News & updates

Opening Statement by IWMC World Conservation Trust to IWC 65

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. 

Related content

IWMC World Conservation Trust Opening Statement

VSM/2109/OS/NGO/03 IWMC World Conservation Trust Opening Statement IWMC World Conservation Trust wishes to express its gratitude to the Chair of the Commission and its appreciation

IWMC Feature

Conservation Influencers

Conservation Influencers is a searchable directory of the animal activist, environmental and ecological lobby. It examines the history, mission, methodology and reputation of NGOs to assess their impact on the global conservation cause.

Franz Weber Foundation

From 1990 until 2015, Franz Weber Foundation (FFW) managed the Fazao-Malfakassa National Park in Togo, which was, according to an in-depth investigation by Duke University, ‘established by forcing the local communities off their land and without taking into consideration their point of view’. That same study cited convincing evidence from reports published in 1990, confirming that competition for land use was already ‘creating conflict between the local communities and park managers’. In 2015 Togo refused to renew FFW’s contract because, the report says, ‘local communities were still excluded from the management of the natural resources of their land’ and FFW had ‘failed to fulfil its contract’. Franz Weber Foundation plays a major role within CITES because it funds and manages from Switzerland the African Elephant Coalition (AEC), which represents 32 African range states, some of which have barely any elephants and others none at all. Contrary to the wishes of the range states in Southern Africa, which manage most of the world’s wild elephant populations, the AEC at CITES’ CoPs repeatedly tables proposals to put all of the world’s elephants in appendix I. And the AEC uses its voting power to keep in place prohibitions on ivory sales and all other trade in elephant-related derivatives, including skins and hair, which Southern African nations wish to legalise.