It may come as a surprise to those who thought the practice had long since been outlawed internationally, but although almost universally condemned as inhumane by animal rights groups and conservationists, commercial whaling still goes on – in Japan, Norway and, albeit with occasional breaks, Iceland.
In the latter, where this documentary was filmed, it’s only a small industry that’s left defying both a global moratorium that’s been in place since 1986 and the mass of public opinion around the world that has come to see killing whales as nothing short of murder.
Iceland’s few remaining whalers are used to the opprobrium, of course, and defend their activities by claiming that what they do is strictly monitored and controlled by the government, is only making use of sustainable resources, and that whaling is a significant part of their country’s cultural heritage that needs to be preserved.
That these arguments can be easily debunked by their critics (who point out, for example, that industrial whaling didn’t begin until the early 20th century in Iceland, that whale meat hardly counts as a significant part of the Icelandic diet, and that whale-watching tourism contributes far more to the local economy than their slaughter), doesn’t change the fact that for the moment, Iceland is still hunting whales and doesn’t seem to care much about what the rest of the world thinks.
At the sharp end of this battle between industry and conservationists, there are currently two equally dogged opponents.
On the one side are activists from an NGO known as Sea Shepherd that is determined to shame Iceland into ditching the industry and which, previously at least, hasn’t been shy about taking direct action to sabotage it.
On the other is the only Icelandic company that still hunts protected fin whales: Hvalur hf, led by its controversial and combative CEO, Kristjan Loftsson. Sometimes called “Iceland’s most hated man”, Loftsson seems unabashed by the hostility he generates and committed to carrying on killing whales for as long as he’s allowed.
As this episode of People & Power was being made by Danish filmmakers Jakob Krogh and Soren Moon Vestergaard, the question of how long that would be was still open. Loftsson’s permit to hunt fin whales was coming to an end and the Icelandic government was due to decide what was to happen next.
Source: Al Jazeera