Whale-hunting is as hot an issue in Iceland as any of the landscape's fiery emanations. Whaling began hereabouts in the 19th century, initially carried out by Norwegians - who pulled out after hunting local stocks almost to extinction in 1919. Iceland itself only took up whaling in 1935 and continued for five decades, before pausing from 1986 to 2003, when 'scientific' whaling restarted followed by commercial whaling in 2006.
But growing international condemnation of the slaughter of these magnificent ocean giants seems only to harden opposing attitudes in Iceland itself. A poll a few years ago found 67% of locals supported whale hunting, while only 20% opposed it. This was despite global disdain that saw over two dozen major nations including the UK, US, Australia, France, Sweden, Spain and Germany make formal diplomatic protests over Iceland's renewal of commercial whaling.
Yet before simply condemning pro-whaling Icelanders as barbarians, it is useful to consider the contexts for attitudes that fly in the face of wider global opinion. Perversely, many Icelanders may support whaling simply because of a certain national bolshyness. Icelanders are proudly independent, and fiercely reluctant to let anyone tell Iceland what to do. This may at least partly explain why whaling can enjoy apparent widespread local support yet only 5% of Icelanders say they eat whale meat themselves.
The whaling industry tries hard to muddy debate. So while Icelandic tourist officials strongly oppose whaling on the clear grounds that it seriously harms the growing whale-watching industry, the Ministry of Fisheries strongly disputes this. The latter chuck in a further claim that whales decimate Iceland's precious fish stocks despite this claim being strongly denied by the Whale & Dolphin Conservation Society. There is a very pertinent tourism angle to the issue, since recent data shows that most whale meat now caught by Icelandic whalers goes to feed tourists, who probably eat it after being duped into thinking it is somehow an age-old Icelandic tradition.
What you can do:
Even if you can't convince pro-whaling Icelanders to shift their opinion on ethical grounds, you can strike an economic blow by disdaining the very idea of eating whale meat, as well as boycotting restaurants that serve it. Spend your krona instead on the growing number of excellent whale watching tours, and show there is a good way to make money from whales that doesn't involve killing them.