Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Pilot Whaling again: Know ALL the facts from source, not from distant opinion, before you decide on your own position

Some months ago I wrote a blog about Pilot Whaling in the Faroe Islands, explaining why the Faroese still kill Pilot Whales despite the fact that so many people outside the Faroes protest against it. 

(Read the blog "Are The Faroese Senseless Terrorizing Murderous Dolphin Killers?" here:

I got an E-mail the other day with some questions about the same issue. Here is part of that E-mail:

"I have a question which I hope you can answer.  I've tried to clarify errors that are circulating on the web and a persistent one is this:

Many pilot whales are now left to rot as they are no longer needed as food. The last two years the meat has been deemed too toxic for human consumption, so the killings are purely for the entertainment.

I have seen some similar comments about carcasses being left to rot on the beaches. I personally find this hard to believe, as it would make the beaches unsafe from a health perspective. Is there any truth in this, as far as you know? What DOES happen to the remains, once the flesh has been distributed?"

And this was my answer:

(Sigh...) Not that I don't want to take people's feelings or views about Faroese whale killing seriously. I appreciate that people are concerned and want to do good. But many of the stories about the issue flourishing on the net are just highly dramatized and appear almost absurd to me. 

Sometimes I have the feeling that this world becomes more and more artificial and "Hollywood-like" because many people seem to have this need to invent stories about "bad people" doing "wrong things" in reverse to themselves as "good people" (or the "heroes") doing "the right thing". These stories give the "good people" a meaningful purpose in life and not least: the right to tell the "bad people" how to behave. It's nice to feel like a 'better' person. It's a good feeling to 'know for sure' what is right and what is wrong. It makes life much less complicated. 

But it's a little eerie and sad at the same time because it is also self-righteous to think that you 'own' the only 'truth' and that you have the right to impose this 'truth' on others. It seems that this self-righteousness makes people loose their sense of reality and forget all about self-criticism in the process. Truth becomes pliable. It's as if people really need someone to blame for something, much more than they need to understand reality and get the facts right. Is it because people nowadays are more or less brainwashed by Hollywood into thinking that we live in a simplistic black and white world with no nuances between the bad and the good... just like the world often is portrayed in Hollywood movies...? Has Orwell's vision in the book "1984" come true: "The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became truth."?

There are some pretty attractive benefits to be gained in this make-believe-world. Having a "just cause" you're willing to fight for gives you a higher status and perhaps even faithful followers who will regard you as a heroic figure. Your status as "hero" might give you such popularity in some circles that you can create a whole industry out of selling your cause to others. Who doesn't want to be part of a community with a cause - something imortant to live and die for? It might become so important for you that you shot your eyes or ears even to the obvious truth if it somehow contradicts your cause. 

So many people are not questioning what they're being told. They seem willing to just blindly follow what immediately seems political correct ... like wolves howling with other wolves. To justify this, it is important, in this case, to make the Faroese behavior look as bad as possible. So a little altering of reality to make it suit one's agenda makes the trick. It is of course much easier to feel righteous and get agitated over something that seems deadly wrong - or perhaps even looks like pure 'evil acts'. But that is a too simplistic way to look at it. It also manipulates the truth. And it's not just to the Faroese.

The quote you refer to is, once again, highly exaggerated. Faroese people do not kill whales for entertainment. That's a preposterous claim. Perhaps this rumor arose because of an old song Faroese people used to sing in the old days that said it was "a joy" to kill whales. But you have to place the lyrics of this song in the right context. In the old days people lived in a very harsh, merciless environment. They needed to encourage themselves to struggle and do all the hard work which was absolutely necessary for survival back then. And killing whales was "a joy" in that sense that it meant food on the table for a long time.

It is not true either that whale carcasses are left to rot on the beach - or anywhere else for that matter. This is also an unjust claim. People wouldn't dream of wasting anything, because whale meat and blubber is still considered a delicacy. Every single bit of meat and blubber is therefore still used for food. We also have a law that demands that nothing must go to waste and that any leftovers, like bones and intestines which can't be eaten, must be taken away within 24 hours. Bones and intestines are dumped in the ocean in deep water with strong currents, where they probably would have ended up anyway if the whales had died of natural causes. 

It is true that the whale meat is contaminated to a certain extent and that people do not eat as much whale meat and blubber as they did before, but they still eat it. The mercury levels are not THAT dangerously high - there are still health benefits of the meat and blubber, if the intake is limited. The meat and blubber can be preserved for a long time in freezers or as salted or dried meat so you could say that the meat from a catch just lasts longer today.

So most people in the Faroes have not stopped eating whale meat and blubber, though they're not eating it as often as before. Many don't serve it to their children any more. Also young women prefer not to eat the meat and blubber because health authorities have recommended them not to. 

Let me quote an info note about this issue from the Foreign Ministry in the Faroe Islands, which can be found here:

"Over the past two decades, extensive international research has been undertaken into the health effects of contaminants from whale meat and blubber in the diet of Faroe Islanders, led by Dr Pál Weihe of the Department of Public and Occupational Health in the Faroes. The first published results of these studies, suggesting a correlation between high levels of mercury intake and some subtle aspects of neurological development in Faroese children, were presented and discussed widely in the 1990’s. These results led health authorities in the Faroes (the Chief Medical Officer, the Department of Public and Occupational Health, and the Food & Veterinary Agency) to issue in July 1998 comprehensive revised recommendations for safe limits on the consumption of pilot whale meat and blubber.

The recommended levels of consumption are no more than 1-2 meals of whale meat and blubber per month. As a precautionary measure, women of child-bearing age are advised not to consume blubber at all until they have had their children and are no longer breast-feeding, and to refrain from eating whale meat 3 months prior to, and during, pregnancy and while breast feeding. These limits are intended to safeguard consumers against the risks, while also acknowledging the health benefits of whale meat and blubber, which are rich in poly-unsaturated fats, and essential vitamins and minerals, such as selenium."

Bottom line:  The quote you refer to is again an example of a claim that very clearly is a conclusion made too hastily, based on deficient data and lack of knowledge... probably made by people trying to justify their aversion against whale killing with something they, perhaps, believe are the facts. It's just that many of these so called 'facts' are not correct - far from it. The internet is full of incorrect facts or claims about pilot whaling in the Faroe Islands. But why would many deal with important facts like these so recklessly? Why do so many put more effort into justifying their own personal beliefs than into getting it right, selecting just to hear what they want to hear and blissfully ignore other arguments? And then pass on the unconfirmed rumors as the 'truth'...? That is why I sometimes get the impression that this really is more about people's personal feelings than it is about anything else.  

It's perfectly alright with me that people have an aversion against whale killing but it is a pity if they base it on incorrect information that unjustly destroys the Faroese people's reputation.

Thank you for being willing to also view "the other side" and regard it with respect even if you don't support the whale killing. I respect that. There aren't that many people of your kind "out there".

Kind regards

I got an answer back right away where the sender said  - among other things:

"I feel it's important that people know ALL the facts (from source, not from distant opinion) before deciding on their own position."

I couldn't agree more! :-)


  1. The sociopaths senselessly killing the whales during the grinds are doing it for no other reason than for the "thrill of the kill". It's brutal, and horrific. The whales die SLOWLY, being beaten with clups, sticks, axes etc. Babies are ripped from their mother's stomaches....NO reason this should be happening, no matter how you try to spin it. The Faroe residents no longer need to rely on whale meat and blubber for sustenance. That is an excuse.

  2. Good job Elin for showing the other side which so many iggnorant people fail to see or listen to these days.