Whale Meat: WHO is it good for?

//

This won't come as a shocking revelation to anyone, but by and large environmentalists tend not to look favorably on the hunting of whales. At least when conducted for commercial purposes, it has a consistent and annoying tendency to make whale populations much smaller than they used to be. And however it is conducted, and to whatever end, it really isn't good for the whales involved.

Some environmentalists are also claiming that it isn't ultimately very good for the humans who wind up eating the fruits of their whaling labors either. According to this BBC report:

Environmental and animal-welfare groups are urging the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to persuade the World Health Organization (WHO) to act over fears about eating whale meat. The coalition of organizations wants the WHO to issue guidelines amid fears about the safety of the meat. The groups say whale meat is highly contaminated with mercury and should not be eaten.

The report points out that the government of one nation that consumes cetacean meat and blubber, the Faroe Islands in the northeast

Atlantic, has advised its populace on the maximum amount deemed safe for

their health — no more than one to two meals per month.

"It's true that pilot whales have very high levels of mercury in the

meat and PCBs in the blubber and in 1998, the relevant health

authorities at the Faroes issued a safety recommendation advising people

on how much it was safe to eat. And people have taken that advice on

board," Kate Sanderson of the Faroese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told the BBC. However, she insisted, "it is quite wrong to use the term 'health hazard'" when referring to whale meat.

Unless you're a whale, of course. The Faroese hunt of pilot whales involves driving pods of whales toward shore, where they are hooked with gaffs, hauled on to the beach and killed with knives that slice their spinal cords.

The meat is distributed free among the populace. The Faroese argue that the hunt is essential and traditional and closely monitored by veterinarians, but anti-whaling campaigners have long regarded it with particular loathing. The International Whaling Commission (IWC) to this point has not chosen to regulate the hunting of pilot whales, and so those campaigners have long sought other forms of pressure to bring the Faroese hunt to an end.

And so, while concern over the health of the Faroese and other whale-eaters is a worthy stance in and of itself, it is not for that reason alone that campaigners are pointing to whale meat's pollutant contents. Notes the BBC report:

Though the conservationists think it is rather unlikely for the IWC to extend the whaling ban to cover the small cetaceans, many hope that getting people to think about their health will do the trick.