Evaluating possible indicators of insensibility and death in cetacea
The International Whaling Commission (IWC) currently uses imprecise indicators of death to evaluate the welfare consequences of whaling. A recent independent meeting of animal welfare scientists proposed a series of tests to determine the states of sensibility/insensibility/death of
whales. As a precursor to assessing these tests in the field, conjoint analysis was used to evaluate expert opinion and to identify tests deemed most suitable for establishing insensibility and death. The results of this study indicated that experts considered measurement of breathing rate,
cardiac activity, coordinated swimming and ocular temperature to be among the most useful for determining that animals were not dead. Furthermore, experts considered that judgements that an animal was dead should be made only after application of a series of different tests. The tests identified
may be valuable for assessing stranded whales or animals taken as part of whaling operations.