Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Media Whale Warfare

A comment by Elin Brimheim Heinesen to the discussion triggered by the TV series on Animal Planet "Whale Wars - Viking Shores".

I wish this issue was simpler, but it's not. I'm Faroese and I do not condone pilot whale killing in the Faroe Islands unconditionally. I'm absolutely opposed to unnecessary cruelty and the killing of animals just 'for fun' or as part of a 'ritual'. If this really was the case in regard to pilot whaling in the Faroes, I would be against it. I know for a fact it's not. Regardless of what some might claim.

For various unknown reasons some people perceive pilot whale killing as a sport, a celebration or a ritualistic event for the locals in the Faroe Islands. I do not. The purpose of pilot whaling is to put food on the table. People who believe anything else have not really understood or have twisted what Faroe Islanders or others have tried to say about pilot whaling – or they have been misled by people, interested in discrediting this practice.

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. After they've seen it in real life, they aren't opposed to it any more in the same way because they saw with their own eyes, that – in spite of the fact that it wasn't pleasant – it was far from as cruel and dramatic as they had seen it portrayed by biased anti-whaling activists.

Usually a whole pod is killed in a few minutes and each whale is killed within seconds. Of course, it's unpleasant to watch a pilot whale slaughter – just as it would be to visit a common slaughter house for anyone, not used to see such things. Most of us aren't used to see what is going on, when animals are being slaughtered, and react naturally with shock. Watching someone taking the lives of living beings is a harsh reality, we very rarely experience.

Humans are predators
The way we have established ourselves and our communities in the modern world, has led us almost to forget the fact that all meat-eating people are predators. Whether we like it or not, it is the truth. I don't like that fact either. But humans are, and have always been meat-eaters, the vast majority of them. This means that, basically, we're no different than other predators who kill other animal species to have them for food. And that is not pretty.

I'm always shocked when I, for instance, watch a nature program on TV and see a lion catch a zebra and tear it apart – or an orca catch a seal and throw it up in the air before it bites the seal's head of with its sharp teeth. It's brutal and bloody, but I know the lion and the orca don't do this because they're evil. They do it to survive. That's nature, and nature can be gruesome.

Some might say that you can't compare what humans do to animals to what happens in nature, because most humans have 'evolved' (as they call it) and they kill animals more 'humanely' than a lion or an orca does, but to me that's clearly a delusion.

Killing always brutal
No sound and healthy being wishes to die – neither animals nor humans, neither in the wild nor in farm factories. A zebra doesn't want to be eaten by a lion. A seal doesn't want to be eaten by an orca. A whale doesn't want to be killed and eaten by people, neither does a pig. Nobody wants to be killed by anyone else. All living beings want to live and thrive. We might sophisticate our killing methods. But nevertheless, it's still killing. Saying that it is more 'humane' to kill animals in a farm factory slaughter house, corresponds to saying that it was more 'humane' to kill people in gas chambers during the holocaust, rather then, for instance, to hang them or stone them to death.

No matter how we try to bend or twist it – we cannot run away and pretend it is not what it is: It IS brutal to kill animals – any animal, any human – one way or another, regardless of who does the killing – animals or humans – and regardless of how 'humanely' we try to do it. It's still taking another beings life. And ALL animals, including humans, resist to being killed by others.

So I feel sorry for the zebra. I feel sorry for the seal. I also feel sorry for the cows and the pigs. I feel sorry for the chickens and the turkeys. I feel sorry for the sheep, the reindeers, the buffalos. And I feel sorry for the whales. I feel sorry for every single animal on earth that has to sacrifice it's life in order to feed another animal, including us humans. In my fantasies I wish that nobody had to kill any other being and that we all could live just in peace together and love each other. At the same time I know that this is an utterly impossible utopian dream.

A delusional world
The fact is that most people in the world eat meat, which means that people have to kill animals. If humans want to have meat for dinner there must be shed blood. I don't like this fact anymore than most other people who have a heart. I just have to realize that this will be reality as long as people want to enjoy their steaks. Some people also live in barren areas on earth were they have no other choice than to eat meat. And I'm pretty sure this will continue to be reality for a long time to come.

Many people – especially city dwellers who don't live in and directly off nature – seem to have a need to displace these facts, as if they have nothing to do with it, even though they gladly munch burgers themselves. They see themselves as animal lovers and get emotional and sentimental, when they see animals being killed. And they accuse animal killers of being underdeveloped people, who don't live in the 21st century. It's a bad, bad thing they wish would go away. As if they'd like the whole world to turn into some kind of Disney World, where everyone is cute and kind to each other, where animals become almost like humans, and some are even superior to humans.

Even though they love a good steak, most people have likely never been responsible for or been involved in the animal killing process, needed to provide the steak. They probably couldn't stand to kill an animal. Yak! So they must have others do the 'dirty work' for them. And then they can go on pretending the killing doesn't really happen, and that they're really good, innocent 'evolved' people, who never would harm anyone. But no matter what they think or do – deep down they're still predators, responsible for causing pain and death to other earthlings.

These people defend themselves vigorously if anyone tries to tell them that they are in fact kidding themselves if they don't realize that as meat-eaters, basically, they are no better nor worse than, for instance, the Faroese, who kill and eat pilot whales! No, no, no – there's a big difference, they claim. Can't be compared at all. But they can't really explain what the difference is, based on facts, and that's frustrating, so they get angry, point their fingers away from themselves and proclaim the animal killers – or those who defend them – as the only bad guys. But you can't make an unpleasant reality go away by shooting the messenger.

Alienated to the natural
The Faroese fishermen, farmers and hunters don't displace the fact that we as humans prey on other animal species, and they take the full responsibility for that. They do the dirty work. And they are honest about it. They don't – and they have never – hidden from the world what they do. Not even when the world condemns them.

People can claim from now on and forever that the Faroese do what they do for all kinds of unacceptable reasons, but it does not change the fact that the Faroese kill whales for one reason only: to provide food for themselves and the community, just as they've done on these islands for more than a thousand years. The Faroese don't understand why they should stop doing what they do, 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 around the islands (the pilot whale is not on the endangered animal species list) – and the Faroes are an island nation, dependent on ocean resources.

Decide who's fit for killing
Can anyone make a list of animals, fit for killing, and explain why some animals aren't fit for killing and others are? Where exactly do – or can – you draw the line? Why is it OK to exploit some animals and not others?  Is it because it is a 'tradition' to kill cows, pigs, chickens and so on? And why is it that this 'tradition' is more legitimate than the Faroese 'tradition' of killing pilot whales? What's the actual difference between these animals and a whale?

If the degree of intelligence is the criteria, why is it okay to kill 'stupid' animals? If sociability or sentience is the criteria, well...  mammals in general are very sociable animals, aren't they? And aren't all animals more or less sentient? So shouldn't we stop killing all animals then? Is it even possible to stop the killing of ALL kinds of 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, when there are animals, quite fit for eating, walking or swimming right outside their door?

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 meat in the store from enormous polluting farm factory slaughter houses, who don't treat animals any less crueler than the Faroese treat the pilot whales? In fact much crueler, because most livestock animals live a miserable life their whole life and have no chance what so ever to escape being killed for food. Why would the Faroese want to buy more expensive food that has to be transported from far away in polluting freight vessels and not want to use the available food resources they get for free in their own environment?

Disproportionate priority
Shouldn't anyone, who thinks it's their business to demand of the Faroese that they should stay away from the meat they are accustomed to eat, not refrain themselves from buying and eating their own traditional meat, unless they can explain the basic difference between the animals they eat and the animals the Faroese eat – and legitimize why it is more okay to kill these animals rather then the animals the Faroese kill? If they can explain that there really is a significant difference, then they might even succeed in convincing the Faroese...!

But if they have no answer to these questions, shouldn't they take a good look in the mirror first – and then try to put their effort and their money first and foremost into some much bigger problems animals face in this world? They could, for instance, try to improve the lives of some of the billions and billions of unfortunate cows, pigs or chickens, living and dying under gruesome and cruel conditions in farm factories all over the world, before they blow the Faroese pilot whaling way out of proportions and spend millions of dollars on trying to save a few hundred pilot whales that only might be killed by the Faroese during the course of a year. Remember, some years the Faroese do not kill a single whale, because the whales don't always migrate right past the islands.

In my opinion it's a waste of the donators' money, because instead of spending so much money on expensive equipment with highly questionable beneficial effects, couldn't all of this money have been used much more effectively and have helped many more animals which are much worse off, if these people really wanted the money to make any real difference?

Just asking...

And again - I do NOT support pilot whaling unconditionally. I just happen to think that people should look in the mirror before they judge the Faroese for what they are doing, because are you yourselves really that different?


  1. you are in such denial about this, may god forgive you for killing such a beautiful, highly intelligent animal that knows pain and bonds to help the pod. This is apples and oranges. How can you sleep at night. There is a huge backlash now against the faroe islands. All the travel agencies that i have contacted will ban selling travel to these islands. There is no need to do this, its slaughter and its inhumane and sick and god forgive these bloodthirsty savages that kill these animals for sport. sick sick sick and the world is now aware of this. I for one will do my part to make sure there is not one agency in this state or others to offer travel there. Ban the faroe islands until this insanity stops. I wish you were able to feel the pain these animals suffer for your stupid sport. shame on you and the faroees. Shame to all of you

    1. You haven't read ONE word from what she wrote.

      PS. Yes, the travel agencies will definitely listen to you, no doubts there. If everybody will base their business on what some people agree or agree not ...

  2. The largest animal welfare NPOs in the world ,including PETA, HSI and Greenpeace, with millions of supporters worldwide have been actively protesting and advocating change to the factory farm industry for decades. Many of the anti-whaling advocates that you address here are also members of those same international orgs that comprise of many vegan or vegetarian members. Are you suggesting that opposition to all other forms of animal cruelty and exploitation should stop at your shores?

    Two wrongs do not make a right, no matter how you do the math.

    What you refer to "food" is scientifically classified as toxic waste in most of the industrialized world and it is no longer a staple of the Faroese diet, but rather a major threat to human health.

    The Faroese Pilot Whale Hunt has been assessed most recently as "non sustainable" at the current kill rate, as per the criteria set forth by ASCOBANS (An Environmental Protection branch of the United Nations)

    The unnecessary slaughter of these magnificent wild animals serves as the poster child for man's arrogance and ignorance globally . Yes, if religion is relevant, may God forgive you.

  3. Hi Anonymous and Kitten3660,

    I'm sorry you feel they way you do, but I'm afraid it is not very constructive or productive even using God to scold me and all the Faroese people.

    As I have stated many times: I do not endorse pilot whaling unconditionally. I would be opposed to pilot whaling if this practice was crueler than other widely accepted ways of slaughtering animals, but I've seen pilot whale slaughter (as it is conducted today) and I've seen slaughter of livestock animals and I really can't see it's crueler. Actually I find it less cruel. So if you think the Faroese need God's forgiveness, may God forgive all the butchers in this world too.

    As for the question whether the pilot whale is an endangered species or not - the proper authorities in these matters, which the Faroese answer to, haven't labeled the Faroese pilot whaling unsustainable. ASCOBANS is not the authority as this organization does not cover Faroese waters. NAMMCO is the proper authority here.

    That said ... I do think that the Faroese people perhaps sooner than later will give up pilot whaling all by themselves, because THEY decide to stop it. They will not stop because other people protest against pilot whaling. They will stop it IF there is evidence that the pilot whale population is in significant decline, and IF science proves beyond any doubt that pilot whale foods have a significant impact on peoples health.

    There are no final conclusions yet. Studies indicate that there MIGHT BE a correlation between the intake of pilot whale foods and a limited increase in neurodevelopmental abnormalities in the Faroese population. That's why health authorities as a precaution recommend that pregnant women, young women planning on being pregnant and young children do not eat pilot whale. But they have also declared that it's still within safe limits for everyone else to eat pilot whale foods once or twice a month. If the health authorities come to another conclusion, I'm sure that this will be respected.

    I absolutely acknowledge that a serious problem is developing because of the extensive pollution of our oceans, which likely will put an end to pilot whaling within a reasonable time. But I find it quite exaggerated when people claim that pilot whale meat and blubber is classified as "toxic waste" in most of the industrialized world. I have not seen any real evidence of this - only people against pilot whaling claim this. They almost make it seem as if this food is directly poisonous, but there has not been reported one single fatality due to eating pilot whale foods in the Faroes.

    Don't get me wrong. Faroese people take this issue very seriously. They want it to be studied further. People take their own precautions just in case. But as long as both international and local authorities allow the Faroese to continue with practicing pilot whaling, they feel they have the right to decide for themselves what to do. The Faroese have every reason to believe that their practice of pilot whaling is done in a care-taking, sustainable manner, so they can't see there is any reason for others to interfere.

    So what I'm trying to do is not to defend pilot whaling at any price. If people could give the Faroese better reasons than they do for stopping pilot whaling, they could probably convince the Faroese to see this issue from another angle. But people won't convince anyone by scolding the Faroese people, calling them the worst things.

    What I do, first and foremost, is to defend the Faroese people against prejudice and unfair often quite ethnocentric judgments. And I challenge the logic of people against pilot whaling - not just to be provocative, but because if people really want to convince the Faroese, they must do better than they do. And not least, approach the Faroese people with more respect.

    Please read my next blog here:

    I wish you all the best! :-)

    1. Elin

      I find your excuses so sad.

      We do not breed Whales of any shape or form to be slaughtered.

      If the methods used to slaughter cattle were the same as the so called humans of the Faroes
      there would be mass protests in the uk.

      Only time will tell when you meet your maker whether what you do is right or wrong

    2. Dear Elin,

      I'm wondering if it might be possible to compromise. If the reason is really to "put food on the table," what if activists donate money to put meat on the table...non whale meat...for the fishermen/Faroese people. We can set up a fund. This seems like a logical compromise to me.
      I personally do not eat any mammals for the reasons you mentioned. I feel they are simply too close in both cognitive and emotional intelligence to humans. Also, eating cows supports global warming.

  4. Elin, I saw your picture on your post. I do not want to kill you but I would be willing to eat you, so what do you think?

  5. The people are killing for food and its not like the whale is being shipped off to other countries. They are feeding their country just like america or Canada who slaughter innocent horses,cows,pigs,ducks,ect. I am canadian and I hunt deer and moose I eat almost everything from the animal. The hypocrisy bugs me. How dare other countries frown upon pilot whale killing yet do nothing about the murder they do in there own country. Oh the ignorance. I think the whale killing is less graphic then horses or cows being nail gunned, unconscious skinned. Not to mention dogs or cats who are also eaten.

  6. I'd also like to point out that if the Faro people came to Canada or America and did what were doing to them they'd be jail.

  7. "I have not seen any real evidence of this - only people against pilot whaling claim this. They almost make it seem as if this food is directly poisonous, but there has not been reported one single fatality due to eating pilot whale foods in the Faroes."

    1) Methylmercury and PCBs ARE toxic substances and poisonous to humans.(scientific fact)

    2) Mean concentrations of methylmercury found in Pilot Whale meat is frequently found to contain over the benchmark levels deemed safe for human consumption. Often PCB levels also exceed safety levels.

    If you can't add 1 plus 2 and come up with 3 (also scientifically proven), what more can I say other than accumulative low level exposure to methylmercury and PCBs and other POPs found in dolphin /pilotwhale meat doesn't necessarily kill people, these industrial pollutants, that you admit exist in our environment ( so maybe there's still hope for your learning skills) has been (scientifically) linked to a much greater risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, immune deficiency ,Parkinson's Disease and most frequently irreversible neurological disorders. You can live a long life with any of the above. Unless all international medical professionals and toxicologists are anti-whalers, of course LOL

    1. Let's not exaggerate the facts just to prove a point. Lets' keep the facts straight here:

      I have never disputed that Methylmercury, PCB or DDT is poisonous. What I said was: "I find it quite exaggerated when people claim that pilot whale meat and blubber is classified as "toxic waste" in most of the industrialized world. I have not seen any real evidence of this - only people against pilot whaling claim this." That is: claim that pilot whale meat and blubber is classified as toxic waste (by authorities?) in the industrial world.

      I'd like someone to show me evidence of these official classifications by authorities in these matters - not just claims from biased organizations.

      I do not want to be opposed, just to be opposed, but sometimes I just find it hard to believe people who obviously exaggerate or twist facts in order to convince me of this and that. I'm not saying they're wrong in all their claims, but it is not very convincing when people argue the way some people do, especially if they express a lot of anger and attack me personally. I'd like to keep the discussion as sober and fact based as possible, then I will be much more easily convinced.

      Note that I've also stated in a comment above: "I absolutely acknowledge that a serious problem is developing because of the extensive pollution of our oceans, which likely will put an end to pilot whaling within a reasonable time." So this shows that I'm not just stubbornly advocating the continuance of pilot whaling.

      I absolutely acknowledge the fact that scientific studies show that there seems to be a link between cardiovascular disease, diabetes, immune deficiency, Parkinson's Disease and neurological disorders. But the scientific evidence I've seen does not state that the risk is "much greater" as you claim. Studies indicate that there MIGHT BE a correlation between the intake of pilot whale foods and a limited increase in the abnormalities mentioned above in the Faroese population.

      That's why health authorities as a precaution recommend that pregnant women, young women planning on being pregnant and young children do not eat pilot whale. But they have also declared that it's still within safe limits for everyone else to eat pilot whale foods once or twice a month, and this is based on several scientific studies.

      This report might be relevant for you to read: Risks versus Benefits of Whale and Seal Consumption - Workshop report, 14 January 2011:

  8. Elin

    "I'm sorry you feel they way you do, but I'm afraid it is not very constructive or productive even using God to scold me and all the Faroese people."

    I know you can write , but how can you read may God "scold" you when what's clearly written (twice) is may God "forgive" you ?

    Wow, just wow , Elin !

    1. I did not read it that way. What I meant to say was: "I'm sorry you feel they way you do, but I'm afraid it is not very constructive or productive even using the name of God in your effort to scold me and all the Faroese people." Sorry for not explaining myself too well.

  9. For Elin

    "But I find it quite exaggerated when people claim that pilot whale meat and blubber is classified as "toxic waste" in most of the industrialized world. "

    Links from some english speaking industrialized countries for you.



    "There's apparently a bacteria issue with a dead whale, so we've engaged a contractor to go down with proper hazard protection gear," he said.

    United Kingdom

    "Health advice has been issued urging people not to touch the corpse or allow dogs to come into contact with it."

    "A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said: "Approaching or handling the animal may pose health risks and should not take place without the proper authority and protective measures."

    "Whale's corpse a 'health hazard'
    A dead sperm whale washed up on a Norfolk beach is set to be removed as people are warned not to touch the corpse."


    "The Beluga Whale, a species at the top of the food chain, has such a large quantity of contaminants in its body that dead whales have to be disposed of as hazardous waste. "

    Canada- PCB levels in Killer Whales = Toxic Waste

    "4. A level above 50 ppm, is considered toxic waste by Canadian guidelines (Source: Oceana). Which killer whale populations are above this level?

    Answer : Southern resident male and transient male

    5. In Canada, the action level for PCBs is 2 ppm. This is the amount that is too high for humans to eat food with this level of PCBs. Which killer whale populations are above this level?

    Answer : All

    1. Australia an UK: Bacterial danger, not chemical
      Canada: those are killer whales not pilot whales.

      Read the report she mentioned. It contains all the relevant data from the people who actually did the reasearch (ie. unspoiled).

  10. City people- versus country people.
    If the pilot whale numbers are healthy - who am i to pass judgement on people continuing to provide food for themselves from their natural environment.
    Grain growing - kills all kinds of animals - when it is harvested- animals in the fields.
    I was also very interested in the political process - the communal nature of the hunt and desicion making.

  11. Fact is, it is totally out of control, those people enjoy killing those innocent animals. No matter how you sugar coat this, this is sensless, cruel, inhumane, that's it, no negotiation. And btw, pigs, cows, chickens - Natural food source, those people kille 100s of thos whales every year, it is disgusting. And I have seen some of this "fishing", its cruel no matter how you look at it. I have nothing against you, you were born into that culture, and the fact that you are against killing animals in a cruel way, is heartfelt, but honestly, those people do it like savages, waiting in those whales, and just start killing, oh how 21st century of them, video footage tell the truth. I am not attacking you personally, I'm dissapointed that people just shrug this off, and pretend its humane, and a way of life, well its not. Its is a practice for fun, and a cultural festival, each year apparently. People who hurt the environment and its beings, in this cruel manner, will someday pay a very hurtful price, and it is going to be their own faults. Sad thing...people from around the world, who are against this, will find a way to stop this, don't mess with nature, NEVER, or suffer the consequences. Killing is another thing, VISCIOUSLY attacking them, THE WAY they are being killed, disgusting, stop argumenting in favor of these people, they don't deserve any recognition or support. I'm from africa, you don't see us killing off all our animals "just because its for food, and it is immediately available" bullshit, an argument like that doesn't even deserve to be listened to. And I don't give a rats ass about the practice years ago, that was then, this is now.

    1. How do you imagine your meat is procured? By cloning?