Save the Whales of Iceland

I keep getting e-mail from people concerned about many of the world’s problems. Just yesterday, I received an appeal to sign a petition demanding that the government of Iceland stop allowing the killing of whales.


Dear David Hoffman,

Barely anyone eats whale meat anymore — so why is the Icelandic government still allowing up to 1,145 minke and 770 endangered fin whales to be butchered every year?

Whale hunting hurts Iceland’s tourism trade, alienates the country diplomatically, and wastes resources catching and killing a product only three percent of Iceland’s people eat.

Please, join us in calling on Iceland to stop butchering marine wildlife for no reason. Whales are sensitive, sentient creatures who keep marine ecosystems going — and if we’re going to stop their senseless slaughter, we need to speak out now.

PETITION TO ICELAND’S GOVERNMENT: Stop sanctioning the hunting of marine mammals like the minke and endangered fin whale, and start protecting these amazing creatures from this senseless slaughter.

Click here to sign — it just takes a second.

— The folks at


It is widely believed that whales and dolphins (or cetaceans as they are formally classified) are very intelligent, perhaps even as intelligent as humans. The truth is, that it is not clear just how intelligent cetaceans actually are. They are mammals and like most mammals have complex brains. Their brains are not dissimilar to human brains and some species of whales have spindle neurons in their brains, a structure previously thought only to exist in humans and apes. Whale brains are large, larger in proportion to their bodies than human brains are to human bodies.


By itself, the size and structure of  an animal’s brain can tell us a great deal about its intelligence, but not everything. The behavior of the animal should also be studied. Cetaceans are social animals which interact in groups. Whales communicate with each other through their calls and they have been known to show some problem solving ability. It is not easy to determine the intelligence of a species in the wild, however, and for animals in captivity there is the Clever Hans phenomenon, that is the animal being tested might be reading unconscious cues given by the tester rather than thinking on its own. Still, dolphins in captivity can be trained without too much difficulty and show a high degree of intelligence. However there is no reason to suppose that dolphins or whales are capable of the kind of rational thought that, so far, only humans have shown. They may be intelligent animals, but that is all that they are. They are certainly not the equals of human beings, and while we should show kindness to these animals, human needs must come first. It is perfectly acceptable to hunt whales, though I would prefer not to. Personally,I was rooting for Moby Dick when I read that book.


Iceland is a democratic country. Its parliament, the Althing was established back in 930 and may be the oldest legislative body in the world. Iceland consistently ranks near the top of any ranking of human rights. The people of Iceland have proved that they can govern themselves and do not need any foreigners to tell them how to run their country. I think that it is up to the people of Iceland to decide whether or not to allow whaling in their waters. It is more than a little presumptuous for us to put up petitions telling them what they can do with their own natural resources. I won’t be signing that petition.




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