Harpooners cause cruel whale deaths
As protesters continue to defend whales from the harpoons of Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean today, animal welfare groups have spoken out about the cruel and prolonged death of whales by harpooning.
The Humane Society International is appalled by recent graphic footage filmed by Greenpeace of a minke whale being harpooned six times and taking 35 minutes to die.
“Long times to death are not uncommon in commercial whaling operations. We know from the Norwegian hunts that it can take up to 90 minutes for a whale to die using similar harpoons,” said Nicola Beynon of the Humane Society International.
A 2004 animal welfare report on whaling, states: “During the 2000/2003 Japanese minke whale hunt in Antarctica only 40.2% of whales were recorded as killed instantaneously. Recent data show that the average time to death for commercial and scientific whaling is over 2 minutes.” (Troubled Waters: A Review of the Welfare Implications of Modern Whaling Activities). This is contrary to today’s claim by the Japanese Institute of Cetacean Research that all whales in their ‘lethal research’ program die in under 2 minutes.
“It is common throughout the world to require an instantaneous death in the slaughter of livestock. The average times to death in the commercial slaughter of whales do not match basic standards required for slaughter of livestock species, and are nothing to be proud of,” said Ms Beynon.
Greenpeace Southern Ocean Expedition Leader, Shane Rattenbury, delivered a blow-by-blow account of the slow death of the minke whale after six harpoon shots last Saturday:
“The first two shots completely missed, and the third shot struck the whale and wounded it. At this point the Greenpeace boats completely backed off. This is our standard protocol - once the whale is struck we stay right out of the way so the death is not prolonged. The hunters then fired again. The fourth shot also struck and again wounded the whale. The fifth shot completely missed again. The sixth shot hit the whale between the dorsal fin and the tail, when it thrashed around for quite some time before it died,” Mr Rattenbury said.
The traumatic and bloody scenes involving the killing of minke whales are likely to be even more intense when the Japanese begin to harpoon endangered fin whales, which are the second largest animal to have lived on the planet.
Ms Beynon said, “We are extremely concerned about the cruelty involved in killing endangered fin whales, which are likely to take even longer to die because of their sheer size.”