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WSPA and UK government push animal welfare to the forefront of IWC agenda

Jul 11, 2011

whale fin

WSPA has partnered with the UK government on a new report that puts whale welfare on the agenda of the 63rd International Whaling Commission (IWC) Annual Meeting, taking place from July 11-14 in the British dependency of Jersey.

Each year, in spite of a ban on commercial whaling, approximately 1,300 whales are killed by Japan, Norway and Iceland. The report findings, taken from the Whale Welfare and Ethics Workshop, outline a new strategy to advance the protection of whales. The workshop, held earlier this year, was attended by more than 30 international experts including eminent academics in animal welfare, ethics and marine mammal science.

Strong welfare recommendations put forward

During the plenary session at the IWC, the UK delegation will present the workshop group’s results and recommendations, which include:

  • Whale welfare impacts of hunting and scientific research;

  • Unanimous agreement that whales are sentient; they have the ability to suffer and as such we have a responsibility to protect them from that;

  • Agreed specific measures to control human activities which harm whales, including entanglements in fishing gear, ship strikes and poorly-managed whale watching;

  • Particular concern that commercial hunting of whales routinely causes severe and prolonged suffering, which is at odds with most modern commercial slaughter standards.

  • Agreement that research on whales should be subject to independent ethical review, which would analyze the costs and benefits of the research to ensure that whale suffering is minimized.

View the full report of the ‘Whale Welfare and Ethics Workshop’ >>

The goal is for the body to approve and act on the report’s recommendations. WSPA will also be in attendance to promote the report’s findings to delegates at the IWC.

Claire Bass, WSPA International’s Oceans Campaign Leader, said: "The experts all agreed that whales are sentient animals and we have a responsibility to protect them from suffering. The Whale Welfare and Ethics Workshop report provides a highly-credible foundation for the IWC to renew its approach to animal welfare and ethics, and ensure that responsibility is met."

Report attracts additional governmental support

WSPA has also secured crucial formal support for the report from the Buenos Aires Group (BAG), an 11-country strong block of Latin American IWC members, which also supports maintaining the international moratorium on whaling, in place since 1986. 

Speaking for the UK government, Minister for the Natural Environment and Fisheries, Richard Benyon, said: “The IWC should show leadership in developing initiatives for the conservation and welfare of whales. This report provides a series of practical recommendations for how the International Whaling Commission can continue to strengthen its welfare agenda.

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