Whaling: an inhumane end

Whale watchers see a fin whale breach the surface

WSPA uses the best scientific evidence available to show that there is no humane way to kill whales at sea. On these grounds, we believe commercial whaling should be banned forever.

Life under the waves

As yet little is known about how whales behave beneath the water. However, existing research does show that many species have complex social patterns and advanced communication skills.

Their capacity for cultural learning, for example, is demonstrated by the group songs of male humpback whales, which evolve over months and years.

In fact, the brains of some species of whale are similar in complexity and structure to those of higher primates, including humans.

We also share the parenting instinct. Whales bond with their offspring – bowhead whales have even been observed carrying their young on their back.

But while there is much more to discover about their behaviour, research has already shown that hunted whales are subjected to extreme levels of distress and pain.

A brutal death

A harpoon mounted on a whaling vessel

A harpoon mounted on a whaling vessel

© TBC

The hunted whale has a violent awakening from its quiet life.

Even using ‘modern’ methods – which have changed little in 100 years – whale hunts often involve prolonged and intense suffering.

The hunt often begins with a pursuit lasting hours, until the whale slows from exhaustion.

Once in range, hunters fire an exploding harpoon. This is intended to pierce the whale’s body to a depth of 12 inches before detonation.

Sea swells and movement of the boat and whale make a single lethal shot almost impossible.

Even if on target, the harpoon rarely kills instantly. Instead it causes massive shock and injury. Inaccurate shots are followed by secondary harpoons and rifle fire.

Hunters winch the injured animal onto their boat. At this point, it can be unclear whether the whale is dead – they can store vast amounts of oxygen and shut down all but their essential organs.

The whalers’ criteria for judging when a whale is dead are considered inadequate by the International Whaling Commission. This means whales may still be in pain even when recorded as dead.

Whalers frequently claim that a whale dies within two minutes. WSPA has proof that the death throes can last over an hour.

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