Santiago, Chile -- The Bush Administration today hit a new low by supporting a proposal in favor of killing humpback whales, the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) reports. By giving its support, the United States broke ranks with the conservation-minded member nations of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) who voted against the proposal. Unfortunately, this is one of several actions that the United States has taken at this year's meeting contrary to its long-held position of supporting whale conservation.
Already this week, Bush Administration lackeys at the meeting have worked to facilitate a closed-door "deal" to bring about the resumption of commercial whaling. They have also ignored IWC rules for reporting transgressions of the IWC Schedule by refusing to admit that the illegal killing of a gray whale by Makah tribal members was an infraction of the IWC Schedule. Finally, they have refused to promote transparency and openness within IWC deliberations by opposing attempts to include civil society to observe and participate in the work of the Commission.
"It's no secret that President Bush's administration has one of the worst environmental records in history, but to sacrifice whales and democracy to placate whaling countries, who have ignored repeated calls by many of the world's governments to end whaling, is simply inexcusable," said D.J. Schubert, a wildlife biologist with the AWI who is currently attending the meeting.
The proposal to hunt humpbacks was offered by Denmark which sought the quota on behalf of the native people in its territory of Greenland which already has quotas to kill minke, bowhead and fin whales. Recent studies indicate that a quarter of the meat derived from killing these whales for "subsistence use" ends up in supermarkets for commercial sale. Nations opposing the proposal did so primarily because Greenland has not demonstrated the need for additional meat.
The United States is one of 24 countries that will engage in secret meetings over the course of the next year in an attempt to develop a package deal to "fix" the IWC using a process devised and promoted by Dr. William Hogarth, US commissioner to the IWC and current chair of the international body. Hogarth's plan attempts to "fix" a convention that is actually only at a stalemate because of the unwillingness of Japan, Norway, and Iceland to comply with international opinion and stop whaling coupled with the failure of the current administration to use all its powers to permanently end commercial whaling.
For years, the United States was considered a leader in the worldwide effort to protect and conserve whales. However, lately its whale conservation agenda has been replaced by a plan of compromise and capitulation. Such a dramatic shift in policy is inconsistent with the beliefs of most of Americans and of the United States House of Representatives, which recently unanimously passed H. Con. Res. 350, demanding that the United States strongly support whale conservation, oppose any weakening of the commercial whaling moratorium approved by the IWC in 1982, and oppose any new form of whaling.
Susan Millward, (202) 446-2123
For over 57 years, the Animal Welfare Institute has been the leading voice for animals across the country and on Capitol Hill to reduce the sum total of pain and fear inflicted on animals by humans. To learn more about us, please visit www.awionline.org.