Monday, March 21, 2011

Why I'm not condemning pilot whaling

I'm not insensitive to animal suffering. I do understand why outsiders are concerned about pilot whaling in the Faroes. But in spite of this, I do not condemn pilot whaling completely. This might seem contradictory to people, who think pilot whaling is absolutely appalling and should be banned right away. But I have some compelling reasons for looking at pilot whaling the way I do, which I'll explain further in this blog post. 

I'm NOT for pilot whaling unconditionally. I do acknowledge that environmental pollutants in pilot whale meat - and the fact that some researchers recommend not to use it for human consumption any more - is a major problem, which probably will put an end to pilot whaling eventually. But aside from this, of course, very serious issue - I could accept the continuation of pilot whaling - but just under certain circumstances, which I'll get further into later in this post - but only as long as the Faroese people only kill pilot whales for food (and not as a recreational activity) and do not eat more than what is within safe limits as issued by health authorities - and as long as they are willing to improve their killing methods as much as possible to minimize the animals' suffering - and as long as pilot whaling doesn't endanger the pilot whale as a species. 

Sustainable At Least For Half a Millenium
Endangered species must of course be protected, but is the pilot whale endangered? The Faroese have always known that they depended very much on this natural resource, so they've been - and still are - very conscious and aware of that they can't exploit the pilot whale population beyond it's capacity, if they want to keep the 'grinds' coming. 

To keep track they've kept a full public record of all whale killings since the 16th century. You won't find such scientific recordings many places in the world, conducted in such a thorough way for such a long time. The Faroese are still making continuous studies of the pilot whale population to prevent over-extraction - and they're very keen on administering their resources as best possible. According to several independent studies made around the world, the pilot whale is not an endangered species, so the Faroese still allow themselves to kill up to around 800 per year on average, which is less than 0,1 % of the whole - estimated - population of 1.000.000. Others claim the number is around 600.000 - but 800 a year is still not a big amount in comparison, even though some would only regard zero killings as satisfactory.

I know this does not convince people in the whale protection movement of which many tend to think that all pro-whaling arguments are just bad excuses for unacceptable human behavior. But this is not true in the Faroese case, in my view. 

Like Burgers to Americans
It might seem 'easier' for the Faroese just to stop the pilot whaling. Why not just abandon this practice and thus spare the whales and get the pressure from the outside world off their shoulders? It is hard for outsiders to understand that this long lasting food providing tradition - unbroken in more than a thousand years - was one of the main sources of nutritional food for the Faroese up until only a generation ago. That is why pilot whale meat still is just as 'natural' for most Faroese to eat, just as burgers are for Americans - and just as difficult to abandon. 

I do not want to get into an argument here whether the practice of pilot whale killing is any better or worse than the practice of mass breeding domestic animals for food, but people in the Faroes fail to see that meat from the farm industry in other countries could be any better than the meat they are used to eat. The pilot whale meat is - or was - perfectly organic, if it wasn't for the fact that the industrialized world has poisoned our oceans - the living habitat of the whales. 

Still More Organic Than Imported Meat
Most of the world - even arctic areas far away from the densely populated industry areas - is polluted. And food production everywhere is "artificialized" or modified to such an extent, that it makes almost any food unhealthy and even dangerous for humans to eat, more or less. The Faroese often also take into consideration that the pilot whales after all do live a free life until just before they die, which can't be said about the domestic animals, from which most of the meat comes, that most people in the world eat. 

Bottom line is that people still need food to survive. Hunting and killing not endangered animal species, living in and around the local environment - as untouched by human hands as can be in the world today - still seems to be a better way to provide food for the Faroese in a sustainable way, much less polluting in itself than industrial agriculture or transportation of imported food from far away, is. So I do understand why people in the Faroes want to continue to kill these animals for food, in spite of pollution - rather than keeping a completely unhealthy, unnatural and unsustainable food providing system alive, which only contributes to further destruction of our world.

New Reality Might Make Whaling a Necessity Again
Killing any living creature is no easy task, especially not wild animals - and even more so if we're talking about killing very large wild animals almost with your bare hands in an environment alien to humans: namely seawater. In fact, it is remarkable that this is even feasible and that it can be done as quickly and efficient as it happens, after all. Unfortunately, it is not always possible to avoid animal suffering completely under these circumstances. The blood loss is also very visible in seawater, which makes the killing seem even more dramatic.

But for people living in arctic regions where local resources are scarce, this is considered one of the harsh, but necessary fact of life. They simply do not feel they have many other options, if they want to survive on what's available on site. This is perhaps very hard to imagine for city dwellers living in more hospitable climates, who never have had to face such a reality. But this way of getting enough nutritional food was an absolute necessity for the Faroese until not very long ago - in fact in my life time - and not unlikely, it might become a probable reality again in a future, not so far from now, when scarcity might become much more common again, and the Faroe Islands might become much more cut off and isolated from the outside world than they are now.

This is a serious problem, whish also must be considered. I know that the Faroese have been living a quite modern life for the last 30-40 years or so and are considered to be "rich", where the old way of providing food suddenly didn't seem as necessary or appropriate any more - at least to the outside world. I'ts difficult to imagine that this might change again. Perhaps rapidly. What the outside world doesn't seem to understand is, that the Faroese have almost just entered the modern age - much later than most other people in western societies. (They didn't have TV before the early 80'ies for crying out loud). They've just gotten used to living a modern life - right before this new form of life seems to crumble and fall apart again!  

The World After Peak Oil
It's been confirmed by many, that the world might very well have passed peak oil - with dire consequences for everyone living on this planet awaiting just around the corner. The most severe global financial crisis, the world has ever seen, takes place right now. An increasing number of people realize that this is not just a 'normal' recession, but much severer than that. It's a clear consequence of the lasting fact, that oil is no longer as abundant as it was. This will inevitably lead to a scenario where many countries will not have easy access to cheap oil any more. The world might - perhaps much sooner than expected - face a reality, where cheap oil simply is no longer available for everyone.

This situation seems to approach us much faster now than we could imagine just a couple of year ago. The world population passes 7 billion this year and the demand for oil increases faster than we can produce it. Oil producing countries will of course firstly keep the oil, they have left in the ground to themselves, which soon might leave nothing to the oil-importing countries. This is a very frightening outlook for the future -  especially for remote lying countries like the Faroe Islands with arctic climate, and thus more dependent on liquid energy than most other countries.

To grasp the seriousness of this issue - as I see it, you might find this interesting: 
The Faroes Extremely Oil Dependent
Oil depletion - heavy pollution and climate change - financial crunch... you name it... hits the Faroe Islands hard right now.  The Faroe Islands is totally dependent on imported oil, which drives their whole fishing fleet (which is their primary food source and provides more than 95 % of their whole export). The fishing industry hasn't had any surplus for several years and the biggest Faroese fish export company faced bankruptcy a few months ago, as well as one of the two biggest banks on the islands. Unemployment is rapidly rising - it's almost 9 % at the moment. All transportation of people and goods to and from the islands by air or by sea is also a 100 % dependent on oil. It's extremely expensive to travel to and from the islands in comparison (you can fly halfway the world for the same amount from other countries) - and ferry connections to two out of four surrounding countries have already been closed down.

If this alarming development continues, this might soon leave the Faroese with no other option than to return to former ways of survival - or something that resembles. The older generation is, fortunately for the Faroese, still alive. They have kept the inherited knowledge intact and they are able to teach the younger generation, how they managed to survive in the old days, where the Faroese had to rely almost entirely on what was accessible in the surrounding nature. 

The Faroes In The Future
I wonder what will become of the Faroese people in the future, if they were prevented by outsiders from getting their food from their local environment. What alternative food provisions are available for the Faroese when oil has become too expensive to afford any more - and they cannot afford to import food in sufficient quantities any longer either? They will have no other options than to use everything they have ... eat the sheep, the fish and the whale meat, which is the only food within reach that they - only just - might be able to provide in sufficient quantities. 

They will have to reduce or diminish their living standards quite substantially again, but they have plenty of water, wind, waves and currents, which they can use to produce electricity (right now already around 50 % of Faroese electricity production comes from renewable energy resources) and they can still have sheep grassing in the mountains, run their fish farms close to shore, and pilot whale drivings can be conducted without modern fuel driven boats, using sail- and rowing boats, just as it was done before. It will be a life very different from what the young generation has grown used to right now, but there might probably be no other choice than to accept the new conditions.

Food Sovereignty
You might also google the words "food sovereignty", to understand better, where I'm at. 
According to this site: - food sovereignty:

- is the right of peoples to define their own food and agriculture
- is the right to protect and regulate domestic agricultural production and trade in order to achieve sustainable development objectives
- is the right to determine the extent to which they want to be self reliant; to restrict the dumping of products in their markets
- is the right of local fisheries-based communities to have priority in managing the use of and the rights to aquatic resources.
- does not negate trade, but rather, it promotes the formulation of trade policies and practices that serve the rights of peoples to safe, healthy and ecologically sustainable production.

Well, let this be my end remarks for now. I hope you understand my viewpoint, even though you might not agree with me.


  1. To Elin,

    Some of us are sensitive to human health risks too. But I won't dwell on the 2008 Gov't Health Advisory issued by Dr.Pal Weihe. I've been advised that his study is still ,after more than 2 years ,being reviewed .

    Like burgers to Americans ?

    I don't think so.Burgers are not classified as toxic waste ,like dolphin meat.

    Organic ?

    Organic compounds like MeHg ,PCBs,and Perfluorinated Organic Compounds etc,found in excess levels in dolphin/pilotwhale meat, are not considered edible ingredients according to health standards. But, if the Faroese , have just joined the rest of us ,(who have been impacted for quite some time by this global recession) I suggest it might be healthier to avoid turning to hunting and consuming alot more poisonous meat and risk irreversible neurological impairment ,cardiovascular disease that could lead to eventually burdening or bankrupting the Faroese government's health care system.

    Regarding your estimate of North Atlantic Pilot Whales - one million ? This is not correct... Why ?

    Because there are no current estimates of N.Atlantic Long-finned Pilotwhales.

    Until a more recent, reliable assessment is conducted their numbers are undetermined.

    ...Long-Finned Pilot Whales are currently listed as ‘Data Deficient’ on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. Although treated as one species, there is evidence that there may actually be two extant subspecies with a gap in their geographic range isolating the two. The IUCN suggests that, if the two subspecies are recognized, an uplisting of their classification may be warranted to one of higher risk. However, as their status suggests, there simply isn’t enough data available to estimate the whales’ current abundance.
    Estimates from the late 1980s IUCN suggested there were possibly more than 750,000 individuals living in across the North Atlantic,while the IWC in 1989 last estimated 680,000.00- numbers consistently referred to by the Faroese Government in justifying their hunts as sustainable. However, these numbers are based on sighting surverys with questionable accuracy, as some of the whales counted may have been Short-Finned Pilot Whales—an entirely different species. The IUCN reports that—due to a combination of threats that include anthropogenic sound (mainly from military sonar and seismic surveys), fisheries bycatch, entanglement in fisheries gear, and loss of prey base due to overfishing—a 30% reduction in the global population of Long-Finned Pilot whales over the past 72 years “cannot be ruled out”.
    Several recent occurances of beachings/ strandings of N.Atlantic Long-finned pilotwhales may have also reduced their abundance.

    Deep off shore drilling for more fossil fuels to produce yet more CO2 emissions that pollute our biosphere is unfortunately typical from governments that avoid investing toward the future through developmentof clean ,renewable energy sources . New green alternatives include wind, wave and tidal energy which promote a safer, healthier environment.But a "quick fix" that will ultimately contribute to our oceans' acidification will hopefully provide enough capital for the Faroese to import more food in the forseeable future when ,(on account of pollution ,overfishing and climate change )most global fisheries collapse.

    I hope you also understand my point of view.

  2. "I do acknowledge that environmental pollutants in pilot whale meat - and the fact that researchers recommend not to use it for human consumption any more - is a major problem. But aside from that ...."

    If do you acknowledge that, what's the purpose of continuing this commentary ? To promote the slaughter as a recreational activity ?

  3. Not at all. You don't give me much credit, do you? If you read further on in this blog post, I'm seriously trying to explain my point here - quote:

    "Still More Organic Than Imported Meat
    Most of the world - even arctic areas far away from the densely populated industry areas - is polluted. And food production everywhere is "artificialized" or modified to such an extent, that it makes almost any food unhealthy and even dangerous for humans to eat, more or less. The Faroese often also take into consideration that the pilot whales after all do live a free life until just before they die, which can't be said about the domestic animals, from which most of the meat comes, that most people in the world eat.
    Bottom line is that people still need food to survive. Hunting and killing not endangered animal species, living in and around the local environment - as untouched by human hands as can be in the world today - still seems to be a better way to provide food for the Faroese in a sustainable way, much less polluting in itself than industrial agriculture or transportation of imported food from far away, is. So I do understand why people in the Faroes want to continue to kill these animals for food, in spite of pollution - rather than keeping a completely unhealthy, unnatural and unsustainable food providing system alive, which only contributes to further destruction of our world."

    There is a reasonable doubt to whether imported food - especially meat - really is so much better or healthier than the local food, including pilot whale meat. Google "Food Inc." and watch the documentary on YouTube, and you will know what I'm referring to.

    Imported food as a whole might also very likely, in a future not so far from now, become so expensive because of a coming oil crisis that the Faroese won't afford to base their nutritional needs solely on imported food any longer. In such a situation, they will still need the skills that enable them to utilize all resources in their local environment - including pilot whales - just in order to survive here and now. They might simply not have any other options. That is my point.

  4. @Elin, these people are send here by Pamela Newlove (among others), one woman whose only purpose in life is to slander Faroe Islands, no matter what. Under the umbrella of "mercury poisoning" and some other crap she likes to spread on the Internet, with the belief Faroe Islands is an easy target, she is actually creating a wave of intollerance and hatred. The hypocrisy of this woman amazes me.

    Keep up the good job! Those who are not blinded by the Sea Sheperd ideology are willing to learn more about this country and will see reason sooner or later.

    1. @Hanna I am sorry but you have totally missed the point and are totally narrow minded not open minded. They are FACTS regarding Mercury Poisoning and recommended not for human consumption-stop making up your own facts Hanna

    2. Check your facts. Bluefin tuna has the same levels of mercury

  5. @Hanna, I've been sent here by no one. Unlike Elin, I am not affiliated with or paid by a government agency and have no political agenda. I am not affiliated with Sea Shepherd either. Furthermore ,unlike yourself, personal attacks and inciting hatred are not my modus operandi.

    I posed a very logical question. Although Elin cited several important global issues including pollution and national food security , I fail to see the comparison of "unhealthy edible foods" to food deemed unfit for human consumption -containing high doses of heavy metals, PCBs and numerous POPs -To equate these neurotoxins to trans-fats, sugar and preservatives is unrealistic and naive.

    Elin, you are a respected, intelligent human being and I do credit you for voicing your opinions.I have also read the opinions of medical researchers though , and believe that there is a benchmark for ingesting both inorganic and organic toxic substances that is being exceeded by consumers of dolphin or pilotwhale meat. To defend the traditional practice of hunting these animals, in my opinion, condones the (traditional) practice of consuming their meat, unless the hunting is solely for sport.

  6. Exactly using big words like "personal attacks" and "inciting hatred" shows me exactly who you are. Together with the attempt to look respectful and polite under which lies the patronizing atitude. The whole campaign launched against Elin here:!/group.php?gid=100578428280&v=wall (as on several pages where the above mentioned activates furiously) as the determination of this woman to discredit the author of this iste prove what I already said.

    1. (Exactly using big words like "personal attacks" and "inciting hatred")~ So apparently the words personal, attack, inciting, and hatred are big words LMAO!!!

  7. I might not have explained myself too well, but what I am trying to do here is not first and foremost to express my own opinion as such. It is more an attempt to explain the underlying reasoning, which causes the Faroese to stick to pilot whaling. And hopefully create better understanding of why the Faroese think like they do - whether people agree or not.

    Something quite different is that it is deeply troubling - and it saddens me much - to see that for some people, who obviously don't dare to share their full names with the readers of this blog - it is obviously needed to discredit me by fabricating falsehoods about me.

    Let me immediately stress that I am not paid by anyone for expressing what I'm posting on this blog. And I challenge those who say such things, to put forward evidence for this. What I write in this blog is entirely voluntary and on my own initiative. I do it because I am Faroese myself, and because I love my country and my people.

    I'm trying to articulate a viewpoint here that many Faroese share. But it is a viewpoint, which has very little chance of being heard in international media in relation to all the massive propaganda that is rife on the web that discredits and dehumanized Faroese people.

    I'm trying to get people to understand why the Faroese do what they do and explain that they are not killing pilot whales as a recreational activity, because they just love to kill, such as anti-whaling activists claim again and again here, there and everywhere. It is an absurd assertion, which is based solely on prejudice and suspicion of those who make these allegations. I urge these people to come to the Faroe Islands to meet the Faroese people, talk to them and see with their own eyes what really is going on.

  8. Elin,

    I think most people understand why certain traditions existed in the past or continue to exist. But with progression of time, circumstance and knowledge I believe it's imperative to adapt to avert new dangers that accompany this passing of time in order to survive.

    I truly hope the Faroese are fully aware of the risks involved and consequences from cumulative low-level exposure to the dangerous neurotoxins found in contaminated pilotwhale and other dolphin meat.

    btw-Sorry to discredit pilotwhale meat(I'll leave it to others to discredit one another as that is entirely another unpleasant, toxic issue)

    I've received a mixed message from your commentary. Can you really regard such pertinent present-day health information and warnings very seriously ,or see them as a "major problem" while at the same time advocating the importance of human survival by way of defending the right to access and consume this [same] contaminated foodsource in the future without generating confusion ?

    Did you mean then, that you believe this "major problem" is just a tentative one ,or maybe just an obstacle in justifying the continuation of this traditional hunting practice when you mention you foresee it as a possible means of "survival" in the future ?

    ..Or that ingestion of contaminated meat scientifically branded "unfit for human consumption" is negotiable ? If either is the case than what you're saying is that tradition and/or national identity outweigh the value of human health, if I'm reading this right ?

    You're entitled to your opinion ,which I assume ,as a [self appointed] ambassador, must reflect the majority opinion of the Faroese people you claim to represent.

    But if that is your opinion I strongly disagree. I most probably interpret the meaning of "survival" differently too .

  9. Ms Elin-I think da firs guy askes bout recreational hunting activities cause if tha meats poison an ya can't eat em.. why ya keep talkin bout huntin em anyhow ...ya not gonna eat em are ya ?

  10. This is a common mistake that the Faroese hunt pilot whales only for recreational reasons just to throw the meat away afterwards as toxic waste. This is absolutely not true! Please note - the Faroese DO STILL EAT pilot whale meat. They do NOT consider it to be toxic waste.

    Let me quote myself from another blog post - to explain why.

    "... it is confusing to the Faroese, that there have been reports which claim that not all scientists/doctors agree with the conclusions in the report made by Pál Weihe's and others. There have been other scientific researches that contradict the conclusions in Pál Weihe's report.

    At the same time we (the Faroese) are bombarded with information about all kinds of other hazardous foods. I am talking about common industrially produced food, which we all buy in the supermarket or at the burger or pizza chains, full of hormones and other questionable, health threatening, perhaps even poisonous additives. We remember cases of cow disease, for instance, and we are also worried about contaminated foods mostly caused by extreme monocultures in the agriculture industry. We’ve learned that if you eat only MacDonald burgers for a month or so, you could actually die. If you smoke you're in extreme danger of getting cancer and all kinds of diseases too. It doesn’t make people stop though."

    And another quote:

    "... a similar japanese research project which showed different results (than Pál Weyhe's). You can read about it here:

    I do not have any scientific skills in this fields so I'm not able to make any conclusions about who's right and who's wrong, but since I know Pál Weihe personally and have no reasons to doubt his research methods, I tend to believe his results more.

    The point for the Faroese, however, is not so much whether whale meat contains too much methyl mercury to be suitable for humans to eat. They're very much aware of that problem. The Faroese are concerned with the question: Is it really more dangerous to people's health to eat meat from animals living free - like pilot whales - than to eat imported, maybe irradiated and/or gene manipulated meat pumped full of hormones and penicillin, very commonly found in most supermarkets? Is there any comparative research that shows which kind of meat is actually more dangerous than the other? They'd like to get some facts about that."

    Bottom line is again: The Faroese still eat pilot whale meat and blubber. They are willing to take the risk, which they consider to be very little. It's not that you drop dead on the spot right after having eaten the meat or blubber. The poisonous effects seem to be very suttle. It is hard to realise any danger, because the effects are long term and not very noticeable, so many Faroese do not really believe that the pilot whale meat and blubber is that 'dangerous' to eat. At least not in comparison with so much else, we buy in any supermarket.

    Most Faroese recognize that it might be wise for young women and children not to eat pilot whale meat and blubber, because of what Pál Weyhe's research has shown, but everyone else, especially elderly people who have been used to eat pilot whale meat and blubber all their lives, do not consider their health to be threatened that much and still consume pilot whale meat - maybe a little less than before - but people still eat it gladly from time to time, because it still has lots of nutritional benefits also. Vitamin D and Omega3 fat among other things.

    I'm not saying what is right or wrong. I'm just telling you what many Faroese think about this matter.

  11. Aaah ok Ms Elin I gets it. The Faroese donknow bout poison . Only the doc maybeed. An they got nothin els to eat .Baaaad sityouatiun. Can u afford sum scools ta teech em bout poisons befores thays too sick ta get bettered ?

  12. @Anonymus, you should attempt some English classes. Your English is absolutely apauling. Or maybe you cannot afford to go to school, that actually being sad.

    Cheap and petty irony doesn't make you either better or fair, but feel free to believe you can achieve something by that.

  13. Mr Kanin

    english isnot my mothar langage. Kiswahilli ,lingala an francais. I am sad ya don rite in my langage to

  14. Elin, I found your blog by typing in "faroe islands oil crisis" to Google. I find yours a most interesting blog. You are quite right, IMHO we are at or very close to peak (affordable) oil flows and the globe has sleep-walked into this one despite all the well-educated warnings.

    I estimate that your oil costs (5000 b/d according to the usually well-informed CIA) have probably risen to $280 million per year, or something between 25 - 35% GDP.

    What happened to the Faroes the last time this happened 1979 - 1983? May I presume there was an outflow of economic refugees to Denmark? It will be different this time because we really are at peak oil.

    Wind power, together with the appropriate electricity storage technology (I represent can be used to provide year-round home heating and most of the electricity presently generated by diesels at Sundsværket. Naturally, I am talking with SEV.

    Are your fellow-islanders fully aware of this this critical situation?

  15. Hi Hugh Sharman,

    Thanks for the interesting comment.

    To your question: Are your fellow-islanders fully aware of this critical situation? I can only say: No, I don't think so.

    Most people consider this crisis to be just as all the other financial crises people have had to endure here on the islands from time to time, which several times has lead to substantial emigration from the Faroes. But we've always managed to recover one way or another.

    People are waiting for the current crisis to be over. But in the meanwhile our 'normal' way of life just becomes costlier and costlier. It has happened slowly and almost unnoticed, but now the rising energy prices are starting to hurt pretty much. Too much.

    Our state economy is perhaps not yet in ruins, but has severe problems. There are economic cutbacks in almost all areas. And unemployment is rising rapidly. There have been reports about more and more people crossing the poverty line the wrong way!

    People are bewildered, because we hear, for instance, the Americans claim that a new financial crisis may be on it's way already, before this crisis is over, which should tell people all about the severe nature of the situation the whole world is in - where some countries are in worse economic shape than others, but everyone is affected somehow.

    Some people have tried to get Faroese politicians to wake up and do something about our situation here in the Faroes to make us less vulnerable and less dependent on expensive import of energy sources. I myself among others have tried to warn people about, that the situation might be different this time. We will not be able to recover in the same way as before and return to our 'normal' ways. We need to make some changes. And likely some radical changes.

    But the politicians and most Faroese seem to be sleepwalkers in this matter just as so many other people in this world, too afraid to realize the danger their in - just like we saw in the epic movie "Titanic". And, thus, people do not act according to the real situation, unfortunately.

    We should, for instance, long ago have started to invest heavily in cleaner and more sustainable energy sources, much more than we've done so far. We have to do it before it is too late, before we can't afford it any more! But people just don't seem to believe - or don't want to believe, that the situation is as critical as some claim it might be.

    I don't know for sure, how critical the situation really is, but I'm concerned, very concerned. I hope for the best, but I think I have a very plausible reason to be concerned - and so should others, because IF we do the right thing now, we might be able to avoid a financial catastrophe in the future.

  16. Hi,

    I'm really interested in this debate. The Sea Shepherd/Steve Irwin is in Shetland (where I live) at the moment and it's arrival has sparked some serious debate amongst friends on Facebook!

    I entirely agree with all your points Elin and commend you for writing this blog. What I'd like to understand more about tho is the allegations that this is becoming only sport for the Faroese. It is the images taken by a diver and shown on the Sea Shepherd website, which show the rotting carcasses of several pilot whales, apparently dumped under the waters of a bay. This does seem wrong and wasteful, and if it IS the case that this happened as portrayed on the Sea Shepherd website, I would expect the Faroese authorities to be unhappy with the handling of that hunt and for there to be repercussions for those involved... Can you tell me more about these allegations and how the hunts are regulated?

    Cheers! :)

  17. Hi Eve,

    It is no secret, that the Faroese dump carcasses from pilot whales, so I believe it is true that someone from the Sea Shepherd have taken pictures of carcasses on the bottom of the sea from a pilot whale slaughter. But the pictures show carcasses ripped off all - eadible - meat and blubber, because not everything on a pilot whale is eadible or useful for any other purpose. Therefore there are parts of the whales that will be dumped in the sea or buried in the ground.

    If you want to know more about how the hunts (or more correctly: pilot whale drives, because it is not a hunt as such) are regulated you can find lots of information about that on this site:

    All the best!

  18. Elin,

    I quite enjoyed reading your blog. I am neither for nor against Whaling especially when it comes to the Faroes islands! I wont go into anything because i'm not confrontational at all but you should be proud because what you have written has changed quite a few peoples minds about whaling and who is right and wrong!!!

  19. After watching Whale Wars concerning pilot whales. I think most of the people of the Faeroe Islands represented their customs and way of life very well. They only catch a very small portion of a species that is not endangered and not taken for sport or bogus scientific research. The police could have handled the drunken hooligans and kept a barrier between them and Sea Shepherd and avoided any bad press. It is very hard not to see the hypocrisy when poultry farms and slaughterhouses are just as barbaric as the way the pilot whales are killed. Are the Pilot Whales extremely intelligent and would I prefer this not happen. Absolutely, But this world is not perfect. I would much rather see Sea Shepherd concentrate on fighting ICAAT and its bogus European Organization of useless bureaucrats. Who sit by and willfully push the Blue Fin Tuna into extinction.

  20. One of the major points is really not addressed very well here. The intelligence of these mammals along with all the other cetaceans should be recognized.

    If the scientists are totally incorrect and whales are merely just as small minded as fish - then I suppose whales would be just another food source of more intelligent species. Then and only then does the debate dwell with how "humane" the killings are.

    But, that is definitely not the case! We know enough about whales/cetaceans to place their intelligence near if not above humans. We know they are self aware. We know they commit suicide by choice. Each breath they take is a conscious effort to live.

    Just because we cannot hear and understand their language doesn't make us more intelligent and them less - it just means we cannot communicate.

    What if you could understand them - and while the grind was going on you could hear all those conversations going on. I am pretty sure all the Faeroe people would put an end to this practice instantly.

    The ethical debates can go back and forth forever - but you really need to think about what type of life is being killed here.

    Comparing cetaceans to typical farm animals is totally misguided. While I just cannot stomach an animal being killed or mistreated on farms for human consumption - they are still nowhere near the same scale of intelligence.

    1. "We know enough about whales/cetaceans to place their intelligence near if not above humans."

      I came across this site while researching source material for a thesis on food and water sovereignty, specifically in Scandinavian countries.

      I'm quite interested in this so have asked a colleague and done some research. It is clear that your assertion above is laughably exaggerated. It seems that everyone in that sphere agrees there has never been any study anywhere on the planet that has, with successful peer review and a process of academic criticism and response, supposed that marine mammals have intelligence anywhere near that of even the least of the Great Apes.

      Many of the studies are hugely flawed anyway and almost all are funded or inspired by a conservation agenda. I have little moral issue with subsistence whaling but a massive problem with bad science.

      In short, suggesting that the capacity to recognise oneself in a mirror, commit suicide (which is still an open debate) and to communicate on a basic level in the pursuit of food and a mate IS NOTHING LIKE the higher brain functions, sophisticated oral communications, learning, toolmaking etc. that we have observed in primates.

    2. Thank you Mr.O'Reilly, these mammals, just like us humans are family oriented, they CRY and they HURT when a member dies! They trust us, they have the power to kill us when we fall in the water but instead they do all they can to help us .. I personnaly saw someone being rescued by a pilot whale once, and I cannot believe Faroese don't know that since they've been close to them. They are killing families, pregnant mothers, babies, grand-mothers, etc... NOTHING to me will never ever justify these killings, they chose to do it in a way that is despicable, the first time I saw a picture with the red waters and people having a ball over this I cried! To me these people are no better than serial killers, if I get hungry enough I'll make a garden, grow things to eat, not kill families of intelligent beings. They cannot explain this only by saying they are hungry that makes them more appalling to me...

  21. Hi Elin. My name is Joe Ward. I am a biologist from the US. Anonymous is correct. All the arguments pro & con continuation of the grindadrap are moot, given the serious levels of mercury & organochlorine contamination of the meat & blubber of north Atlantic small toothed whales. It simply is not fit for human consumption. This is unfortunate and is not the fault of the Faroese people but the simple fact of the matter is that by continuing to consume pilot whale meat & blubber, the Faroese people are poisoning themselves.

    1. Hi Anon

      Can you recommend any studies I can look at/reference that show this? In my thesis, I am likely to be exploring the difficulty of producing protein in remote areas in the North Atlantic so I'll have to look at marine pollution at some point. I'd be especially interested in any studies that look at why these chemicals are present in fish/whales.


    2. What I find strange is the argument that since the whale meat has been found toxic, the Faroese must stop eating them. Isn't it their own choice?

      There are people who choose live at Chernobyl, too. Who are we to judge?

    3. Perhaps you'll find some relevant facts in this report: Risks versus Benefits of Whale and Seal Consumption - Workshop report from 14 January 2011:

  22. Hi James

    Sure,it's briefly explained here in an overview

    Just google bio accumulation , biomagnification of either MeHg, Persistant Organic Pollutants (POPs) or any industrial pollutants in marine mammals for lots of research studies and articles.

    Hope this helps

  23. Oh, and

    "It seems that everyone in that sphere agrees there has never been any study anywhere on the planet that has, with successful peer review and a process of academic criticism and response, supposed that marine mammals have intelligence anywhere near that of even the least of the Great Apes."

    You will find a list of 39 peer reviewed , journal publications on dolphin intelligence from ONE scientist alone on page 12 and 13

    and a statement from Jane Goodall stating the high intelligence of dolphins is similar to that of the great apes

  24. My name is Cynthia and i'm an Asian. Seeing the senseless killings the these majectic and beautiful creature such as whales and dolphines send chill down my spine.

    I admit that i do not read much about reports/research on the numbers of whales left around in the world (especially that of pilot whales). But through logic thinking and the fact that we do not rear them like pigs or cow or chicken (such that their numbers could be keep track of), and the whale's gestational period is like 12 months and probably only give birth to a calf once every three years ( not like chicken an egg per day or pigs with dozen of piglets per birth a few times in a year) their number could be declining as a alarming rate especially when you mentioned your people did not just do the killings once a year but a few times whenever you all spot the whales? The killing rate is faster than their reproduction rate! Do the mathematic and you shall realise.

    Please talk to your people and stop these meaningless killings. Spare a thought for our younger generations and other nations who still wants to see these wonderful creatures swimming freely in our ocean.

    I'm not a fan of Paul Watson but somehow i felt that his argument (based on your blog) in his ship sherpherd website is more reasonable and agreeable compare to yours. Stop using food and tradition as excuses before it's too late like the case of the Dodo bird.

  25. At least! Somebody who is tolerant! I am Mexican, I've been aware of these huntings, but i do understand perfectly why it is justifiable to let the hunting carry on as long as it doesn't derive into mass or unjustified killings. I've been writing much of this stuff here in Mexico, to try to erase this idea in people's mind that Faroese are sadists. Nevertheless, these agencies promoting hatred against Faroese have a lot of reach, much more than the few people as I am who see nothing bad with current whaling. Keep your great job! Greetings from Mexico

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  27. I wonder how many of these people who protest eating of these whales because they have toxins in their meat smoke cigarettes? Or eat processed foods loaded with chemicals.

  28. Wow people in feroe island must of been really poor. They can't afford not to eat whale meat. This is insane we must help the !!! . They are starving !! Like people in Africa but in Europe. This is bullshit !!!! I'm sure feroeans can afford other meat than whale unless they are like people in Africa. It's like in Indonesia they hunt turtle till they are endanger, becouse of TRADITION. You can't farm whales you know, it's not like a cow, chicken, pig that you can breed easily. Traditions are stupid !!!! they don't make sense anymore. Buy meat like people in Europe.

  29. Seeing that the pilot whales aren't endangered and do not suffer when being killed, I think killing them is okay,what I find wrong is battery farming. I am so tired of seeing hypocrites who are happy to eat meat that has spend its entire life in a cage and fed chemicals to make it bigger and born to suffer its entire life just so that someone can not be hungry for 1 hour but the second that something which had a happy life is killed mercifully and slaughtered in the open rather than locking it up in a small cage, they go mad and call it "genocide", pick up a history book and look at the past events of Rwanda, Bosnia, Germany or the current events of Syria and then define genocide. I don't know why people stick their noses in other peoples business as if they own the whales. It's the food chain, it's nature and it's more natural than what you get in stores or McDonald's. And don't use the excuse that whales are really intelligent and social, pigs are intelligent and social. If a shark where to eat me,I won't be mad, fair play to the shark,it needed to eat, I was their, it's nature.

    However, as for the mercury poisoning if someone wants to eat meat that contains mercury, it's their choice and they'll have to face the consequences of their actions, but I think it's wrong for the Faroese to feed whale meat to their children and they should wait until they're at least old enough to make their own choices.

    Before someone tries to tell me that they are endangered "Because Paul Watson said so", they are listed as "Least Concerned" on the IUCN Red List. The IUCN are real qualified conservation experts and nature lovers who have been protecting wildlife since before Paul Watson was born, not a bunch of hipsters who think that their opinions are facts.

    Also, I'm not Faroese so you can't accuse me of being bias.

    1. You're exactly right about the kids and being fed toxic meat. Good point.

  30. @ Anonymous - if you actually look at the IUCN Red List you will see they are listed as 'data deficient' and not 'least concern'. This is obviously very different and so no conclusions can be drawn about whether they are endangered or not.

  31. I understand and appreciate the attempts for people to explain their cultural habits. Those have been around for hundreds and thousands of years. Changing cultural norms and behaviors isn't easy. Anyone can understand the Faroes people being defensive of their culture.

    I eat meat and don't have a problem eating a living creature. But with that said, if you told me pigs or cows had toxins and mercury I'd go cold turkey or minimize eating them. I rarely eat tuna now. I use to eat it alot until I realized it was unsustainable and toxic.

    Unfortunately, no matter what anyone thinks the Faroes people will continue to eat whale meat. They are just slowly poisoning themselves... death to them will just come slowly. Just like the Japanese who continue to consume their whale meat which has toxins too. Sad but true.

  32. The island inhabitants that do eat whale meat typically throw out last years allotment when receiving the fresh kill. If nothing less they are killing many more than they need to for "survival". They do not subsist on the whales with the few that eat it doing so about once per month.

  33. Hi there Elin,

    You make a compelling point and I am all for free range meat consumed in as waste-free - and killed in as pain free - a method as possible. I am not in the habit of casting aspersions without being well informed. As such, I felt inspired to do some research (rest assured, neither via PETA nor via politically biased sources). I did read that the average Faroese person in 1982 consumed 19grams of combined Pilot Whale meat and blubber per day. This would (over a population of 30,000) equate to a total of around 200 metric tonnes of whale consumed per year. If you assume that each whale yields 1/2 tonne of meat and blubber, then based on the current 'grind' yields, the drives are bringing in around 400 metric tonnes per year. Am I right to assume that 1/2 the meat produced from the 'drives' per year is wasted? Please advise what the current statistics are regarding average Faroese consumption versus the size of the annual catch.

    If all / very nearly all the meat is being consumed, then surely this is basic, human, meat eating survival over barbaric sport. I believe that (disregarding personal choices of mercury consumption???) THIS should be the question we strive to answer here!

    Thanks in advance Elin.


  34. I just needed to see a video about the carnage; i can say all the Faroeses are disgusting.

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