Whales Hunted In Iceland Experience Slow, Agonizing Deaths, Report Finds

Almost half don't die instantly.


Eleanor Higgs


Eleanor Higgs

Creative Services Assistant

Eleanor is a content creator and social media assistant with an undergraduate degree in zoology and a master’s degree in wildlife documentary production.

Creative Services Assistant

Modern Whaling Harpoon

Explosive harpoons like this one are used to kill whales. 

Image Credit: Umomos/Shutterstock

Whale hunting across the world has always been a controversial topic. Despite bans on commercial whaling, a small number of countries including Japan, Norway, and Iceland still persist in the killing of whales for meat. Now, a new report released by the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) has revealed just how much suffering these whales endure during the hunting process.

In total, 148 whales were caught last year in Iceland according to the report. Fifty-eight whale deaths were then analyzed by experts. The report found that two of the whales took more than an hour to die. These whales are shot with explosive harpoons and the report has revealed that the median time from the first shot to the death of the whale was 11.5 minutes for whales not killed immediately.


Of the 148 whales caught last year, 36 whales had to be shot more than once. Five whales were shot three times, and four whales had to be shot four times. One whale was shot and then chased for five hours without being caught. 

Only 35 of the 58 monitored whales killed last year died instantly.

Fin whales are the second largest whale on Earth after the blue whale and can live up to 90 years. These whales were hunted to the brink of extinction but populations have been recovering and they are now listed as Vulnerable by the ICUN.

Despite these unsettling statistics, the MAST report suggests that the best-known methods were used during the hunts and therefore the Animal Welfare Act has not been violated. 


Previously, Iceland had announced that they would not be hunting whales after 2024 due to a decrease in the demand for meat and rising ethical and economic considerations. Iceland also did not hunt any whales in 2019 and 2020.

"The current fishing rights will be valid until 2023. As before, whaling will not be allowed from 2024," Svandís Svavarsdóttir, who is a member of the country’s Green Party, said on the party’s official website in 2022

According to MAST, the data from this report will be reviewed by a council of experts in animal welfare to see if this process can continue to meet animal welfare regulations outlined in the law.

[H/T: Guardian]


  • tag
  • animals,

  • whales,

  • cetaceans,

  • Animal Welfare,

  • whaling,

  • hunting