Every year, photos of the pilot whales slaughter in the Faroe Islands are shown in various web sites to condemn the barbarity of this activity.
Every year Danish and Faroese officers reply by claiming that whaling is part of their culture and a fully sustainable tradition.
While NGOs and private citizens have long been trying to stop this practice, advocating respect for highly-evolved marine mammals, their efforts so far have been unsuccessful. However, now there may be a new reason to stop slaughtering pilot whales.
Faroese chief medical officers have recommended that pilot whales no longer be considered safe for human consumption, simply because their meat and blubber contain too much mercury, PCBs and DDT.
Silvia Bonizzoni and Giovanni Bearzi
Danish officers' reply to a complaint:
The Danish Foreign Ministry has received your letter where you express your feelings caused by some pictures circulating on the internet depicting selected scenes from the catching of pilot whales in the Faroe Islands. We take note of the fact that a number of people find the above mentioned pictures disturbing. However, before passing any judgment upon whaling in general or the Faroese pilot whale drive fishery in particular one will need to supplement a possibly negative aesthetic first hand impression with considerations of a number of issues such as:
· General principles regarding use of wildlife;
· Biodiversity: the effects of the catch upon the relevant whale stock;
· Principles regarding the sustainable use of ocean resources, including interdependence between marine mammals and fish stocks;
· Animal welfare issues, including comparisons of a whale hunt with other hunts of large mammals in the wild, with the treatment of farmed animals throughout their life cycle, and of animals which are regarded as a nuisance; one might even consider certain kinds of non-food-related violent treatment of large mammals, found in some cultures.
· Ethics of food production in general. Does a meal of pilot whale meat represent more or less cumulated man-made animal pain than dishes normally eaten in one’s own country?
· Ecological questions, notably the ecological footprint of different modes of meat production, including the choice between local and imported food.
· Geographic and nutritional factors, availability of alternative food sources, notably in islands and remote coastal areas, not least in arctic or sub-arctic parts of the world.
· Cultural diversity, and tolerance/intolerance towards people with different food preferences and/or different attitudes towards different animals;
The Faroe Islands have autonomy within the Kingdom of Denmark. The islands are not included in Denmark’s membership of the European Union. Affairs regarding industry, agriculture, the environment, fishing and whaling, are subject to Faroese autonomy. If you want to address the Faroese authorities regarding pilot whaling, the e-mail address of the Foreign Department of the Faroese Government is firstname.lastname@example.org; The e-mail address of the Faroese department of Fisheries and Maritime Affairs is email@example.com;
If you, before forming your own finite opinion of the subject, or before addressing the relevant authorities, should be interested in acquiring some factual knowledge about whaling in the Faroe Islands, you may turn to the homepage on whaling of the Faroese authorities:
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