Animal rights activists have criticized Norway after a documentary recently broadcast on a public television claimed that 90 percent of minke whales killed each year in Norwegian waters are pregnant. The documentary, named “The Battle of Agony,” showed images of pregnant whales being cut open and fetuses being removed.
“The majority of common minke whales caught in Norway have a fetus in their bellies,” according to the documentary, which was broadcast earlier this month on the Norwegian public television NRK.
Whale experts and hunters told the television that killing of pregnant whales is common.
“Lots of slaughtered animals are sent to the slaughterhouse when they are pregnant,” a veterinarian specializing in whale hunting, Egil Ole Oen reportedly said.
“We have a professional approach and therefore we don’t think about it,” Dag Myklebust, the captain and harpoonist on the whaling ship Kato reportedly said in the documentary, adding that whales being pregnant “is a sign of good health.”
Norway, along with Iceland, allows commercial whaling, despite a 1986 international moratorium. According to the International Whaling Commission, the two countries “take whales commercially at present, either under objection to the moratorium decision, or under reservation to it.”
Japan is also involved in whaling. However, the country argues that it hunts whales only for scientific reasons.
Norway, on its part, maintains that it has enough whale stocks to sustain the killing and has authorized the hunt of 999 whales this year — an increase by 199 from the quota allotted in 2016, AFP reported.
Following the release of the documentary, several animal rights activists slammed Norway.
“Whale hunting is now even more unacceptable,” the head of Greenpeace Norway, Truls Gulowsen, told Agence France Presse (AFP) on Wednesday. “On the one hand because it’s in violation of an international ban but also because … it’s indefensible from the point of view of the animal’s well-being to hunt them during an advanced stage of gestation.”
Swiss animal rights group OceanCare also criticized the killing of pregnant whales.
“It is horrific to learn that such a high rate of the whales killed in Norway are female and pregnant,” OceanCare told AFP. “The whalers are not only killing the current but also part of the next generation of whales.”
Animal Welfare Institute, a U.S.-based animal right group, issued a statement Thursday condemning the killing.
“Norway is now the leading killer of whales for commercial purposes; in 2016, it killed more whales than Iceland and Japan combined,” the institute’s statement read.