"Whale Murder" in the Faroe Islands: 100 Pilot Whales Slain for Cultural Tradition

OMG this has got to stop…


“Whale Murder” in the Faroe Islands: 100 Pilot Whales Slain for Cultural Tradition

Posted: 9/4/11 10:03 PM ET

Deborah Bassett
Deborah Bassett

Environmental Journalist and Nonprofit Consultant
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“Whale Murder” in the Faroe Islands: 100 Pilot Whales Slain for Cultural Tradition
Posted: 9/4/11 10:03 PM ET
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It was with deep anguish that I received confirmation early Friday afternoon from Faroese police authorities that over 100 pilot whales have been brutally slaughtered in the town of Vestmanna in the Faroe Islands. These numbers have undoubtedly since risen as locals continued throughout the day to carve up these sentient and intelligent beings who violently lost their lives to bloodlust and greed in a cowardice act of cultural tradition referred to by locals as “grindadrap”. In Faroese, “grind” literally translates to pilot whale, while “drap” translates to “murder” thus representing the largest extermination of marine mammals in all of Europe — literally whale murder. Well, at least we can call a spade a spade here.

Upon recently returning from the Faroe Islands as part of The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s pilot whale defense campaign, I am deeply saddened by this gruesome turn of events as our presence there over the course of the last 2 months directly and successfully deterred these annual atrocities from taking place. Our ground crew spent over 6 weeks patrolling the hunting bays on a daily basis and engaging with locals in order to gain a firsthand perspective surrounding the grind while working in close collaboration with Sea Shepherd vessels and crews of the Steve Irwin and Brigitte Bardot. Our main objective was to keep pilot whales as far away from the Faroes Islands as possible so that they may continue to roam free as they have for over 30 million years.

Every year during the summer months the Faroese massacre entire pods, or families, of pilot whales as they migrate through adjacent waters. Once a pod is spotted at sea, the local police are notified and give the official clearance to commence a grind which is carried out by local men who are designated to partake in the community ritual. At this point, the whales are forcefully driven into one of 23 hunting bays or fjords by small fishing boats where locals rush the shallow waters to annihilate the corralled whales by slashing through their thick neck tissue in order to sever the spinal chord — an endeavor that Faroese claim takes only a matter of minutes although eye witness reports indicate that it often takes much longer before the suffering mammals are put out of audible misery. One can’t help wonder which is worse — enduring the agonizing pain itself or the trauma of hearing the cries of family members as they are brutally butchered before one another’s eyes.

Ah yes, something is indeed quite rotten in Denmark’s little protectorate — an archipelago of 18 islands located in the North Atlantic, northwest of Scotland and halfway between Norway and Iceland. Whaling in the Faroe Islands has been practiced since the time of the first Norse settlements some 1100 years ago on the islands and locals fiercely defend the brutality, citing that written records of drive hunts in the Faroe Islands date back to 1854. Of course, those of us who are of the scientific, not to mention intuitive, understanding that cetaceans are a socially complex, self-aware and highly sophisticated sentient species, consider the annual bloodbath nothing short of genocide.

Cetaceans possess large, complex four-lobed brains, much larger brains in comparison to our smaller human three-lobed brains, with more convolutions on the neo-cortex area than our own. At a neurological level, cetacean brains display many of the features associated in human beings with sophisticated cognition. These are all socially complex sentient beings, and as recent scientific publications have confirmed, sperm whales and dolphins have demonstrated the ability to identify each other by individual names.

To simply dismiss these scientifically proven facts seems both obtuse and short sided, however detachment from reality, denial, blind patriotism and other such psychological defense mechanisms apparently provide comfortable states of existence for some. In the Faroes, it appears that certain types of socially transmitted behavior allow for the justification and even a certain level of respect for the pilot whale hunt.

It therefore comes as no big surprise that the whalers jumped at the first opportunity they had to hack up a bunch of unassuming whale as sociopathic tendencies and social deviant behavior in general is often times further perpetuated by the group mind mentality, which evidently is the case in the Faroes Islands. Yet, it is somewhat bewildering how the vast majority of people of this legendary land would choose or allow to be portrayed by the actions of a few as modern day barbarians rather than an evolved and empathetic society. Since opposition to the grind is seldom heard, there exists a level of complacency that allows for it to continue to be a part of the society’s moral fabric. Apathy is a nasty little culprit. Added Watson:

The Faeroese demand that their culture be respected, but how can civilized people anywhere respect such a barbaric tradition and barbarism as exactly what it is – an affront to decency, an insult to humanity, and a disgrace to civilization. Our task now is to make the rest of the world view the grind for what it is – an obscenity and a disgrace upon the escutcheon of humanity. And hopefully more and more Faeroese will view it as the rest of the world does and compassion will triumph over cruelty. We have the most perfect weapon for the task — the camera — and we intend to use it.

While on the surface there appeared very little remorse or shame for the cruel and out dated hunts, locals were keenly opposed to having film crews or cameras around to document their supposed “proud cultural tradition.” Ironically I was even physically assaulted by a woman who was concerned about being negatively portrayed in the media — hmmm.

Locals who support the grind still represent the majority and insist that pilot whale is a necessary food source even though both local and international scientists warn of the very real dangers of eating this toxic meat riddled with PCBs and mercury. Faroese health authorities continue to advise women not to consume pilot whale meat while pregnant and warn that adults should eat no more than one to two meals a month. Given the small amounts of pilot whale meat therefore consumed in the suggested Faroese diet, it is no longer a staple food but rather a specialty item that is certainly not needed for subsistence at this point in time.

Since the pilot whales are not used or exported for commercial purposes, unlike the whaling practices of Norway, Iceland and Japan, the Faroese seems to further possess a sense of moral justification surrounding the hunt. This stance appears nothing more than a feeble attempt to appease an already weakened argument. Two wrongs simply do not make a right. Furthermore, the goal of The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is to stop the slaughter of innocent life before it comes to the table — whether locally or abroad.

The whalers continually explained how the pilot whale is killed with the most modern of tools and claim, against documented evidence, that the kill time on average takes less than 2 minutes. After speaking with many local eyewitnesses of past grinds, it is evident that this assertion is simply a falsehood. Last year in the small town of Klaksvick, over 230 pilot whales were literally hacked to death over the course of several excruciating hours pointing to the community’s incapability to slaughter, process and distribute the meat efficiently or in a “humane” manner and further pointing to the lack of precision and standardization in the killing methodology. Human error is always a factor that needs to be taken into consideration.

For the full story and more horrifying photos, go here:


Where the heck are the Faroe Islands?:


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