Thursday, October 19, 2006

No One Wants to Eat It-So Why Does Iceland Hunt Whales? from The Guardian

"Iceland's decision to resume commercial whaling is probably based on fear, more than money or even self-image. Polls have repeatedly shown that 70-80% of Icelanders support commercial whaling and the government has long threatened to play the nationalist card. It also claims that the industry is economically essential to the country. This, though, is nonsense. All of Iceland's whaling is done by one company, owned by one powerful family in Reykjavik who are subsidised by the Icelandic government. While the government says it is economically essential to continue whaling, there is little evidence that it supports more than a few seasonal jobs. Indeed, whale watching is far more important to the country.

And there is barely a market for the catch. In 2004, just a quarter of the whale meat taken by the Icelandic whaling fleet was actually sold. The country's industrial freezers are full of unsold whale from previous seasons. A recent poll of Icelanders by anti-whalers found that only 1% of Icelanders eat whale meat once a week or more, while 82.4% of 16- to 24-year-olds never eat whale meat. Meanwhile, the international market is saturated. The Norwegians, who maintain whaling to keep their remote northern coastal communities politically sweet, failed to meet their quota of whales last year, yet still had to turn some of the catch into pet food. Meanwhile, the Japanese are reportedly handing it out to schoolchildren.

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