People hunt whales primarily for their meat, and occasionally for research. Historically, they were also hunted for the oil in their blubber, which was used in lamps before electricity was widely available.
Indigenous communities have hunted whales for thousands of years for their meat, which is high in protein. In the colonial period in America, the whaling industry boomed because of the demands of a larger population and the popularity of oil lamps as an alternative to candles.
Although whales are protected by the International Whaling Commission's 1982 Commercial Whaling Moratorium, several countries continue to hunt whales today, notably Iceland, Norway and Japan. Residents of these countries continue to eat whale meat while most of the world has seen a decrease in demand for whale products. In Japan particularly, whaling figures largely in national consciousness and is seen as an important tradition. These countries hunt whales despite the IWC's prohibition and justify their actions through reservations made to treaties or by claiming that their hunts are for research purposes.
Several organizations work to put an end to whaling, often by going directly to whaling ships and interfering with their hunts. Greenpeace and Whale and Dolphin Conservation are two such organizations.