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Saving the Whale

Novembre 2008
La caccia alle balene non solo usa metodi brutali, è anche antieconomica.  Ne parliamo con l’attivista Dave Head che opera in Nuova Zelanda, un paese che dal 1964 ha sostituito l’arpione con il binocolo. E si è arricchito con il whale watching.

di Julian Earwaker

File audio:

Dave Head
Dave Head

Speaker: Justin Ratcliffe (Standard British accent)

Whales are among the most mysterious and magnificent animals on the planet – and, of course, the biggest. Books like Herman Melville’s classic Moby Dick and movies like Whale Rider are proof of humanity’s fascination with these massive sea mammals.
The hunting of whales has been going on for centuries. Whale oil was used to light the lamps and power the machinery of the Industrial Revolution. Several species of whales have been hunted close to extinction. Today a number of indigenous communities continue small-scale hunting of whales. Yet some countries, like Japan and Norway, continue commercial whaling in defiance of the worldwide moratorium. Hundreds of whales are killed every year, thanks to giant factory ships which produce specialist food.


The excuses for killing whales are running out fast, says Dave Head, a veteran anti-whaling campaigner from Napier, New Zealand. Even the economic arguments support whale-watching over whale-hunting:

Dave Head (pictured) (New Zealand accent):

Well, I think in general in quite a few locations around New Zealand, Australia and some of the islands, Cook Islands and Tonga, that a live whale is worth millions over its lifetime, whereas, packed into boxes, it’s worth very little.


Whale-watching is certainly big business in New Zealand, which ceased all commercial whaling in 1964. The only hunting done here today is by tourists and scientists, using high-powered lenses and tracking devices to study these marine leviathans. Even ex-whalers, like the famous Perano family, have joined the conservationists.
Public opinion is strongly opposed to factory ships, which have severely depleted whale stocks around New Zealand’s waters. The governments of Japan and Norway, on the other hand, have condemned the tactics of anti-whaling groups like Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd. Both groups take direct action against the whaling fleets, chasing them around the deep seas, positioning their boats between the harpoons and the whales, throwing stink bombs at whalers and even boarding the whaling ships. Yet anti-whaling campaigners argue that drastic times call for drastic measures. For Dave Head, whale-hunting fleets have become less humane:

Dave Head:

The Peranos in New Zealand worked out a method where they would fire a harpoon with an explosive head and they knew where the brain was and they could kill it instantly because they had to, ‘cause they only had small boats and if it started thrashing around they were dead, as indeed a lot of the indigenous people in their canoes quite often come off second best. So the whale at least had a fighting chance, but with the Japanese they… for the minke whales, they don’t want to be exploding stuff until they’re dead and ruining all the internal organs and meat. So they’ll fire enough to grab it and then they’ll just hang it upside down until it bleeds to death or suffocates, or both. And that can take up to 30 minutes and all the time this whale is screaming. Not even the worst slaughterhouse in this world would kill an animal under those circumstances.

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whales - balene.

Whale Rider - La ragazza delle balene, del 2003.

sea mammals - mammiferi marini.

hunting - caccia.

in defiance - sfidando.

factory ships - navi-stabilimento.

are running out - si stanno esaurendo.

the economic arguments - i fattori economici.

a live whale... lifetime - una balena viva vale milioni nel corso della sua vita.

high-powered lenses - binocoli potenti.

tracking devices - localizzatori.

which have... depleted whale stocks - che hanno ridotto drastica-mente il numero delle balene.

fleets - flotte.

harpoons - arpioni.

throwing stink bombs - lanciando bombe puzzolenti.

argue - sostengono.

brain - cervello.

if it started thrashing around they were dead - se la balena avesse iniziato ad agitarsi loro sarebbero morti.

had a fighting chance - aveva una possibilità di difendersi.

minke whales - balene di taglia piccola.

they don’t want... dead - non vogliono causare esplosioni interne prima che siano morte.

enough to grab it - ab-bastanza per catturarla.

hang it upside down - l’appendono a rovescio.

slaughterhouse - macello.