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Opening Statement by IWMC World Conservation Trust to IWC 65

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IWMC World Conservation Trust wishes to thank the Government of the Republic of Slovenia and its people for hosting the 65th Meeting of the International Whaling Commission

Whatever else might be said about the debate over whaling, it has demonstrated considerable longevity as an ongoing public issue.  This might be understandable in the context of past over-exploitation of whale stocks but it is all the more remarkable considering the minimal whaling that has occurred in recent times.  The whale was saved in the last century and most stocks are doing fine.  

Today’s limited demand for whale products has done nothing to deter the appetite of the doom-sayers.  The usual solemn literature and grave countenances will be on display at IWC 65 in Slovenia, calculated once again to appeal to the minds, pocketbooks and votes of those with a thirst for the sentimental and who place their trust in the dubious validity of animal rights propaganda. 

In reality, the debate about whaling is a subset of the broader debate about global food production and how – or whether – to feed the poor.  Of course, greater consumption of whale meat will not solve the problem of the world’s starving and malnourished but it does symbolize and represent the principles that are being contended.  To those opposed to the use of animals, one of the most retrograde steps that could be taken is to allow whales to be more widely consumed.  To those who aim to alleviate hunger and poverty, it makes no sense to prevent the consumption of an abundant source of protein. 

So the headlines in Slovenia may belong to those displaying the longest faces, the greatest outrage and the most sensational rhetoric, but the real test will lie elsewhere.  The most important business at IWC 65 will come with the discussion of the African resolution on Food Security.  

Given the traditional discord that these meetings generate, such a resolution is a sign of progress.  It brings the focus back to where it should reside.  And it is encouraging that nations that typically have not sought the spotlight are prepared to show the IWC a new and pragmatic direction. 

842 million people suffer from chronic hunger and it is likely that they would find the disagreements about whaling in Portoroz to be nonsensical and surreal – if they were ever asked for their opinion.  The Food Security resolution provides a sober reminder of the continuing crisis of global hunger.  If the IWC cannot agree on management procedures, can it at least agree that people should be fed?  If the IWC cannot find a way to regulate small whale catches, can it at least identify where the moral imperative lies? 

It is time for the IWC to find a better way forward.  Perhaps IWC 65 will open the way for greater consensus.  If so, the Resolution on Food Security represents a hopeful start. 

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