Whaling nations block progress on animal welfare at IWC

Whaling nations attending the International Whaling Commission’s annual meeting have rejected recommendations that outline a new strategy to better protect whales from cruelty.

The pro-welfare recommendations that seek to address a wide range of whale welfare issues, including suffering caused by hunting, were derived from an expert Whale Welfare and Ethics Workshop sponsored by WSPA and tabled by the United Kingdom government earlier in the year. They were nonetheless rejected upon presentation at the IWC plenary session on 11 July.

The recommendations were presented by the UK government and received considerable support from many countries, including Germany, Australia, Argentina and Mexico. However, the whaling nations of Norway, Japan and Iceland blocked consensus on the formation of an official IWC intersessional group that could take the recommendations forward.

WSPA’s Oceans campaign leader, Claire Bass, expressed extreme disappointment that the on-going conflict in the IWC prevented progress on the fundamentally important issue of animal welfare.

“The UK’s animal welfare proposal was grounded in good science and rational principles enshrined in other management fora so it is deeply disappointing that the whaling nations have seen fit to derail this initiative,” she said.

“It’s sadly symptomatic of the current state of the IWC: whilst pro-conservation members are being peaceable and constructive, the whaling nations have their swords drawn and are bent on blocking progress. WSPA encourages the UK and others to continue to champion this vital work in spite of unreasonable opposition from the whaling countries.”

The UK government also expressed disappointment that the three whaling nations blocked steps to protect whales, but offered to continue the discussion with interested countries outside of the IWC meeting.

WSPA’s presentation of the workshop findings was very well attended nonetheless, with over 60 IWC delegates, including 10 country commissioners, present. As  guest speaker, Professor Donald Broom of the Department of Veterinary Medicine, University of Cambridge, presented ‘The science of animal welfare and its relevance to whales and the IWC’ to delegates.

The IWC annual meeting continues this week with WSPA in attendance and continuing to push the argument for whale welfare. We will update on any further developments during the course of the event.

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