views on whaling

I have a deep appreciation of the world's wildlife and natural environment and I agree it is very important that whales and cetaceans are protected. I therefore share your concerns about continued commercial whaling.

In 1982 the International Whaling Commission (IWC) decided there should be a pause in commercial whaling from the 1985/86 season onwards. This is often referred to as the 'commercial whaling moratorium' and is still in place today. However, as you know, countries such as Japan, Norway and Iceland continue to whale commercially, which I believe to be unjustifiable.

I believe that all animals should be treated humanely and compassionately. The previous Labour Government had a strong record on international animal welfare and strongly supported the moratorium on whaling; and consistently voiced its opposition to commercial whaling. Prior to the election, my Shadow Frontbench colleagues committed to again lead the fight against global animal cruelty and to push for an end to all commercial whaling.

The Conservative manifesto also included a commitment to oppose any resumption of commercial whaling. I know that a number of animal welfare groups, including the International Fund for Animal Welfare and the RSPCA, are calling on the Government to act on this commitment and have tabled a petition to this effect.

The current Government state that it will continue to support the global moratorium and that it is strongly opposed to the hunting of cetaceans, other than some limited activities by indigenous people for clearly defined subsistence needs. The Government also considers there to be no valid argument for lethal scientific research on cetaceans and has stated that it will lead calls for countries such as Iceland and Norway, to stop commercial whaling practices. I welcome this commitment.

The Government also state that it has voiced opposition to Japan's new programme of special permit whaling in the Antarctic and its on-going programme in the North Pacific on a number of occasions; and that it will consider whether the EU-Japan free trade agreement negotiations and Japan's efforts to gain a permanent seat on the UN Security Council offer further opportunities to raise objections to commercial and lethal scientific whaling.

I hope the Government will listen to the concerns that have been raised by a number of animal welfare groups and that it will show international leadership on this issue.

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