Like many, I received a copy of an online petition seeking to outlaw the annual slaughter of Calderon Dolphins or Pilot Whales in the Faroe Ilands, part of Denmark.
Whales are sensitive, social animals with highly developed nervous systems. They have a profound capacity to suffer distress, terror and pain. Each year, the Faroese kill pilot whales and other small cetaceans.
Islanders in motorboats first drive the whales into a bay. The chase may be lengthy. The exhausted, terrified and confused whales are eventually driven into the shallows. Here the bloodbath begins. The islanders repeatedly hammer 2.2 kg metal gaffs into the living flesh of each whale until the hooks hold. A 15 cm knife is then used to slash through the blubber and flesh to the spinal column. Next the main blood vessels are severed. The blood-stained bay is soon filled with horribly mutilated and dying whales.
Every year around 2,000 whales are driven ashore and cruelly slaughtered in the Faroe Islands, mid-way between the Shetland Islands and Iceland. For centuries the Faroe Islanders have hunted pilot whales, driving entire schools into killing bays, where they are speared or gaffed from boats, dragged ashore and butchered with knives. Although the Islands are a protectorate of Denmark, they have their own Government and regulations governing the pilot whale hunt or "grind" as it is known.
Dolphin drive hunting, also called dolphin drive fishing, is a method of hunting dolphins and occasionally other small cetaceans by driving them together with boats and then usually into a bay or onto a beach.
Their escape is prevented by closing off the route to the open sea or ocean with boats and nets. Dolphins are hunted this way in several places around the world. In Europe, the biggest annual hunt of this kind takes place in the Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic.
Despite the highly controversial nature of the hunt resulting in international criticism, and the possible health risk that the often polluted meat causes, many thousands of dolphins are caught and killed in drive hunts like this each year around the world. The Faroese celebrate the butchery of their victims in an carnival atmosphere of entertainment. Indoctrinated from an early age, children are often given a day off school to watch the fun. They run down to the bay and clamber over the carcasses of slaughtered whales.
On the Faroe Islands mainly Pilot Whales are killed by drive hunts for their meat. Though officially this is the only species hunted, other species are also killed on rare occasion such as the Northern bottlenose whale and Atlantic White-sided Dolphin. The hunt is known by the locals as the Grindadráp. There are no fixed hunting seasons, as soon as a pod close enough to land is spotted fishermen set out to begin the hunt. The animals are driven onto the beach with boats, blocking off the way to the ocean.
When on the beach, most of them get stuck. Those that have remained too far in the water are dragged onto the beach by driving a steel hook into the blubber of the animal, though these days in response to allegations of animal cruelty they're more often dragged by putting a hook in their blowhole. When on land, they are killed by cutting down to the major arteries and spinal cord at the neck. The time it takes for a dolphin to die varies from a few seconds to a few minutes, depending on the cut. When the fishermen fail to beach the animals all together, they are let free again.
The pilot whale stock in the eastern and central North Atlantic is estimated to number 778,000. About a thousand pilot whales are killed this way each year on the Faroe Islands together with usually a few dozen up to a few hundred animals belonging to other small cetaceans species, but numbers vary greatly per year. The amount of Pilot Whales killed each year is not believed to be a threat to the sustainability of the population, but the brutality of the hunt has resulted in international criticism especially from animal welfare organisations.
Aside from the fact that the number of North Atlantic long-finned pilot whales is unknown and they are listed as 'strictly protected' by the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats, this is an act of barbarism and pointlessness. By slaughtering 100 whales at a time, the Faroese are wiping out entire pods and family groups. They are removing building blocks from the gene pool of the species and damaging the web of life in the North Atlantic and the North Sea.
The drive hunt is a practice abandoned elsewhere many decades ago, and now outlawed by other European states. The inhabitants of the Faroe Islands have no subsistence need for whale meat, and much of the flesh is left to rot and be dumped; it cannot be exported, as it is polluted with heavy metals and other toxins and therefore cannot meet EU heath standards for human food.
As in Japan, here too the meat is contaminated with mercury and cadmium, causing a health risk for those frequently eating it. Again, especially children and pregnant women are at risk. In November 2008, the New Scientist reported in an article that research done on the Faroe Islands resulted in two chief medical officers recommending against the consumption of Pilot Whale meat, considering it to be too toxic.
In 2008 the local authorities recommended to no longer eat Pilot Whale meat due to the contamination, and this has resulted in reduced consumption, according to a senior Faroese health official.
According to Faroese legislation it is also permitted to hunt certain species of small cetaceans other than pilot whales. These include: Bottlenose dolphin; Atlantic white-beaked dolphin; Atlantic white-sided dolphin; and Harbour porpoise (There are also specific regulations for the hunting of harbour porpoise. Harbour porpoises are killed with shotguns).
So, what am I asking you to do about all this butchery?
Log onto: this link by clicking here and add your details to the petition to end whale hunting in the Faroe islands. You can also encourage friends and family to read about this dreadful practice and like you lend their support to abolish this brutality.