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Iceland to Resume Whaling:

The New York Times reports that Iceland will resume commercial whaling, perhaps as early as this week. Iceland's Ministry of Fisheries maintains that the limited harvest of minke and fin whales will be sustainable.

Anderson (mail) (www):
I predict that the next post will be Prof. Kopel arguing that, if the whales were armed, Iceland wouldn't dare.
10.18.2006 10:58am
BobH (mail):
I don't want to sound anti-environmental or sacrilegious, but why should I care if whales get killed? What do whales add to anyone's life (except those of other whales, of course) that is of concern to any human being?
10.18.2006 11:49am
Lawbot2000:
They eat plankton in the ocean which adds to global warming. Iceland is simply concerned about global warming so they are hunting whales.
10.18.2006 11:54am
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
Is this controversial? What's the objection to whaling? People engage in commercial hunting and fishing all the time. Why are whales special, (aside from their apparent utility to human beings)?
10.18.2006 12:00pm
bornyesterday (mail) (www):

Is this controversial? What's the objection to whaling? People engage in commercial hunting and fishing all the time. Why are whales special, (aside from their apparent utility to human beings)?


Low populations
10.18.2006 1:01pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
Low populations are, to me at least, also a utlitity issue. I hate to say it, but I just don't care about animals who can't say "woof" on command. If they whale 'em to the brink, but let them bounce back so they can be whaled again next year, it's A-okay.
10.18.2006 1:12pm
ys:
Here is a personal anecdote about an Icelandic attitude towards whaling I encountered. A few years ago in Reykjavik I went to a restaurant that serves whale meat (I was thrown off at first when I could not find it in the seafood section of the menu, but rather in the meat section). The next day in a casual conversation with a hotel receptionist, I mentioned that visit, praised the dish, and inquired, completely out of curiosity, where the meat had come from (Iceland was not whaling at the time, I believe even for "scientific" purposes, although I am not sure). The receptionist got really upset. "This must be from Norway," she said dismissively, ignoring the fact that every market transaction must have a willing seller and a willing buyer. Then she got even more agitated and added: "But they kill 20000 whales every year in America!" To my comment that an Indian tribe in Washington State had to fight for many years to be allowed to kill just one whale for native traditional purposes, she just stubbornly repeated her assertion.

I wonder what she is saying to the hotel guests now.
10.18.2006 1:20pm
Witness (mail):
"Is this controversial? What's the objection to whaling? People engage in commercial hunting and fishing all the time. Why are whales special, (aside from their apparent utility to human beings)?"

I'm certainly no expert on this issue, but in addition to low populations, isn't one of the concerns the health risks associated with eating whale meat? From what I understand, the meat is chock full of PCB's and other pollutants and should be avoided by anyone with other culinary alternatives.

So in that respect, I suppose the ban could be analogous to regulations against hunting and selling, say, rats for food in the US. Again, I have no idea if this is the actual justification; just speculating as to why whales might be considered "special."

Also, I think some people have moral objections to hunting highly intelligent animals because they are too close to humans. But that seems kind of silly.
10.18.2006 1:45pm
Greedy Clerk (mail):
I predict that the next post will be Prof. Kopel arguing that, if the whales were armed, Iceland wouldn't dare.

Now that was funny.
10.18.2006 1:56pm
Lawbot2000:
"Is this controversial? What's the objection to whaling?"

Its the whole 'extinction' issue. The vast majority of people object to hunting an animal to extinction, whether it is a whale, a tiger, or anything else.
10.18.2006 2:37pm
Just John:
Alternate headline: "ENVIRONMENTALISTS TO RESUME WAILING"

I crack myself up!
10.18.2006 2:45pm
A.S.:
Blame Bush!

I don't know how or why, but I'm sure the lefties will come up with a reason soon enough. Nothing bad happens on this planet without Bush to blame.
10.18.2006 2:58pm
ys:
A brief history of recent whaling in Iceland is here, including where the restaurant I went to got its whale meat (hint: it was NOT from Norway). And re: extinction issues, see the estimated numbers here
10.18.2006 3:14pm
Greedy Clerk (mail):
I don't know how or why, but I'm sure the lefties will come up with a reason soon enough. Nothing bad happens on this planet without Bush to blame.

Very funny. . . . Too bad that the "lefties" blaming Bush happen to be a clear majority of the country. While not all bad things happening in the world is Bush's fault; many things are. See, e.g., Failed war in Iraq; Loss of US credibility as a result of failed Iraq-war related intelligence (see in particular Colin Powell's speech to the UN); Detention of American citizens without any hearings at all; Legitmization of torture over almost all top military lawyers' objections; Katrina failure, etc.
10.18.2006 3:16pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):

Its the whole 'extinction' issue. The vast majority of people object to hunting an animal to extinction, whether it is a whale, a tiger, or anything else.

I agree that most people care about that. I'm not sure why. I'm against gratuitous killing of animals, like for fur or cosmetics, but meat is meat. If it doesn't go "woof," and it's tasty, then what the hay.
10.18.2006 3:16pm
Tra la la (mail):
"harvest" -- jeez.
10.18.2006 4:22pm
Gray Ghost (mail):
I am a hunter (of deer and waterfowl) and a fisherman, without guilt, but I can make a distinction between harvesting whales, on one hand, and harvesting fish or ducks or even deer, on the other hand. The difference is that whales are highly intelligent. They have complex languages and social structures. With the possible exception of some apes, they are the most intelligent animals other than humans. At some point, another species is too intelligent, too much like us, for us to ethically "harvest" that species for our own selfish ends. The necessity defense does not apply here.

GG
10.18.2006 7:19pm
Witness (mail):
"At some point, another species is too intelligent, too much like us, for us to ethically "harvest" that species for our own selfish ends."

What is the bright-line across which we reach this point? How intelligent does an animal have to be for killing it to be unethical? And, more importantly, why should intelligence even matter when deciding whether to kill an animal?
10.18.2006 7:31pm
Caliban Darklock (www):
I don't need to have an opinion on this. I'm Jewish! Whale meat isn't kosher! Whaling unnecessary; problem solved.

See how much easier it would be if we were all Jewish? And people wonder why we tend to cluster.
10.19.2006 7:59am
AT:
GG, Whales have about the same intelligence as the domestic cow. Should we also stop eating beef? The contention that Whales are highly intelligent and spend their days conversing about the issues of the day over great distances is simply an environmentalist mith
10.19.2006 10:35am
Bill Twist:
I have no problem with sustainable whaling. I don't want to see any species go extinct at the hand of man (natural causes are a different story), but in this case I can't see it happening.

Minke and Fin whales aren't endangered. There are estimated to be about 184,000 Minke Whales in the central and Northeast Atlantic alone. Note that that doesn't count the South Atlantic, or the Pacific or Indian Oceans. Likewise, Fin whales are quite common: the population is estimated to number over 100,000 Worldwide. It might not sound like a lot, but we are talking about a biomass, in the case of the Fin whales, of approximately 10 million metric tons. For comparison, the biomass of humans in the United States is only about two times larger.
10.19.2006 3:36pm
Colin (mail):
Twist,

Actually, it looks like Minke whales are at best threatened, and at worst actually endangered. See the wiki. I'm also not opposed to sustainable whaling, and not enough of an expert to know if the progams contemplated here are actually sustainable or not. But biomass seems like a vastly inferior peg to hang that analysis on, given the per capita biomass in the population at hand.
10.19.2006 4:06pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Iceland is simply concerned about global warming so they are hunting whales.

"Save the Earth - Kill the Whales!" would indeed be a bumper sticker for the ages.
10.19.2006 4:22pm