Whale Hunting In The Faroe Islands
Every year in the Faroe Islands, a territory of Denmark, hundreds of pilot whales and other species including bottlenose dolphins, Atlantic white-sided dolphins and northern bottlenose whales, are hunted for their meat. The techniques used are intensely stressful and cruel. Entire family groups are rounded up out at sea by small motor boats and driven to the shore. Typically, once they are stranded in shallow water, blunt-ended metal hooks are inserted into their blowholes and used to drag the whales up the beach, where they are killed with a knife cut to their major blood vessels.
Many of you visiting this site will have seen the graphic images of whales being slaughtered, and are deeply concerned. You might well have received an email from a friend or colleague, asking you to forward a petition. Please be careful in how you deal with such e-mail petitions. At least one that has been circulating contains no contact information, nor a way to make sure that your signature is being forwarded to anyone who could have an impact. In particular, if the email you received contains a web address imprinted on the photos, please consider carefully whether to visit the site. There have been concerns raised about potential malicious software and/or high risk off-site links from that site.
What is WDCS doing about the Faroese whale hunt?
In recent years our campaigning against the hunt has taken a lower profile and the number of whales killed has decreased. While no level of hunting is acceptable to WDCS, and we continue to seek new ways to stop his practice, we have found that when we make (and encourage the public to make) vociferous protests about the Faroe Islands drive hunt, the level of hunting actually increases. This was unfortunately proven out recently, when the series of email petitions circled the globe, calling attention to the hunts. In 2008 - the year most of the email petitions started - not a single pilot whale was killed in the Faroe Islands. This was the first time in decades, perhaps even centuries, that no pilot whale hunt took place. Sadly, the pilot whale hunt resumed in 2009.
WDCS has been actively trying to stop this hunt, and also to prevent the Faroe Islands from resuming commercial whaling and international trade in whale meat. We will not pretend that our task is simple. Whaling is a long tradition of this remote and proud community that is proving hard to change. But traditions evolve over time and, rest assured, WDCS will not give up until drive hunting is consigned to the history books in the Faroe Islands, and its children can eat safely.
On September 5th 2012, a group of environmental and animal welfare organizations, including WDCS, released a statement on the Faroese hunt.
Whale meat is heavily contaminated
Pilot whales in this region - the main species targeted - carry high levels of mercury and persistent organic compounds in their meat and blubber. Long term independent studies of children in the Faroe Islands have directly linked neurological delays, cardiovascular problems and other development problems to their mothers pre-natal consumption of whale meat. In addition, recent studies have shown a direct link between the occurrence of Parkinsons disease in Faroese adults and eating pilot whale meat. Despite this, the hunts and consumption continues.
The Faroese authorities first issued an advisory notice almost ten years ago, warning certain vulnerable consumers (such as pregnant and nursing women) to eat less whale meat, but a whole new generation has matured since then and we are concerned that new mothers today might not be aware of this recommendation. We are working to change that.
Progress is painfully slow. For example it was only in 2008, years after medical officers advised people to cut consumption of whale meat, that the Health Minister stopped whale meat being offered in hospitals.
The Faroe Islands drive hunt is not subject to international control as it targets small species of whales (mainly pilot whales and some dolphin species) that the International Whaling Commission (IWC) does not currently manage. As the Faroe Islands are not members of the European Union, they are not subject to European legislation that forbids whale hunting. Unfortunately therefore, there are no legal mechanisms currently available to prevent the hunt.
Although one regional whale management body has given scientific advice suggesting that the hunts are sustainable, the body is comprised of only whaling nations, which is likely to bias its findings. However, even that organisation has recognised that pilot whales are impacted by human activities such as fishing and pollution, which could well affect the long term health of populations. The population status for some of the species killed in the Faroe Islands drive hunts remain under debate, as biases in survey data have hampered attempts to make accurate abundance estimates.
While most public attention has been focused on the takes of the larger pilot whales, the data provided by the Faroes government shows that dolphins are also being targeted; more than 3200 of these smaller cetaceans have been killed since 1999.
What can you do?
If you want to sign a petition, there are several reputable on-line petition sites that you can visit, such as The Petition Site. These petitions can, if millions of signatures are generated and hand-delivered to the proper authorities, have an impact. But what we have found is that government officials pay much more attention to letters or faxes.
Please send a politely worded letter to the Faroese government and (copy it to the Danish Foreign Ministry) to express your concerns about this hunt. The addresses are provided below. Please make the time to mail a letter, or send a fax, as it has more impact than an email.
Office of the Faroese Government
Kaj Leo Holm Johannesen
Post Box 64
Tel. +298 306000
Fax +298 306015
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Denmark
2, Asiatisk Plads
DK-1448 Copenhagen K
Tel. +45 33 92 00 00
Fax +45 32 54 05 33
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