“No Legislative Means” to Stop Whaling this Summer

Minister of Health Svandís Svavarsdóttir

Minister of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries Svandís Svavarsdóttir stated in a meeting with a parliamentary committee this morning that she considered her hands to be tied on the issue of stopping whaling this summer. Stating that there was “no legal basis” to revoke the existing whaling permits, she suggested that general laws on whale hunting need to be reviewed.

The Parliamentary Committee on Industry invited Svandís to discuss the long-awaited report on the 2022 whaling season. The report concluded that one in every four whales was shot more than once and that it was not possible to practice whale hunting while also conforming to animal rights legislation.

Hvalur hf., the only company in Iceland to still practice whaling, has already been granted a permit to hunt fin whales this summer, but calls have been made for the minister to revoke it following the report. Given the current legal framework, Svandís has stated that it is not a possibility.

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In the parliamentary meeting this morning, the minister stated that revoking the hunting permit would require a legal basis that does not currently exist.

According to administrative laws, the permit could only be revoked if certain conditions were present in its original issuance or if the revocation could be proved to cause no harm to the company. Neither condition was met in this case. Additionally, there are no provisions for revoking hunting permits in the 1949 laws on whale hunting. The minister has stated several times that her ability to act is constrained by these conditions.

Svandís stated that regardless of the outcome of the coming year’s whaling season, she believed that the laws on whale hunting were outdated and inadequate, and in need of revision to align with modern legislation and standards.

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No assessment has been made regarding possible damages that the state would have to compensate Hvalur hf. if the company’s hunting permit was revoked. However, Svandís stated that the ministry is currently examining the climate, environmental, and economic impacts of whaling to establish a more solid basis for future decisions on the hunts.

Other parliamentary representatives have suggested that the ministry restrict the hunts by limiting the timeframe in which they can occur. Svandís has yet to respond directly to this suggestion.

 

Further Animal Abuse from Borgarförður Farmer Already Implicated Earlier this Year

icelandic cows

The Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority, MAST, is taking action against the same farmer responsible for a case of animal abuse against horses earlier this year. The current case concerns cattle in Borgarfjörður that have been reportedly abused. According to information from MAST, the livestock are no longer in the farmer’s custody.

According to RÚV, neighbours of the farm have complained about conditions on the farm, saying that the animals have inadequate water and shelter against the elements.

Read More: Animal Abuse Raises Questions of MAST’s Role

According to the neighbours, livestock on the farm are often locked inside for long periods, and the cattle that are seen outside are often malnourished to the point of deformity.

The owner of the cattle in question has also been reported as having a difficult relationship with his neighbours in past, with some saying that he has shown threatening behaviour.

Now, according to MAST, the livestock are in a better facility.

According to the neighbour interviewed by RÚV, the livestock in question had been locked inside for nearly three years.

Animal Welfare Officers Could Be Required on Icelandic Whaling Ships

Iceland whaling Hvalur hf

Minister of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries Svandís Svavarsdóttir has stated that whaling vessels may be required to have an animal welfare officer aboard in the future.

Emphasizing the moral value of animal life, she states that the goal of such regulation would be to ensure that the whales are treated as ethically as possible and that their suffering not be prolonged. Svandís said that since slaughterhouses face strict regulations under the government, that whaling ships should also be held accountable for the ethical treatment of their catch.

Under the new system, a crew member from each whaling ship would be appointed as an animal rights observer and trained by veterinarians at MAST. These observers would then be responsible for documenting the whale hunt, from the moment the whale emerges to the moment the whale is loaded off the boat. Video documentation will then be submitted to MAST for review.

These new regulations would allow the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries to exercise greater control over the practice of whaling, without requiring further legislation to be passed through Alþing.

The comments come in response to the beginning of Iceland’s whaling season when the first whale in three years was caught on June 24. The quota for this year, set by Iceland’s Marine and Freshwater Research Institute, includes 161 fin whales and 217 minke whales.

Previously this year, Svandís stated that she saw little justification to extend the whaling permits which expire in 2023. If the permits are to be renewed, then whaling must be shown to be economically justifiable. As it stands, according to her, the economic benefits of whaling are marginal, and perhaps detrimental to Iceland’s international image.