Why don't they just stop?
If you were told that it might be hazardous for you to eat something you have always considered normal and have been eating regularly – with pleasure – since childhood, wouldn’t it be difficult for you too to stop eating it?
It’s very common in the world as a whole that people don’t always listen to warnings. Which is why we have so many people literally dying of obesity and heart diseases. It’s not that they don’t know it is unhealthy for them to eat what they eat, the way they do. They’re just used to eat stuff like that in this way. And it is just very difficult to change what you’re accustomed to, even though you might be confronted with the fact that it is ‘wrong’ or even dangerous for you.
When the Faroese heard that they could not eat pilot whale meat anymore, it was just as shocking for them as it would be shocking for most people in the world if they suddenly were told to stop eating burgers - because meat from cattle for some reason would be declared unfit for human consumption. The Faroese are trying to deal with this situation now. But it is not easy. Because what is the alternative…? What should they put on their plates instead?
It would seem a little hypocritical to ask the Faroese to replace whale meat and start importing more industrially produced meat from other animals – maybe treated less humanely than the whales, all considered.
To ask the Faroese just to become vegetarians, for instance, might be difficult, considering that the Faroese can't grow fruits and vegetables, and how expensive it is to buy fruits and vegetables in the Faroes because of the long distance freight costs.
Adapting a new modern life-style
You can grow a few… very few potatoes, some kind of roots and rhubarbs, for instance. But far from enough to cover the population’s need for fruit and vegetables and the essential vitamins that go with them. The Faroese have imported fruit and vegetables at least since the 50’s by freight ships only. The population has doubled since then and this import has slowly increased to quite substantial amounts today.
But the fact is, that it is expensive to buy fruit and vegetables in the Faroes in comparison with much cheaper prices on the European mainland. Furthermore, the Faroese do not get them as fresh as they are in European supermarkets. Until recently it was regarded unfamiliar and strange – and for most some kind of a luxury to eat fruits and vegetables. In recent years, though, prices have come down to a level where most people can afford to buy fruits and vegetables on a daily basis, though it’s still relatively expensive.
It was, until recently, much easier and cheaper to cover the need for proteins and vitamins by eating pilot whale meat – a diet the Faroese are much more accustomed to than eating fruit and vegetables. But people are aware now of the dangers eating contaminated whale meat. Consequently, today most people in the Faroes – especially in the bigger villages and the capital – have gone through some kind of a transition period where people eat more and more fruit and vegetables – adapting to a more European-like life style.
Well, this might be the only alternative for the Faroese now that the whale meat has become too contaminated. But is it really a better solution?
Which life-style is the most destructive?
As I said earlier, all of this food has to be imported and transported over long distances. The food comes in heavily polluting freight vessels that damage the habitat of all living creatures living in and off the ocean – including the whales. This transport contributes severely to the contamination and in fact, in the end, also the extinction of whales and many other animals... So in a way it doesn't solve the problem. It just moves the problem somewhere else.
Many Faroese think that people who care about the whales should rather try to understand who's the real 'sinner' here when it comes to endangering the whales as well as the natural balance in this world – and put their attention and efforts into solving that problem rather than leading hate campaigns against a small number of people in the North Atlantic who are already victims of one of the biggest problems in the world – namely pollution and all the side effects that come with that.
Instead of living off what our close natural environment provides, like the Faroese did for a long time, people of the world – also the Faroese – have become increasingly dependent on the modern world's farm factory food providing systems. These systems are basically built on a heavily polluting agriculture, an extensive not less polluting transport system and a destructive mass industry that utilizes domestic animals, often in a torture-like way, exploits and pollutes nature, exhausts the soil and contaminates meat, including whale meat.
(To know more about this, watch, for instance, the documentary film “Food Inc.” or read, the book: “Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safran Foer, and you will know what I mean. Watch interviews with the author Foer here and here.)
Old sustainable ways of living near extinction
It is difficult for many Faroese to understand this: What gives people outside the Faroes the right to impose this kind of modern life style onto them? Why should they buy products produced by an industry that is much more dangerous to life on earth than their own survival methods are? Is the modern world’s industrial way of providing food really a better alternative? Is it less cruel? Less dangerous? More life-sustaining? More nature-friendly? Aren't pigs, cattle and chickens cute too? Aren't they also sentient beings? Aren’t some of these animal species as social and intelligent as pilot whales? What is the difference? Why is it more 'natural' and 'humane' to breed and kill these animals in enormous farm factories? Where is the natural boundary to, which animals are okay to exploit and which not?
The Faroese therefore ask: Why should we completely adapt a modern life style, which – seen in the big picture – in fact is much more destructive than our own old ways of living and supplying food were? Is it people like us living in arctic regions who are just trying to live off their surrounding nature respectfully in a sustainable way, keeping nature's balance intact, who are the real threat to the whales – or to the world – here?
The Faroese have – as some of the very few people in the western world – been trying to keep their old ways alive until this day because it is a tradition that in their understanding represents survival in solidarity and a well tested, sustainable and basically much more balanced and more life-sustaining lifestyle with much less impact on the world's ecological balance – at least up until this day if it hadn't been for the pollution.
So they ask: Is it right to condemn people like us more than other people? Why are we made into the scapegoats of the world more so than so many others? Why don't the people of the world boycott Italy also for killing the near extinct tuna and condemn all Italians? (The tuna fish is in fact also an intelligent and a very social animal). Why don't they condemn and boycott all Canadians for killing the seals? Icelanders for the whales, Spaniards for the bullfights? These people might, perhaps, have much less reason to preserve their traditions than the Faroese have. So why is there so much anger directed specifically against the Faroese? This is very difficult for the Faroese to understand.