Whaling is the practice of hunting and killing whales, traditionally for meat, whale oil or baleen. Modern whaling uses electric harpoons and massive ships designed to kill and transport the animals. Many modern vessels even hold factories onboard that process whales into the desired end products.
Whaling has existed since prehistoric times; Neolithic cave paintings depict it, and archaeological evidence suggests beached whales were scavenged in the Stone Age. Basques were the earliest people to practice commercial whaling, becoming noted experts in the process. After World War I, whalers began using factory ships instead of shore stations for processing and adopted more effective hunting weaponry.
In 1946, the International Whaling Commission was established by several nations to govern the practice of whaling to save declining whale populations. Forty years later, the IWC enacted a moratorium on commercial whaling. While synthetic materials have rendered many whale products obsolete, Iceland, Japan and Norway exploit loopholes in the ban to continue operating commercial whaling industries. Collectively, they kill more than 2,000 whales annually and export whale products internationally. (Photo: wdeon/Shutterstock.com)