When ABTA launched their 'global standards' for animal welfare last week, aimed at protecting animals in tourism and something that we at Care for the Wild were involved in drafting, something else more sinister was also announced.
It turns out that after a two year voluntary ban, Iceland has resumed commercial whaling - against international opinion and against the mandates of the International Whaling Commission, which Iceland doesn't recognise.
It's fair to say that this announcement hasn't gone un-noticed. Greenpeace have gone undercover, IFAW have spoken out against it and more than one million people around the world last year signed a petition against the country resuming their whale killing.
However, what is intriguing about this tale is that it all stems to just one man - Icelandic Whaler Kristjen Loftsson. One man against a million voices and against the 180 fin whales he and his team intend to slaughter this year. Well, one man and a government hell bent on destroying their reputation and tourist industry against a background of global anger and discontent.
Tourism is important to Iceland. It's a small country whose financial issues sent shock waves around the world not so long ago. In fact, tourism is somewhat of a cash cow for Iceland, and tourists in the UK in particular make a massive contribution to total figures. Last year alone, almost 100,000 tourists from the UK headed to Iceland, representing a staggering 47.7% increase versus the year before, and setting a new record high.
Why did they come? Many no doubt went to enjoy the country's unique nature and the magnificence of the whales. It's been hard to ignore the country's massive poster campaign, littering stations across the London Underground network, or the Icelandic government's 'Visit Iceland' website, which proudly proclaims that Iceland is one of the Top 10 places in the world to watch whales (endangered, by the way) in the wild.
With tourism accounting for 5.9% of GDP (2009 figures - now likely to be higher), and tourism related trades employing around 5% of the country (compared incidentally to the fishing industry at almost the same), is this the Icelandic Government's most foolish decision to date? Probably.
So the question we need to ask is this: A petition didn't work, global outrage doesn't seem to be working, even undercover filming showing magnificent whales being harpooned and chopped up on deck hasn't had the desired effect... so, what will?
For me it is simple - tourism is worth lots of money to Iceland, commercial whaling is uneconomic and inhumane, and this to all intents and purposes is an easy operation to close down. The tourist industry of Iceland has itself already come out to say whales are worth more alive than dead. Tourists need to say no, they need to vote with their feet (which fortunately tend to be not too far from their purses or wallets) and not book a trip to Iceland until the licenses are revoked.
If you've got, or ever had, even the slightest intention of visiting Iceland, then now is the time to fire up the iPad, get tapping on your smart phone or desktop, and take just two minutes to email the Prime Minister, Mr. Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson on firstname.lastname@example.org (be sure to copy in the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture on email@example.com) and say quite simply neither you, your friends or your family will go to Iceland whilst they allow commercial whaling to occur in their name. In the time you read this, you could do it.
Unfortunately we live in a world where money talks louder than welfare and although I'm not an economist I have no doubt that the real threat of knocking 6% off their bottom line makes one licence seem even more pointless. That's why mums shouldn't go to Iceland.
You can find out more about responsible animal friendly tourism, including whale watching at RIGHT-tourism.org.Suggest a correction