming
a vegetarian Spock lost 50 pounds (a phenomenon which most vegetarians
claim to be a beneficial result from a vegetarian diet), but for children
the most important dietary need is ensuring steady weight gain.

Besides, ever try to get a toddler
to eat kale?

As for the AntiDairy Coalition,
this group merely repeated the same old unsubstantiated conjectures about
milk that have become articles of faith among animal rights activists.

For example, take the AntiDairy
Coalition’s claims about milk’s ability to cause allergies.
According to the Coalition, since milk is full of protein and proteins
can trigger allergies, the large increase in asthma over the last 20 years
or so must be caused by protein in milk. Can someone say post hoc?

Similarly the Coalition notes that women in the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and Sweden both a) consume
lots of milk and b) have high rates of breast cancer. Milk consumption, therefore,
must cause breast cancer. Again, this is classic post hoc reasoning that
is unsupported by any evidence. Readers should want and expect the ADC
to present serious epidemiological studies documenting these effect.

Certainly a diet excessively high
in dairy products may be harmful and some people do suffer from lactose
intolerance. In its attempts at scare mongering, however, the ADC vastly
exaggerates the problem — moderate milk and dairy consumption can be
part of a healthy lifestyle.