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The Use of Electricity to Kill Minke Whales: Humane Considerations

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Whaling continues despite a global moratorium, and the methods of slaughter used are a controversial welfare issue. If a whale is not killed instantly by an explosive harpoon, the Japanese use electric lances as a secondary killing device.

Video footage was obtained which documented the sequence of events in Japanese whaling operations, including the harpooning and application of electric lances to seven whales. A minimum time to death of each whale was estimated. To achieve immediate insensibility using electrical stunning, the electrodes must span the brain. This video revealed that electrodes tend to be placed between the pectoral and dorsal fins, and on the same side of the whale. In this case only a small proportion of current would pass through the brain, and ventricular fibrillation is unlikely. Previous work has shown that the currents used were likely to be 50—100 times too small to cause cardiac fibrillation or cerebral dysfunction.

A humane death cannot be achieved with inappropriate placement of lances and inadequate current application. A more effective secondary killing method is necessary.
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Document Type: Short Communication

Publication date: 1995-05-01

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