REYKJAVIK, Iceland – A petition signed by tourists and locals pledging not to eat whale meat in Iceland and calling on the country’s government to end the cruel practice of whaling has beaten all previous records and now passed 100,000 signatures.
It was started by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) which works to end commercial whaling in Iceland, Japan and Norway and provide lasting protection for whales.
IFAW has worked on the ground in Iceland to campaign for an end to commercial whaling since the practice was resumed in 2003, and works alongside local whale watch operators to promote responsible whale watching as a humane and profitable alternative to the cruelty of whaling.
Before this, the biggest online petition in Iceland had attracted 86,761 signatures, on the issue of public health funding. Earlier this month, IFAW’s ongoing whale meat pledge petition passed this number and today (Wednesday) reached its target of 100,000 signatures.
Patrick Ramage, IFAW’s Global Whale Program Director, said: “These 100,000 signatures send a clear message to the Icelandic government that visiting tourists, as well as many Icelanders, believe whales should be seen and not hurt.
“We urge the Icelandic government to respond to this petition, to call an end to this outdated practice and instead support the country’s whale watching industry which is better for whales and for the coastal communities who benefit from this only sustainable ‘use’ of whales.”
Five years ago IFAW began its ‘Meet Us Don’t Eat Us’ campaign in Iceland, to discourage visiting tourists from sampling whale meat during their visit. While Gallup polling has revealed that a mere 3% of Icelanders regularly eat whale meat, sadly many tourists choose whale meat dishes during their stay and minke whales are now being harpooned directly to feed tourist demand.
Every summer since then, young volunteers from around the world have been helping IFAW spread its message to tourists, explaining the reality of whaling, that it is neither traditional nor a very Icelandic dish, and most importantly that by ordering whale meat in Icelandic restaurants they are supporting a whaling industry that is otherwise dying in the water.
The scheme is promoted in partnership with IceWhale, a coalition of Icelandic whale watch operators, who pass on the message to customers on whale watching boats.
This year the campaign received a huge boost with support from Icelandic musicians and DJs including Högni Egilsson and DJ Margeir. As the petition edged closer to 100,000, it was celebrated in Reykjavik with an awareness raising concert for whales, headlined by these and other big name Icelandic artists.
IFAW also founded a successful ‘Whale Friendly’ restaurant scheme, encouraging Icelandic restaurants to pledge not to offer whale meat on their menus. Any restaurants which take this pledge display a sticker in their windows so tourists know they can eat there and have a whale friendly experience.
Whale watching is now one of the top tourist attractions in Iceland, generating around £10 million annually. This year more than 350,000 people are expected to go whale watching, more than the entire population of Iceland, proving that whales are worth far more to the Icelandic economy alive than dead.
Along with IceWhale, IFAW is calling for the Faxafloi Bay sanctuary outside Reykjavik Harbour to be expanded to provide increased protection for whales.
IFAW opposes commercial whaling because it is inherently cruel – there is no humane way to kill a whale and Japanese whaling footage analysed by IFAW scientists has shown whales taking more than half an hour to die. A total of 46 minke whales have so far been harpooned in Icelandic waters this summer.