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Fight goes on to save the whales
Taunton Times

21st February 2004

The gunners themselves admit that if whales could scream the industry would stop, for nobody would be able to stand it, " Dr Harry Lillie said after he spent many months in the Antarctic with whaling fleets. He likened the slow, tortuous death to "a horse having two or three explosive spears stuck into its stomach and being made to pull a butcher's truck through the streets of London while it pours blood in the gutter".

He added: "I saw the way human civilisation was going and what it was doing to our environment, to the garden of this planet that had been the home for so many millions of years, or the creatures who had so generously extended their hospitality to this animal man to share it with him.

"What I saw there was a drastic killing of whales with the explosive harpoon.

"I saw it take up to an hour to tear and blast the lives out of the magnificent whales, surely the finest creature this world will ever know.

"As explosive harpoons were fired to burst in their intestines, I realised that at least half my life would have to be concerned with our fellow creatures and the rest with humans."

Dr Lillie was appalled by all cruelty to animals. He asked the US House of Representatives: "What had our planet and its fine forms of life done that man should have been inflicted on it?"

It is a question that is still posed by the World Society for the Protection of Animals.

Philip Lymbery, spokesman, said: "Two million great whales were killed in the last century, with some species hunted to the brink of extinction. Increasing protests over whaling and fears for the future of species led to a worldwide ban on commercial whaling in 1986. But whales are still killed annually using methods little changed in 100 years.

"There are 80 or more species in the whale family, ranging from the great whales, such as the blue whale, the largest animal to have ever lived, to the smaller dolphins and porpoises.

"Whales are mammals - air breathing animals that feed their young on their mother's milk.

They are highly intelligent, strongly social creatures about which there is still much that we do not know. Whales are the focus of a month-long annual debate at the International Whaling Commission (IWC), an inter-governmental body set up in the 1940s to regulate the whaling industry.

"Although the international moratorium on commercial whaling has stood for almost 20 years, loopholes mean that some whales continue to be hunted.

"Whalers from Norway and Japan will kill more than 1,400 whales this year in commercial and 'scientific' whaling operations. In 2003, Iceland resumed whaling, killing more than 30 minke whales for 'research'.

"Some nations would like to see a return to full-scale commercial whaling. Were this to happen, the current problems would become a global crisis for whale welfare.

"The technology used for killing whales has altered little since the 19th century when the grenade-tipped harpoon was invented. Fired from a cannon, the harpoon is intended to penetrate the whale's body before detonating, killing it by inflicting massive shock or injury. Although the type of explosive used has changed from black powder to more powerful penthrite, for more than 100 years the basic killing method has remained the same.

"Despite its destructive power, the whaler's harpoon often fails to kill its victim instantaneously. In fact, some whales may take over an hour to die.

"Modern day whaling activities clearly give rise to serious welfare concerns, a situation unlikely ever to improve given the inherent difficulties involved in hitting a distant, largely submerged, moving target from a moving platform on a moving sea.

"This may be reflected by the fact that many whales do not die straight away and are often finished off using a second harpoon or rifle.

SOME whales can be shot with harpoons and yet still evade capture. Such cases are known as 'struck and lost'. Struck and lost whales can incur a wide range of injuries, such as bleeding and damage to internal organs. They can be so badly injured that they eventually die from their wounds.

"Over the coming months, WSPA will lead a coalition of member societies in a global campaign to prevent the resumption of commercial whaling on welfare g rounds.

"The whole whaling debate is not just about numbers and conservation, but also about animal suffering."