Campaigning to end the use of whale products in the cosmetic industry

For many hundreds of years whales have been killed for their meat and oil products. In the early days of whaling, these hunts had a limited effect on whale populations but as the industry became more developed and mechanized, the populations of whales were attacked with such ferocity that some species were reduced by up to 95%.

The stunning Blue whale was one of the most hunted of all the species of whale, followed by the other rorquals, right whales and sperm whales. In the 19th and 20th centuries, hundreds of thousands of sperm whales were killed for their oil – mainly to light lamps all over the world.

Many different industries developed as a result of using whales as the main manufacturing ingredient. By the 1960s, 40% of all whales hunted (by weight) were sperm whales – now regularly exploited for other uses, including insecticides, watch and camera lubricants, cosmetics and other personal-care products. Even the aerospace industry found a use for spermaceti (a wax like substance in the head of a sperm whale)!

Sperm whale hunting declined in the early 1900’s as kerosene and petroleum replaced candles and sperm oil in lamps, but it resurged mid-century as commercial whaling decimated populations of other large whale species.

Alternatives to Whale Products

Following many studies, it was discovered that Jojoba oil (made from the plant's seed) was a natural replacement for the use of spermaceti in the cosmetics industry. The world’s Jojoba growers rose to the challenge.

Jojoba gradually replaced spermaceti in the majority of cosmetics and in 1981 sperm whaling and international trade in such whale products was banned.

In 2007, WDC and IJEC (The International Jojoba Export Council), began negotiations to build a relationship between the two organisations with the objective of encouraging the use of Jojoba oil as an alternative to whale oil or spermaceti. The two bodies also set out to identify a range of cosmetic products that claim to contain spermaceti in personal care products.

In 2012 WDC and IJEC signed an historic agreement at Europe’s premier trade show for cosmetic ingredients (In-Cosmetics®) in Barcelona. The agreement sets out to promote the benefits of using jojoba as a green and renewable alternative to oil taken from whales killed in hunts, and also to highlight the fact that, despite international bans, the use of whale-derived ingredients in cosmetic products still occurs.

Both organizations have committed to work together to further reduce import-duties which may exist or develop in the global trade of jojoba-based products. This is especially important given that jojoba is successfully cultivated in only a handful of countries and barriers to trade could deprive markets or otherwise place jojoba out of reach as an economically viable alternative to spermaceti.

As part of this agreement, WDC’s political contacts and supporter base in Europe successfully helped IJEC defeat a proposed tariff on jojoba exports into the EU.

Jojoba growers are proud to offer the world a set of superior alternatives to the products of commercial whaling.

Next Steps

The use of spermaceti is illegal and its use could be punished by several conventions including CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). Despite this, WDC and IJEC have tracked the use of spermaceti in several personal care products available around the globe. WDC has also identified potential suppliers of spermaceti in China, a country that officially has no whaling taking place.

Both organizations are committed to ending the trade in whale products and campaigning to stop the use of spermaceti by promoting the use of Jojoba as an environmentally and whale friendly alternative.

In the coming months we shall be asking supporters, the public and governments to help us end this trade once and for all.