SORRENTO, Italy – Opponents of whaling won a victory Wednesday in their battle against the use of grenade-tipped harpoons when the International Whaling Commission approved measures aimed at saving the giant mammals from what animal-rights activists say are slow, painful deaths.
Pro-whaling nations at this year’s commission meeting insisted that this method of slaughter is quick and usually painless. But the animal-rights view won out, with the 29-22 approval of a resolution proposed by anti-whaling nation New Zealand.
The decision highlighted the power struggle within the panel.
“Frankly, I was amazed that any country would vote against it,” said New Zealand Conservation Minister Chris Carter, who presented the proposal.
The resolution does not ban grenade-tipped harpoons or impose another slaughter method. Rather, it endorses the view that the technique can cause whales to suffer, and it orders the commission to research different killing methods.
“The reality is that whaling does occur. And if whaling is going to occur, at least it should be as humane as possible,” Carter said.
A ban on commercial whaling has been in place since 1986, but some hunting takes place under a scientific program. Environmentalists say this is just commercial whaling in disguise.
“Current whaling methods do not guarantee death without pain, stress or distress,” the resolution said. It criticized the methods used to determine when a whale dies or is no longer able to feel pain, and called for updated data on just how long the animals suffer.