Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Right To Eat What Is Available

If you are opposed to Faroese food traditions, consequently, you will also have to question if the Faroese even have the right to inhabit their remote islands any more. In fact you will have to question whether any people should live in arctic areas! Because how can people live such places if the rules of metropolitan people should apply?

The people in arctic areas can’t grow vegetables because of the scarce sun and the harsh climate. And they can’t live off the natural resources at hand because people elsewhere don’t want them to maintain their traditional ways of supplying food by hunting. And they can’t import their food because the food transportation pollutes the environment too much. The agricultural products they have to import might also have been produced unsustainably. Also there is no guarantee that the imported meat comes from animals treated more humanely than the whales. … How can these people even live in these areas then…?

Would it be fair to ask the Faroese just to move somewhere else? Where to? Or… should they perhaps be allowed to continue to do what is least damaging to the world’s ecological balance and eat what is available to them locally? But… even that option is ruled out now, because much of the food provided this way has become too polluted. What option is left to them then?

Alienated urban people
The Faroese are quite unhappy and sad about the fact that the old traditional and sustainable ways of utilizing the natural resources at hand are in imminent danger of being exterminated. Increasing centralization and urbanization - with more and more people living in big cities – has alienated humans from their true origin – nature itself.

When people see animals today, they don’t connect them any longer to what’s on their dinner table. Animals are something we have for pets or see on TV or in Zoos. People have very little knowledge of where their food really comes from and how it is processed because they’re not part of that process personally anymore.

People have so little contact now with most animals that the animals have in fact become almost completely alien to them. In order to feel comfortable with animals – and perhaps their own bad consciousness – people have begun to humanize the animals. They project them selves into the animals to identify with them. The mass media and the entertainment industry have "disney'fied" our relation to animals – especially people in urban areas who live relatively protected lives and never have to deal with being directly or personally responsible for providing and killing their own food.

An artificial world
It might be an unpleasant discomforting fact, but it is nonetheless true that most people are meat eaters – and thus in fact predators who need to have animals killed to meet those needs whether they like that fact or not.

But having grown up with Disney's way of portraying animals – not least Flipper in TV and Kelkoo (the Orca) in the cinema - it is difficult to face this truth about ourselves and much easier to displace the facts and just let somebody else do "the dirty work" somewhere where we don't have to watch it happen, so we can forget all about it – forget that every meat eater actually eats sentient beings. You could say: in that sense no meat eater is better than any Faroe Islander - they're just being hypocrites living in an artificial, fake world, as some Faroese would put it.

I think, actually, that the Faroese might have a point there that other people should take into consideration. They don't have to agree with the Faroese – just understand why the Faroese think and behave like they do and that they’re not doing it because they're evil people. They are just doing it, because they live in a place where hunting has been the most natural way of providing food for more than a thousand years - it still is.

Aggressive campaigns make matters worse
Shouting 'bastards', 'murderers', 'nuke'em' and other more or less hateful obscenities at the Faroese as if they are the worst scum of the earth will never make the Faroese understand the campaigners view or make them change their way of thinking.

The ‘tragic irony’ of it all, some would say, is that if the campaigners succeed in their effort to blacklist the Faroese people, getting large crowds of people outside the Faroes – or even countries – to boycott Faroese products or to refrain from traveling to the islands; this will isolate the Faroese people even more, making them less susceptible to other ways of thinking that could change their minds, and it might very likely cause an economic crisis in the Faroes which, consequently, will force the Faroese to continue living off what is at hand in their own environment more extensively – e.g. killing pilot whales... despite of the fact that the meat is contaminated. Simply because they might not have any other option. So maybe it is a much better idea to back off a little and not be so aggressive with the Faroese if one really wants to save the whales… and the Faroese children from contaminated food.

Save the world - not only the whales
We need to stop condemning each other and be more understanding in order to achieve peace and tolerance, which in my view is absolutely essential – and crucial – if we want to find fast and effective solutions to all the extremely serious problems we face in this world – first and foremost pollution and not least the problem of how to provide healthy and sustainable food to the world’s increasing population, wherever they live on the planet. We need to think thoroughly about how we are going to feed the 6-7 billion people on earth in a less polluting and more sustainable way in the future. We really need to focus on and address the problems that are the real threats to everyone's lives – humans as well as animals.

I understand the deep and sincere wish to protect the whales, but if one really wants to protect wildlife and the habitat in which it lives, it is perhaps not the most efficient way to do that by agitating and creating hatred against a very small population of only 48.000 people, which beforehand are relatively isolated, quite vulnerable and just trying to survive in their own way like they've always done, for instance by killing a few pilot whales a year, already very much aware of the problems and on their way to stop eating the contaminated whale meat.

Alas, it is not enough to put all one’s efforts into saving only the whales just by making life intolerable for the whalers. It is much more necessary for more people to put their full effort into stopping pollution and humankind’s damaging behavior to save, not only the whales, but all animals, ourselves and our environment as a whole.


  1. Dear Elin:
    Thank you for another thoughtful well-written piece...which unfortunately I must take issue with.
    1) Extrapolating opposition to inhumane whale slaughter, into an argument for the expulsion of all peoples from northern climes, is stretching your point to the extreme.
    2) I do not believe “metropolitan people” are demanding their society's rules of food killing, preparation and packaging be imposed on the Faroes. I believe, if they step back from the emotion, they would accept that the main thrust of their opposition is against the METHOD of killing.
    3) Yes, there are vegans who complain about ANY meat-eating. But as you rightly point out, meat-eating is the majority's reality. The 'outside world' is not demanding the Faroese stop eating meat but it is the brutality of the grindadráp that is unacceptable in the 21st.century. The proven fact that pilot whales do not die within a few seconds of being hacked into, automatically rates the method as inhumane by modern standards. By this, I am not referring to standards used by a Bedouin slitting a goat's throat in the middle of the Sahara – I mean standards utilised by any Western society (which includes the Faroes).
    4) I disagree that Western urbanites do not know where their food originates. That sounds rather patronising, from one who is lucky to live alot closer to nature than most city dwellers. Yes, they may be out of touch with their natural roots, but they are not ignorant about nature – indeed their very opposition to your whale kills is testimony to their growth in environmental awareness.
    5) I am confident that only the most staunch would oppose small amounts of 'aboriginal' killings for survival purposes, such as by the Innuit. But most regard the grindadráp as an unnecessary outdated tradition to provide an occasional 'treat' in a most brutal manner. Traditions can be remembered without being perpetuated: no-one gets crucified any more at Easter!
    6) As for your point regarding ocean pollution, I agree it's a global concern – but it is one that impacts on EVERYone eating food from the sea, not just the Faroese. Mercury levels are climbing in all seafood, and the toxins in pilot whale meat may well in time bring the grindadráp to an end. I see no easy solution to global pollution, apart from hitting it at its source with much tighter regulations and severe penalties... but that is another issue.

    At least we both agree that aggression serves no purpose now other than to entrench attitudes, however in years gone by it has certainly alerted the Islanders to growing global concern. But, just as that aggression should be left in the past, so too should the grindadráp.

  2. Thank you, Elin. Very good perspective on the situation, and quite in-depth too.
    I've been debating intensely on a few discussion threads on the PTO site - and especially gotten unpopular in the eyes of founder, John Taylor, merely for correcting several of the errors or lies in the initial articles about Faroe Islands, and consequently the falseties uttered in the debate. You're pretty much confirming what I've also stated on the PTO site, and I absolutely agree with you. If PTO and similar organisations wish to impose THEIR standards and wishes on Faroe Islands, they need to come up with an alternative, acceptable by the Faroese. For instance food or goods which represent a similar value to the faroese, as the whale meat they're asked to give up on. And not just a one-time-offer, but a continued project with a decreasing annual contribution, untill a complete phase-out - IF this would be an acceptable solution to the Faroese of course.
    John Taylor claims that PTO has offered to substitute the whale meat with (unspecified) food - though I can't see any records of such an offer being officially made, nor would he go into detail about the offer, when I started to ask about the specifics.
    But what do you recon? Would such an offer (in general terms) have any appeal to the Faroese people? Or is it something completely different they need - like less hassle in trade matters with the EU?