Iceland: a country smaller than Ealing is visited by Rupa Huq MP on a mission to support whale protection
Other MPs might spend their Summer relaxing on a sun-lounger but Ealing Central and Acton’s Rupa Huq (Labour) found herself visiting Iceland to support the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) in its work to end commercial whaling and provide lasting protection for whales this August.
IFAW opposes commercial whaling because it is inherently cruel. The charity has worked on the ground in Iceland to campaign for an end to commercial whaling since 2003, and works alongside local whale watch operators to promote responsible whale watching as a humane and profitable alternative to the cruelty of whaling.
Rupa Huq said: “Iceland may not be everyone’s holiday destination but I visited alongside a Conservative MP on a delegation to investigate the practice of whaling. The country is small and perfectly formed with a population that’s smaller than that of Ealing borough. I managed to fit a lot in. Iceland has lots to offer with its amazing scenery. The one stain on the country’s character is its practice of whaling”.
“Commercial whaling just doesn’t seem to add up - even without any of the welfare issues. It’s also clear that a campaign like this, or indeed any campaign, needs to be led by the local people and that’s why IFAW’s campaign seems to be working so well. It was good to see attitudes shifting amongst the people here and let’s hope that commercial whaling in Iceland is soon a thing of the past, just like the whale bone corsets we saw in the Whales of Iceland museum.”
During her visit with IFAW, the MP even met the President of Iceland, Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson and with Icelandic MPs. She also met with IFAW volunteers whose campaign message “Meet Us Don’t Eat Us” is aimed at discouraging visiting tourists, including many from the UK, from sampling whale meat during their visit to Iceland. Just 3% of Icelanders regularly eat whale meat, sadly many tourists choose whale meat dishes during their stay and minke whales are now being harpooned directly to feed tourist demand.
Each summer young people from around the world explain to visitors the reality of whaling, that it is neither traditional nor a very Icelandic dish, and most importantly that by ordering whale meat in Icelandic restaurants they are supporting a whaling industry that is otherwise dying in the water.
By contrast, whale watching is now one of the top tourist attractions in Iceland, generating around £10 million annually and attracting more than 200,000 tourists each year, proving that whales are worth far more to the Icelandic economy alive than dead.
Philip Mansbridge, UK Director of IFAW, said: “Support from MPs like Rupa is absolutely vital as we work to maintain international pressure for the Icelandic government to end whaling and instead support its whale watching industry which is better for whales and for the coastal communities who benefit from this only sustainable ‘use’ of whales. We were very pleased to be able to demonstrate our work in Iceland and remind decision-makers there that whaling is an issue of great concern to UK politicians and public alike.”
More than 40 minke whales have been harpooned in Icelandic waters this summer.