THE water turns red with blood as an explosive harpoon hits the whale and she squeals in pain.
Traumatised and still alive, her bloody body is bound and dragged back to shore by cruel hunters who will sell her meat to be either served to tourists as a ‘delicacy’ – or chopped up and used as pet food.
Killing whales commercially was banned internationally in 1986, but Japan has just restarted commercial hunts, despite international protest over the barbaric ways they are killed.
Harpoon bombs that take up to an hour to explode are fired into the helpless beasts – and blunt hooks are beaten into their blow holes.
This agonising death is a tragic end for the whales, and conservationists brand it a ‘cruel’ and ‘pointless’ tradition.
But like in Japan, Iceland and Norway have both seen an increase in commercial whaling in recent months, as the demand for whale meat among tourists soars.
Recent statistics show that one in ten Brit tourists eat whale when travelling – with the meat being turned into sushi and stew.
Even Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton’s sister Pippa has boasted about eating smoked whale carpaccio in Norway, saying it tasted like “smoked salmon”.
PETA spokeswoman Elisa Allen said at the time: It beggars belief that anyone, let alone someone from a country like ours, where whale meat has long been banned, could be oblivious to the uproar over Norway’s slaughter of these gentle giants.
“What’s next, a panda steak or an elephant canapé?”
Whale meat is served in tourist hotspots in Japan, Iceland and Norway[/caption]
Blunt hooks beaten into blow holes and spinal cords sliced
Despite previously agreeing to the ban, Japan still hunted whales under the guise of ‘scientific research’ up until the ban was lifted in July.
Last year they killed 333 minke whales – tragically including 122 that were pregnant – as part of their ‘field survey’.
When the Japanese government reinstated commercial whaling in July, fishermen caught and killed their first whale within hours of a five-vessel hunting expedition.
A short while later, the first crew returned to shore with the butchered body of a giant minke whale on board.
The marine giant was hauled off the deck of the trawler by crane before it was dumped in a dockside warehouse to be measured before being taken away by lorry.
A minke whale is lifted by a crane at a port in Kushiro, Hokkaido Prefecture[/caption]
Meanwhile, Iceland and Norway are the only countries in the world to authorise whaling.
According to Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), Iceland’s fin whalers slaughtered over 146 of the endangered mammals last year, including at least two rare blue whale/fin whale hybrids, and a dozen pregnant females.
Norway has set itself an annual quota of 1,278 minke whales that it will seek to kill in 2019, and every year in the Danish Faroe Islands around 800 pilot whales are massacred, with blunt hooks beaten into their blow holes while they are still alive.
‘An agonising, slow death’
It’s an inhumane death, with some whales suffering agonising pain for up to an hour after being shot with a hunting device called the ‘Whalegrenade-99’ which is manufactured in Norway and widely used.
A harpoon containing explosive penthrite is shot from a cannon on the deck of a whaling boat.
Once embedded approximately half a metre into the whale the device then detonates, with the aim to kill the whale upon impact.
However, according to a report by Norwegian authorities, nearly 20 per cent of the whales shot by harpoons tipped with explosive penthrite grenades were found to suffer for between six and 25 minutes before they eventually died.
Speaking to The Sun Online, Danny Groves, Communications Manager at Whale and Dolphin Conservation, says: “Whales are subject to a terrifying ordeal when shot with a grenade tipped harpoon.
“The pursuits can last for long periods of time, causing exhaustion and severe stress to the whales and a second harpoon is often required to complete the job, further adding to their terror and suffering.”
Meat five times as expensive as lobster
Whale meat sells for over £150 per kilogram in Japan – making it five times more expensive than lobster.
While in Iceland only three per cent of the population eat whale regularly, it’s thought one in 10 tourists try it when visiting.
Danny says: “Japan, Iceland and Norway continue to hunt and kill fin and sei whales – both of which are listed as endangered – and minke whales every year despite the fact that there is little demand for the meat.
“Very few people in these countries actually eat the meat anymore. Much of the meat is frozen and served to tourists who are told it is a traditional dish and some has even been used for pet food.
“So, with little demand for the meat, the agonising deaths that these whales suffer is pointless.”
Japan's bloody taste for whale
Domestic consumption of whale meat was around 200,000 tonnes a year in the 1960s, when it was an important source of protein in the post-war years.
However, whale meat consumption was down to just 6,000 tonnes in 1986- just a year before the commercial whaling moratorium imposed by the IWC.
Japan’s whalers still killed 333 minke whales during their final “research” expedition to the Antarctic, which ended earlier this year
In previous years, however, it slaughtered almost 1,000 whales a year, amid confrontations on the high seas with the conservation group Sea Shepherd.
Meat from the hunts was sold on the open market, prompting claims that they were a cover for commercial whaling.
Many Japanese people still clearly have a taste for tinned whale (see photo) despite what the rest of the world thinks.
“If we had more whale available, we’d eat it more,” said Sachiko Sakai, a 66-year-old taxi driver in Kushiro, on the northernmost main island of Hokkaido.
“It’s part of Japan’s food culture,” said Sakai, adding that she ate a lot of whale as a child.
“The world opposes killing whales, but you can say the same thing about many of the animals bred on land and killed for food.”
Whale testicle beer
There have been plenty of other gimmicky ways companies have tried to profit from whale products.
One Icelandic brewery, Stedji, still offers ‘whale beer’, describing it on their website as “one of the most controversial beers in the world”.
Brewed with Icelandic water, barley and berry hops, the main ingredient is a smoked whale testicle.
In 2013 an Icelandic whaler even proposed powering his whaling vessels with biofuel made from 20 per cent whale oil and 80 per cent diesel.
The bloody scene of a whaling ship[/caption]
While the government maintains whale is a big part of traditional food culture, it accounts for 0.1 per cent of meat consumed according to the Japan Times, and instead, the number of whale watchers in the country has more than doubled between 1998 and 2015.
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Danny adds: “WDC has campaigned on many fronts to stop whaling by exposing illegal practice, helping countries to promote responsible whale watching rather than killing to generate revenue, and working within the EU parliament to try to stop meat transiting through EU ports (including the UK).
“One of the ways the public can help is by refusing to eat whale meat whilst visiting Iceland, Norway and Japan and, instead helping to support the local economy by going out on a responsibly organise whale watching trip.”