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  Killing endangered whales
Updated 15 November 2001, 09.18
A minke whale after being harpooned by a Japanese whaler
Tamsyn looks at the history of whaling and asks why whales are still being killed.

"Whaling is the name for slaughtering whales.

It was first carried out in about 3000 BC in the far north of Europe. The Nordic people were whaling by 900 AD. Whaling to make money was established by the 12th century.

Chased by boats

Greenpeace protest against whaling in Japan
Greenpeace protest against whaling in Japan
In the early 19th century, whales were chased by six men in rowing boats, who were armed with hand weapons and lances.

The whales were killed and their bodies cut up. The blubber was melted down in brick ovens.

Their oil was used for lighting and lubrication and turned into varnish, linoleum, leather and pharmaceuticals.

The whale bones were used to make corsets, knife handles, umbrella ribs and brushes.

International ban

Modern whaling techniques were introduced in about 1870, when steam powered whale catchers replaced the traditional rowing boats.

Whale tail
But people started to object to hunting whales because they are endangered animals.

Since 1986, there has been an international ban on commercial whaling, although Japan and Iceland continue to catch whales for research, and Norway still use whale products to make money.

Nothing's being done

Nothing much is being done about illegal whaling.

Japan say they are not killing an endangered species but I don't believe them - I think they are killing one of the most endangered species of whale in the world."

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