Actress Hayden Panettiere called for an end to commercial whaling and increased advocacy against this practice in the international arena during a speech Sunday in Gaston Hall. Last year, Panettiere, who currently stars in the NBC television series “Heroes,” joined other representatives from the Save the Whales Again! Campaign on a trip to Japan to gain a close-up of the whaling industry as well as protest the resulting extermination of whales and dolphins. The 18-year-old actress said this experience helped her understand the dangers that dolphins faced as well as to create a larger platform from which the organization could rail against the practices. “For years, people have been combating [whaling],” Panettiere said. “But within a day, with that footage we got [from Japan], it helped astronomically.” The Animal Welfare Institute, which founded the original Save the Whales Campaign in the 1970s, uses celebrities to help market their message. Panettiere has joined actor Pierce Brosnan and Australian star Isabel Lucas in fighting for whales in this campaign. Jeff Pantukhoff, executive director of the Save the Whales Again! Campaign, joined Panettiere at Georgetown, asserting that there is much work left to be done. “We’re still basically where we were 30 years ago,” he said. Pantukhoff and Panettiere said that their efforts are focused on Japan, Norway and Iceland, the three countries that have not banned whaling and together kill approximately 3,000 whales a year. “Seventy-seven percent of Japan is opposed to whaling and 75 percent of Americans are opposed to whaling, but the governments just don’t represent what the people want,” she said. While in the District, Panettiere plans to meet with the ambassadors of these three countries, as well as various U.S. senators. Panettiere said she primarily came to Georgetown in order to make younger people aware of this problem and to elicit their support. “A college campus is where young people are,” she said. “And that’s what I’m trying to do is get the word out to young people.” Panettiere said that she hopes younger people will listen to her because she is a peer rather than an adult. “I’m a normal teenager,” said Panettiere. “I do everything you guys do.” During the question-and-answer session, the discussion turned more light-hearted as students asked Panettiere about her acting career and even tried to obtain her phone number. “I didn’t go in caring about whales at all, but I came out of it with a new appreciation for the problem,” Jason Kestecher (COL ’11) said. “I thought it was informative, and it gave me a real perspective on celebrities and their genuine concerns,” Alexander Reback (MSB ’11) said. The speech was sponsored by the Lecture Fund.

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