Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Are The Faroese People Senseless Terrorizing Murderous Dolphin Killers?

Some people outside the Faroes think that Faroese people are senseless primitive murderous inbred drunken brutal beasts who once a year kill thousands of intelligent dolphins for fun as a 'coming of age ritual' just to leave most of the whales to rot on the beach and feeding the rest of the poisonous meat to their innocent children. As if the Faroese were the most ignorant and worst enemies of nature you can find on the face of the earth. Sadly many people believe these fantastic stories. 

I understand the disgusted feelings it evokes in people to see the pictures that have been spread around. I admit that pilot whale killing looks like a brutal bloodbath with all those people participating in the kill running around on shore and in the water, seemingly for no purpose - and with all that blood in the sea. 

But the graphic pictures don't reveal the whole truth. Far from it. I understand it looks shocking to people who haven't seen anything like this before and don't know what is going on. To them it seems incomprehensible. So they judge it based only on their immediate feelings of disgust. Which one can't blame them for. They see it from their own angle - and in their view: how can anyone in their right mind kill dolphins that way - such wonderful creatures!? 

I must say for myself: I do NOT support pilot whaling unconditionally. I don't like to see animals being killed – like most people. I hate it. I wish humans could be less dependent on meat consumption. I think that dolphins as well as other whales are fascinating and wonderful creatures. So far I'm not that different from most people in the western world.  

What makes me different, though, is that I'm Faroese. I grew up in the Faroe Islands where people have been killing pilot whales for food for at least 1200 years (according to research based on archeological excavations). I do not eat pilot whale meat myself though (I don't like the taste of it. Actually I almost don't eat meat at all - just occasionally. But I like the blubber, though, together with dry fish). 

What made me write this blog post is, that I don't recognize the picture at all painted of my people in all these anti-whaling campaigns and petitions flourishing all over where people sign up to express their disgust about the Faroese pilot whaling tradition. It makes me so sad to see all the prejudice and all these wildly exaggerated wrongful rumors about my people that have been spread through out the world by people – either on purpose as part of shock tactics to get their anti-whaling point across, or because they don't know better – when the truth is that for the Faroese people the pilot whale killing has always been a matter of survival – and still is in a way. It certainly does not help the whales to agitate people. I'll get back to that point further down in this blog post. 

I will try to explain – in an honest, truthful way – what is going on, seen from a Faroese angle. And I will kindly ask you, the reader, to forget – just for a moment – all that you've seen and/or heard about pilot whaling in the Faroes, and set all the emotions of disgust and anger it created aside, and just try to read this blog post without any prejudice. 

First, let's correct some misunderstandings 
The "dolphins" the Faroese kill are not bottlenose dolphins (like 'Flipper') who most people are familiar with, but long-finned pilot whales which is another species, though it is in the same family – only the pilot whale behaves more like a big whale than like a dolphin. But that might be beside the point for many, so I won't dwell with that. The fact is that the Faroese have always looked upon pilot whales as a source of food in pretty much the same manner as most people in the world look upon cattle or pigs as a source of food (even though pigs, for instance, actually are quite sentient, social and intelligent animals, perhaps just as much as pilot whales). 

Almost any foreign article I've read about pilot whaling in the Faroe Islands, claims that the pilot whale killings take place "once a year". I don't know from where this misunderstanding originates. Perhaps it came about because Faroese officials have used the phrase: "annual kill", which doesn't refer to a single event – they actually just refer to the amount of whales killed on average over the course of a year. In fact pilot whale killings can take place several times during a year, and some years no killings take place at all. 

It is also claimed that pilot whaling only takes place in the summer. This is also a misunderstanding. Pilot whaling takes place randomly when pods of pilot whales are spotted, for instance from land or from small boats sailing close to shore in the waters between the islands. Since there is more boat traffic in Faroese waters in the summer, the likelihood of a pilot whale kill taking place in the summer is greater than in the winter, but pilot whaling can and does take place in other seasons as well. 

Many foreigners refer to the pilot whale slaughter in the Faroes as a 'ritual', which the Faroese perform as a 'celebration' of the 'coming of age' of young men. This is ridiculous. This misunderstanding probably comes from some words and phrases being mixed up. Some people probably get the connotation 'ritual' and 'tribe' when they hear the word 'tradition', and forget that their own habit of eating turkey for Christmas dinner is also a 'tradition'. Some Faroese might have said at some point, that they think that boys somehow become grown men when they participate in a whale kill the first time, because this reality of life and death somehow toughens them up, but this is far from saying that the kill is done for this purpose only! 

It is also often claimed that the pilot whale killing is a 'celebration' and a 'feast' - almost like a carnival, which outsiders find quite offensive. But this is highly exaggerated. One must understand that in the old days the Faroese, obviously, were very pleased that by killing the pilot whales, they had obtained enough food to ensure their own survival in a long time, which they understandably thought was worth celebrating. Moreover, it was not possible for many who participated in the killing to sail home the same day or evening. Accordingly, they stayed in the village and then everybody gathered to sing and dance together to greet each other, keep warm and talk about their achievement. Today this particular part of the tradition is no more, though some of the whalers sometimes might gather afterwards to drink a few beers at the local pub, if they like, just because they are happy to see each other. 

I would think this is quite normal human behavior, but sometimes it seems that people elsewhere way too willingly misunderstand all this, perhaps because they subconsciously search for something to confirm their own prejudice. Their initial reaction to the often very dramatic descriptions and portrayals of the whale killings they come across is, understandably, disgust. Perhaps they just need to justify their own feelings. Since dramatic descriptions by often quite ignorant – or biased – outsiders far outnumber the Faroese viewpoint in global media and / or online, people might have small chances to get acquainted with all the facts, which perhaps could explain the incomprehensible. Which is why I write this blog post. 

Pilot whale killing not as brutal as it seems 
Even if it might be hard to believe, the pilot whale killing is in fact not as brutal as it seems. It's not about a lot of insane people just throwing themselves into a killing frenzy making as much harm to the whales as they possibly can - which many people seem to believe, and want others to believe too by spreading these inflammatory messages. But most of these people have never been there themselves and have never spoken to any Faroese people asking them what is going on. 

Behind the spectacle is a highly developed killing method - a joint effort - which makes sure that the killing is done as quickly as possible to minimize the whales' suffering as much as humanely possible. Killing such big animals is challenging. Suffering can, unfortunately, never be totally eradicated, just as any other animals' suffering killed for food elsewhere in the world can't be eradicated. But of course suffering can be minimized - which the Faroese are eager to do even if it doesn't seem so to an outsider. 

There is a purpose for all those people being there at the kill. Everyone has a task that takes certain skills that have been passed on from generation to generation. The more people participate in the pilot whaling the quicker it's over with. 

Some of them drive the whales to shore with boats to make as many whales as possible swim up unto the beach.

Some of them wade into the water to pull the remaining whales the last bit of the way up onshore with (rounded) hooks in the blowholes - which is the quickest way to do it. The sharp hooks one sometimes can see in pictures of the killings are ONLY used to move whales away that have already been killed.

Some people stand ready on the beach to cut the whales' spine with a knife in one movement in the second the whale is positioned to make sure that the whale is killed as quickly as possible. Lately a new killing method has been developed – a special tool, which cuts the spine in an instant. This means that every single whale dies within 4-5 seconds (!) on average – not minutes, as one often sees, outsiders claim. 

Some take the killed whales away to somewhere where the meat is cut, divided and distributed in the community. Every single bit of meat and blubber is used for food and everyone gets their share for free. There is a law that demands that nothing must go to waste and that any leftovers, like bones, the scull and intestines unfit for consumption, must be taken away within 24 hours.

So some take the bones, the scull and intestines and dump them 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.

And some take their children to see how all this is done from A to Z. Not for entertainment but to teach them the facts of life on these islands and how people survive here. That is how it's been done for many centuries. 

Yes, there is a lot of blood – these are very big animals. They loose a lot of blood instantly when they're killed properly. The quicker the sea gets red it's a sign that the killing has been swift and effective.

Usually the number of whales in a pod counts from 50 up to 200 animals. The actual killing of ALL the whales in a pod is over with in approximately 10-15 minutes, perhaps up to 20 minutes if there are many whales in the pod, but very, very rarely more than that. Not more than it takes to kill pigs in a slaughter house. 

Traditional diet in danger – not because of the Faroese, but because of the outside world
As I mentioned before, excavations show that pilot whales have been part of the diet on the islands for at least 1200 years. According to scientific study there are presumably 750,000 pilot whales in the North Atlantic, at least  (http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/mammals/cetaceans/pilotwhale_longfinned.htm). The Pilot whales are not on the list of endangered species. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species considers this species "Low Risk Least Concern."

The Faroe Islanders have monitored their whale killings since 1584, and the numbers show that they have taken an average of 850 pilot whales yearly since then – some years more, some years less, some years none at all. That is approximately 0,1 % of the whole population on average taken every year. (Not 1% as I've seen claimed many places. No, it's ten times less than that: zero point one percent!). This means that the pilot whaling in the Faroes does NOT threat the pilot whale population as a whole. NOAA states that the bycatch to fishing gear is the primary threat to pilot whales. Long-finned pilot whales are entangled, incidentally taken, or interact with a number of fishing gear, that include gillnets, longlines, and trawls. Also threatening this species are heavy metals, pesticides, pollutants, and various contaminants in the marine environment that have been found in this species' blubber.

According to the Faroese themselves, they haven't seen the number of pods swimming by the islands decrease – seen over time – all these years they have killed pilot whales. Of course, there has always been some fluctuation of natural causes, for instance, because some years the pilot whales' own diet – the squids – swim further from the Faroese shores than other years. But the Faroese are convinced that the killing is still sustainable. If the number should decrease it's pretty certain that the Faroese aren't to blame. It's most likely because of changes in the whales' natural environment caused by pollution.

Note that it is Faroese researchers who have been studying the pilot whale and who have brought the world's attention to the problem with contamination of the whale population and the dangers of mercury poisoning. Why would the Faroese do that if they didn't care? 

In reality, the Faroese are very conscious of the fact that they must take care of nature - including the whales and the whale stocks. The Faroese are very aware of how important it is to preserve this natural resource, to keep it healthy and keep the killing sustainable because their people have been vitally dependent on whale meat for centuries. So they do not kill more than needed and not enough to endanger the species - just like they've always done. There are cases where whale pods have been driven back to sea because authorities have estimated that people have received enough whale meat.

People do not eat more than the researchers recommend – but it is also important to note that even if the researchers have issued a warning they also acknowledge the fact that the whale meat is rich in poly-unsaturated fats, and essential vitamins and minerals, such as selenium, which means that there are still health benefits to be gained by eating whale meat if one just makes sure that the intake is limited.

Crucial for survival in the old days - and still is in a way
Pilot whale killing was absolutely crucial for survival back in the old days where it was almost impossible to get hold of vegetables (and difficult to get hold of the vitamins that go with them) at this latitude. People shared the meat in solidarity with each other. It was distributed to the local community according to rules made a thousand years ago, where especially elderly and sick people and widows were taken into consideration – a tradition the Faroese have kept intact until this day. They still don't kill whales for commercial purposes. 

It has simply been a question of helping the whole community to survive in a very harsh and inhospitable environment on some isolated islands in the middle of the North Atlantic. The pilot whale is therefore still highly valued by the Faroese as a life saving contributor and a symbol of a unique solidarity between the islanders. 

But why do the Faroese still kill pilot whales in modern times? Is it necessary? This is a tricky question because it's a little complicated to explain why people here still find killing pilot whales somehow necessary - even if the meat is polluted. Quite incomprehensible, isn't it? 

People might understand why it was necessary in the old days, but now? Why now? Well... Faroese economy is still heavily reliant on primary production and has only recently begun to make inroads into secondary and tertiary provision. It is, even today, often difficult to run business and make ends meet in this remote area. It is expensive to import and buy vegetables. Economy fluctuates much more here than in other countries in the modern world because the Faroese income is dependent on nature’s fragile balance and often quite irregular cycles. 

As late as in the early 90'ies there was a huge economic crisis that consequently had almost a fourth of the people migrate from the islands. Parts of the remaining population survived by helping each other, for instance exchanging goods without having money involved. In these years whale meat was a very important part of the meat consumption. A fourth of the whole meat consumption was pilot whale meat.

It means that in the eyes of the Faroese the pilot whale has up to this day been one of the most important key factors for their survival – especially in times of economic crisis. Crises and recessions occur relatively often in islands like the Faroes with harsh natural environments and fragile homogenous economies. These predicaments usually hit the island people hard. 

Faroe Islanders are therefore used to rescue themselves by going back to basics from time to time – even if they on a daily basis seem to live a modern life today. But the Faroese are – from bitter experience – never far from the next crisis in their mind – and thus never far from the basics of life either. 

Today the world economic crisis rages and has hit the Faroese people as well. One of the two biggest banks in the Faroes went bankrupt this year and we have still not seen the magnitude of the consequences following this severe bank crisis. 

Now that we are all affected by the ongoing world economic crisis, it is, for instance, natural for the Faroese to think that if the crisis gets even worse in the future, killing whales might still be very important for survival. So why give it up and forget all about the skills of killing pilot whales? These skills might come in very handy one day if everything else crumbles. The rest of the world may very well suddenly be on fire and then the Faroese will find themselves cut off and all alone out there, far away in the ocean - totally dependent on what is available on site. 

That is part of the reason why the Faroese have been so reluctant to give up on this tradition, even if they regard themselves as a modern civilized people in many ways today and usually, in better times, aren’t as dependent on whale meat as they have been before. But they want to preserve their inherited whale driving and killing skills because they still feel that they live in an environment that demands of them that they trust more in themselves, i.e. in their bare hands together with nature’s mercy, as the best guarantee for survival. 

Rather than settling for being entirely dependent on import and the modern worlds complicated and fraud full economic systems, they rely on what ever they’re able to harvest directly from their surrounding natural environment. They feel very strongly about this because they are proud of their old traditions that helped them survive for so long. Of course they choose to hold on to what ever makes them feel the safest, the strongest and the least vulnerable.

Misunderstood by the world outside
Let’s give it an extra thought. Of course it is difficult for people from outside the Faroe Islands to understand the Faroese people’s behavior; especially if they haven’t ever experienced that their life was dependent on what they could harvest directly from wild nature. It’s only natural that they find it disturbing, if they focus solely on the unfortunate animals and not on the livelihood of the people who live in places where you can’t grow vegetables and where people for so long had to survive with whatever means they had available. 

Most people would probably feel quite helpless if they had to kill an animal with their bare hands in order to get a meal on their table. But they don't have to do anything disgusting like that because they live a modern civilised life with all necessities within close reach. With those living conditions it's very easy to forget that they're actually themselves dependent on the killing of animals too.

Of course they know it, but they probably prefer not to think too much about it. I guess they don’t like to think of themselves as some kind of predators. But the fact is, that most people eat animals without giving it a single thought that somebody had to kill the animal, for them to be able to eat it. The modern world has created a whole industry out of people's need to displace these facts. We do whatever we can to distance ourselves from the fact that we - humans - exploit animals by making it as invisible and painless (for ourselves) as possible that we breed animals to kill them so we can eat their meat. We don't want to know about it so we hide it away so we don't have to look at it. 

Considering this, I’m not surprised why people get so angry with the Faroese. How can people who never see animals being slaughtered and don’t have any direct contact with animals (other than pets of course) feel otherwise than they do? How can people that almost only see wild animals in zoo – or as they are portrayed on TV or films made for entertainment – be any other than sentimental about these animals. How can they NOT get shocked by the bloody images of whale slaughter. It's very understandable.

But can they be sure that their own life style is a better alternative? Can they be sure that it is right to judge so harshly so quickly just based on the feelings some seemingly brutal pictures evoke in them? Can they be sure that they're not blinded themselves by their own self-righteousness? Are they themselves in a position to point at others?

What they don't know (or perhaps don't want to know) is, that they might themselves, very likely, be a much bigger threat to nature and the whale populations of the world than the Faroese will ever be. Their modern way of living is based on a heavily polluting mass industry which has much more unfortunate consequences for nature in the long run – including the whales. Their food consumption is dependent on an often extremely polluting agriculture, or on all the poor animals that have become domesticated living their whole life in captivity, often under horrible circumstances, totally on the mercy of humans, bred only for one purpose – to be meat for humans. The Faroese old way of living has, on the other hand, proved to be a much more life-sustaining way with much less impact on nature – allowing the animals to live a free life until the moment they are killed.

What can we all learn? 
What to do about it? I don't know.... Is it possible to learn from each other and make the gap smaller between the old Faroese traditional - and actually more eco friendly – way of living and the modern life....? That's the big question.... 

Are pilot whales more special creatures than so many other – also sentient creatures humans kill for food? Should they get special treatment for that reason? (As I've stated before, the pilot whales are not on the list of endangered species.) I really don't know. I'm just asking the question. Who's to decide where the limit should be to which animals should be allowed to kill for food and which not? If the degree of animals social skills should be the criteria that determines which animals are fit for killing for food or not, why do we kill pigs or hens? They are highly sociable animals. If intelligence should be the criteria, pigs should definitely not be on the list. Latest research shows that squids are highly intelligent creatures, but we eat them anyway – yes, even pilot whales eat squids! What do we make of that? Define it as inhumane, unacceptable behavior? 

And if the suffering of the whales is the big concern, well, is there someone who can come up with a better way to do the killing, to make it more "humane" (whatever that means)? I am absolutely sure that the Faroese will be open to reason and very happy to take some friendly advice. They have proved that they have done so in the past – they have listened to criticism, if it's been fair, and have changed their ways. 

To ask the Faroese to stop this practice and just become vegetarians would seem a little unrealistic considering how expensive it is to buy vegetables in the Faroes because all vegetables must be imported from far away. And it would seem a little hypocritical to ask the Faroese to start importing more meat from other animals – maybe treated less humanely than the whales. This meat would also have to be imported and transported over long distances in heavily polluting freight vessels that seriously damage the habitat of the whales – the ocean – and cause the contamination of whales... No, there is no simple solution. 

So... if you are really interested in doing the best for the whales (and not just blindly following some inflammatory out-roar pleasing your own need to burst your aggression out) then try to get the facts right and act as respectfully as you would want the Faroese to act. Get into a constructive dialogue, please.

This is an important topic to discuss! If you're interested in knowing more about this topic, read also the page about pilot whaling on my other website: http://www.heinesen.fo/faroeislandsreview/pilotwhaling.htm - especially the last 3-4 sections about why all the anti-whaling campaigns have failed – and perhaps just endanger the pilot whales even more....! 

The point I'm trying to make is this: The more people outside the Faroes condemn the Faroese, and the more they punish the Faroese by not buying their export goods or by not travelling to the islands, the more isolated will the Faroese be from the rest of the world, and the more they will tend to stick to their old traditions – which in the end means that more pilot whales will be killed! 

And here at last – if you have managed to read this far – I want to tell you about a very good source, if you want to get the facts right. There is a website where you can find all the facts about pilot whaling – about the tradition, research, international whaling treaties, as well as the scientific, the political and the legal and judicial facts, down to the last detail: http://whaling.fo – check it out! 

Elin Brimheim Heinesen, 8. September 2009


  1. Dear Elin:
    Thankyou for your thoughtful post on my blog...plus the link to your own blog. The issue is both "food for thought" and quite a complicated one to resolve!
    After viewing several video interviews with Faroese on the subject, it may be that the tradition simply dies out in a few decades when the current generation of young girls not eating whalemeat become mothers, and do not feed whalemeat in their own homes.
    Of course that long-term resolution won't please those who vent their anger writing inflammatory comments on e-petitions, nor the staunch environmentalists. But often finding a solution means compromise, patience and more understanding of a situation than many seem to exhibit.
    Once again, I appreciate your viewpoint, as one who is actually THERE and seems able to see both sides.
    Best wishes!

  2. “Faroe islanders told to stop eating 'toxic' whales”



  3. Hi Anonymous,

    Let me quote an info note from the Foreign Ministry in the Faroe Islands with the actual official recommendation. The info note can be found here: http://www.whaling.fo/Files/Filer/whaling/pilot_whale_meat_and_blubber_-_info_note_(2)%5B1%5D.pdf

    "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."

    Yes, 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.

    Perhaps this will, after all, put an ending to the pilot whaling in the Faroe Islands in the long run.

  4. Hi Elin,

    I have just 30 minutes ago received an e-mail containing a set of pictures and some text condemning the practice in the Faroes.

    After my initial distaste at the pics, I found your blog insert and find it quite interesting. One never considers the cultural and unique regional realities of a people when shock tactic photos are attached.

    I find your blog insert to be quite reasonable and while I would not personally participate in such a slaughter, I myself have hunted other animals from when I was in my early teens (as is acceptable in my culture in South Africa).

    I for one respect the culture of the faroes and hope that the rest of the World can also realize that the wholesale slaughter of cattle, pigs, chickens, turkeys etc is not that different.



  5. A few moments ago, I was upset and confused about the pilot whale slaughter. Although I cannot say I would want to participate or see it, and I must admit I would still be happy to see an end to it, I found this blog a helpful insight. Elin, you have presented your thoughts in a thoughtful and intelligent manner. Perhaps the toxicity will create a need for the Faroese to find alternative sustainable foods (there are some fantastic and innovative farming methods in the works). If the people do indeed minimize the suffering of the whales it would certainly be better than the seemingly random and barbaric slashing that many of the sites portray. And the fact that there is little to no waste is important to factor in. I am still conflicted, but this has opened my mind to the Faroese, and forced me to examine how disconnected I am with the food that I consume. Perhaps by eating supermarket meat I am supporting methods that are less humane. Cows/pigs/chickens etc. have been shown to have intelligence comperable to small children, and slaughterhouses are often poorly regulated and unecessarily cruel. I think there is alot to explore here, and much work to be done to connect people with what they eat. Thank you.

  6. Are you promoting your songs? Do they have anything to do with whaling?

  7. Hi Anonymous,

    I'm not sure, I'm getting your first question, but if you mean to ask if I use the whaling theme on my blog to promote my songs, it never occurred to me, so to me this is an odd question. I would not gain much by doing it anyway, because very few people read this blog... :-)

    It's more or less coincidental that many blog posts I've written happen to be about pilot whaling. It's not an issue I give so much thought in my daily life, actually. Music is much more my 'thing'.

    What concerns me though is the twisted image many people outside the Faroes have of my country - it is often pilot whaling that they are concerned about, but they're impression often seems quite exaggerated. I think it is a pity and that's why I sometimes sit down to write blog posts about pilot whaling to try to give people the chance to view it from a different angle, hopefully, more fair to my beloved people.

    The second question is easy: No, my songs have nothing to do with whaling.

    I hope, I answered your questions?

  8. Hi Elin, I'm Fabrizio and i write from italy. i found in this post all what i needed to convince myself more on my "campaign" in defending faroese whaling. Too much time I got insulted for defending this thing that, as you explained, creates confusion among foreigners. I'd like, I must admit it, to see all the lies being erased, mostly because are insulting the faroese culture. Regarding what you wrote about other countries, you're totally right! I live in northern Italy: it's impossible to live there! No nature, no grass, no trees, no animals... only cement, houses, buildings, skyscrapers.. the quality of life itself dropped to horrible levels.. The crisis too helped creating confusion. This is not life, this is not living! Life is a natural thing... I hope someday I'll manage to move there, to live my life quietly, far from stress and from pollution.... Thanks for this post. Vit síggjast!!

  9. I grew up ranching in the west of USA, now work in a pork processing plant. I don't eat a lot of meat, sure wish I was eating meats I had raised and slaughtered rather than meat I didn't know the back ground of.
    High desert ranching is a hard life, but I doubt if the land and climate was as challenging as the Faroe Islands always was and still is.
    I doubt if there is any large glass manufacturing or others that would make green house materials lower costing. Little tillable land, harsh climate, my guess would be limited water for hydroponic growing.
    Those who object to how life is lived in the Faroe Islands should move there, make a living there, without 'outside' help or income for a year or so and then re-assess their opinions and judgments of the people and life choices made by a very hardy and hard working, intelligent, educated people who have survived and at times, even thrived in their very challenging world

  10. Oh you people are nothing short of rediculous! Do we tell you how to live your lives? do we call you names like some childish 1st grader? no i think not!
    Would you people for christs sake get a life and move on? It sickens me to my very core to see how you treat others and have the nerve to call US barbarians! Simply remarkable how pathetic you all are

  11. I wish this issue was simpler, but it's not. I do not condone pilot whale killing regardlessly. I'm absolutely opposed to unnecessary cruelty and the killing of animals just 'for fun'. People perceive Faroese pilot whale killing as such. I do not.

    I believe that pilot whaling in the Faroes is no different - that is: no better nor worse than so many other accepted ways of providing meat. I've spoken to many foreigners who have witnessed a pilot whale slaughter and who aren't opposed to it, after they've seen it, because they saw with their own eyes, that it was far from as cruel and dramatic as they had seen it portrayed by biased anti-whaling activists.

    Anyway, it IS brutal to kill animals - any animal - regardless of how 'humanely' you try to do it. It is still taking another beings life. And ALL animals resist to being killed by others. But most people in the world eat meat, which means that people have to kill animals.

    All meat-eating people are - whether we like it or not - predators. I don't like that fact. But it is the truth. Many people, especially city dwellers, seem to have a need to displace that fact, even though they gladly munch burgers themselves. They get very sentimental, when they see animals being killed, probably because they have never been responsible for or involved in an animal killing process themselves. They must have others to do the 'dirty work' for them.

    People can claim that the Faroese do what they do for many different reasons, but it does not change the fact that Faroese whalers first and foremost do this to provide food for themselves and the community, just as they've done here for more than a thousand years. The whalers don't understand why they should stop this, only because some other people in the world are alienated to something that has been perfectly natural for human beings to do for ever: namely kill animals for food.

    Every country on earth kills animals, it's just not common elsewhere to kill exactly this kind of animals. But the Faroese kill pilot whales, because there is an abundance of them here, and the Faroes are an island nation, dependent on ocean resources.

    Can you or anyone else make a list of animals fit for killing and explain to me why some animals aren't fit for killing and others are? Where exactly do - or can - you draw the line? If intelligence is the criteria, why is it okay to kill 'stupid' animals? All mammals are sociable animals, and aren't all animals more or less sentient? So should we stop killing all animals? Is it even possible to stop the killing of ALL animals?

    What about people living in arctic areas where you can't grow vegetables? Why should they have to import all their food from far away? Why is it 'unnecessary' to kill pilot whales, and not 'unnecessary' to kill other animals for food?

    Who's to decide what people 'need' and what they don't 'need' to eat? Do the Faroese 'need' to buy imported meat in the store that comes from enormous polluting farm factory slaughter houses, who don't treat animals any less crueler than the Faroese treat the pilot whales, perhaps much crueler? Why would the Faroese want to buy expensive food from far away and not want to use the available food resources in their own environment?

    Just asking...

  12. i totally agree with you elin.... Fabrizio

  13. What Paul Watson said . Blew Elin's long-winded, ambiguous ,lament to bits

  14. Not at all, Mr. Anonymous. Nothing has been blown to peaces. Do you think the only purpose of having this discussion is just to blow each others arguments to bits? Maybe that's Capt. Watsons intention, not mine.

    Capt. Paul Watson calls my arguments rhetoric, because that's his own specialty - rhetoric and seeking confrontation, not peace and understanding.

    His counter-arguments are just that - confrontational rhetoric - misinterpretations and misleading allegations and also full of factual errors, which anyone can check, if they like.

    He claims that he can document this and that. Sounds convincing to some, I guess. This also comes down to how you interpret the so-called 'evidence', he claims he has. He shows, for instance, a picture of a father cutting a tooth out of a dead pilot whale to his son, as if this was evidence of how cynical and callous the Faroese people are. People who are already biased and on Watsons side buy that.

    If you read the small print it's obvious he only comments on statements he relatively easy can twist around and that he avoids to comment on other quite essential issues.

    I think it is a waste of time to argue with Capt. Watson directly, because he's shown here that he's all about rhetoric, not real talk, and he does not have a history of being susceptible to any arguments - especially not arguments, which in any way defend whale killers, so it would be pointless.

    But you and other people - and Capt. Watson, if he likes – are very welcome to comment on my new blogpost with even more focus on the essential questions, I'd like those who are opposed to pilot whaling in the Faroe Islands to think about: http://elinbrimheimheinesen.blogspot.com/2012/05/whale-warfare.html

  15. It's a figure of speech, Elin. Nothing more. In defense of Paul Watson at least his rhetoric is concise and to the point and he doesn't ramble on and on and on and on in circles. Even Glenn Inwood could cut the BS shorter than you can.

    Good Luck and please don't bother answering this comment.

  16. I'm aware it's a figure of speech.

    Capt. Watson is a master of rhetoric - much more so than I will ever be - but his mastery in this field is at the expense of the truth, unfortunately. And his rhetoric is sometimes so 'concise' that quite essential details are lost. This way of expressing oneself might convince those who are impatient and prefer to brief themselves about the world through headlines, but I doubt they will be much wiser that way.

    I'm sorry if I have bothered you with my looong blog posts but you know you don't have to read them, if you don't want to. :-)

    Good luck to you too and good night.

  17. "Capt. Watson is a master of rhetoric - much more so than I will ever be " - Elin

    "The "dolphins" the Faroese kill are not bottlenose dolphins (like 'Flipper') who most people are familiar with, but long-finned pilot whales which is another species,...." -Elin 2009


    Catch Figures from 2009

    White Sided Dolphins - 170.00
    Bottle Nosed Dolphin - 1
    Rissos Dolphins- 3

    Thanks for the link, Elin

  18. I never intended to mislead anyone.

    The Faroese kill whales within the dolphin family. I never denied that. This is exactly what I wrote: The “dolphins” the Faroese kill are not bottlenose dolphins (like ‘Flipper’) who most people are familiar with, but long-finned pilot whales which is another species, though it is in the same family"

    You took out the last sentence, which shows that I'm very well aware of the fact that pilot whales are in the dolphin family. I just wanted to clarify that they are not the same kind of dolphins as "Flipper" was, and right afterwards I also said, that it was besides the point.

    It's correct that one bottle nosed dolphin was killed in 2009, so what I should have said, is of course: The "dolphins" the Faroese kill are not - usually - bottle nosed dolphins. The vast majority of the whales, the Faroese kill are long finned pilot whales.

    I apologize if this has led to any misunderstanding.

  19. Pathetic FaroeseMay 22, 2012 at 10:43 AM

    If the meat is so important there are more humane ways to kill the whales. But I guess wading through blood-filled water with a knife to hack away is more fun. The whale hunt is a sad, pathetic excuse for butchery that is both economically and socially unnecessary. Are there abattoirs in the Faroes? Do you kill your livestock in the same manner as you kill the whales? Your attempted justifications for the butchery are Orwellian double-speak.

    1. I would recommend that you read this article about pilot whaling written by an impartial American scientist, who has studied pilot whaling in the Faroes for many years: http://sciencenordic.com/content/researching-whaling-faroes

    2. The consumption of chicken in the United States isn't necessary, either. However, if you tried to remove chicken from the American diet, everyone would go nuts. Have you ever seen how minuscule the containers are in which most chickens are kept? If you think the way in which the whales are slaughtered is inhumane, you should see the average living conditions of western farm animals.

  20. Hi Elin
    Just want to say thank you for your very well written post. It was very informative and anyone that reads it (with an open mind) will have a much better understanding of whale killing and the Faroese culture.

  21. My name is Denis Steele I worked with Dolphins for 5 years. It just barbaric, ok all over the world animals are killed for food. " Humanely " What you do there is make a sceptical a big fun day out for yourselves and kids. Look at the crowds watching the slaughter hearing the cry's of the whales, this must be great fun for you. Nothing you can say to defend this you have a sea around you with so much food in it this is totally unnecessary. It's nothing to do with culture as the "culture" of public hanging, stocks, whippings in many european countries but that's in the past. We have evolved, you have not. The public sceptical of blood and fun while saying you are doing it for food will be stopped, because it's totally inhumane and has no part in a modern world.

  22. The anonymous posters attacking this articulate woman are being willfully ignorant. The Faroese kill animals well within the limits of their natural resources and they do it as quickly and humanely as possible. The whales they kill are not an endangered species and they distribute the meat in an entirely socialist manner that you'd have thought the screeching lefties would be happy about!
    But sadly, because it doesn't look nice when they're doing it these crybabies are all up in arms on their twitter accounts. Some of them even spend daddies money jumping on filthy "enviroment police" boats and waving placards because they've absolutely nothing better to do.
    Trying to reason with these complete idiots is a mug's game Elin. Genuinely you should just ignore them. None of them has ever had to lift a finger to survive in their lives.

  23. Very informative, Elin. Most people only see pictures or hear rumours and never try to understand. I can see how some claim it is barbaric because of the outward look (bloody ocead, dead whales, etc.) however some people need to stop speading misinformation.


    Ég afsökunar fyrir ensku minn...

  24. Interesting point of view. However, even the most intelligent report can obfuscate the problem -- which in my mind is the rationale, and rationalizations, behind killing for sport and the joy with which it appears to be done. Yes, I know I don't live there. But the philosophy of killing because it Might be needed to survive is an empty though.

    HOWEVER, what I really resent is the Faroese government trying to govern what tourists must do. I Will NEVER visit the Faroe islands if I am put in a position by the governing body there to report pods of marine mammals so they can be located and killed. How OUTRAGEOUS!!! And the consequences of not reporting can subject the visitor to whatever fines, prison or something--I put this whole article out of my mind.

    Chances are this being written a year after the last post that this post will never be seen, but I don't care. If I didn't put my thoughts down about this whole outrageous affair--not just the killing but trying to force me to be (as a potential visitor to the Faroes) a partner in the killing process.

    Makes me sick!!

  25. Hi Elin, A great, well written article. It was this very article, that changed my mind about the Grindadrap. It is too easy to get emotionally mugged, by the images of Whales being slaughtered. But after researching it, listening to both sides of the argument, I feel that there is nothing wrong with it. Whales are gentle animals, that are intelligent and sociable. But so are most other animals. The Faroese are not using expesensive, environmentaly damaging resources, growing livestock. The Whales are free, all their lives, up until they are slaughtered. Economically, it makes sense to harvest what is available, to see the whole community through winter. Import meat? All that happens, is that animals are slaughtered elsewhere and you would pay for it. Animals that are more than likely kept in poor conditions. Ofcourse there is going to be blood in the water. Where else is it going to go? You slaughter an animal, it bleeds. Everyone knows about the Whale hunt and yet, tourists are still flooding to the Faroe Islands. Maybe Grindadrap is not as controversial as we are led to believe. If I am ever in the Faroe Islands and I see a pod of Whales, nearby, I will phone and tell of their location. Thank you for debunking all the propogander.

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