WSPA has partnered with the UK government on a new report putting whale welfare on the agenda of the 63rd International Whaling Commission (IWC) Annual Meeting, taking place from 11-14 July in the British dependency of Jersey.
The report of the ‘Whale Welfare and Ethics Workshop’ outlines a new strategy to advance the protection of whales. Each year, in spite of a ban on commercial whaling, around 1,300 whales are killed by Japan, Norway and Iceland. The joint workshop, held earlier this year, was attended by more than 30 international experts including eminent academics in animal welfare, ethics and marine mammal science.
The UK delegation at the IWC will present the workshop group’s results and recommendations during the plenary session, and it is hoped that the body will approve and act on the report’s recommendations. The UK’s firm pro-conservation position will be more vital than ever this year, as the polarised IWC attempts to define its future. WSPA will also be in attendance to promote the report’s findings to delegates at the IWC, made up of 89 countries.
Strong welfare recommendations put forward
The report agreed strong recommendations by consensus on issues such as:
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 badly 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.
Delegates at the Workshop also agreed that research on whales should be subject to independent ethical review which analyses the costs and benefits of the research to ensure that the use of the animals is justified and their suffering minimised.
UK government champions report
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."
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.”