In recent years, the brutal whale hunting practices of Japan and other Pacific island nations have been exposed and have sparked global controversy. However, the tradition still continues.
One hotspot for mass whale slaughtering that has mostly flown under the radar is Faroe Island, which is actually located between the United Kingdom and Iceland. This is not in the Pacific, which people typically associate with whale hunting. The Faroe Islands are actually a territory of Denmark and the EU, where laws are in place against these practices.
On this remote island each year, natives turn the seas red with whale blood during the summer migration of the creatures.
This past week there was a massive festival to celebrate the beginning of whale hunting season, which coincides with this migration. One of the most celebrated spectacles of the day was the grisly scene of the seas turning red.
According to the activist group Blue Planet Society:
130-150 pilot whales and 10-20 white-sided dolphins were brutally and cruelly slaughtered in the Faroe Islands today. Approximately 500 cetaceans have now been killed “for food” in these islands since the beginning of 2019. The Faroe Islands are part of the Kingdom of Denmark (an EU country). Both pilot whales and white-sided dolphins are protected in the EU.
The hunt can reportedly take hours to complete, and it ends with hundreds of lifeless whales strung along the shore.
Blue Planet Society estimate that 130-150 pilot whales and 10-20 white-sided dolphins were killed in just one hunt. Photo Credit: Blue Planet Society
The Blue Planet Society recently began circulating a petition to ban the practice in the region and have currently received over 260,000 signatures.
Unfortunately, residents of Faroe Islands are not prepared to let this part of their culture fade away, and have protested against any attempts to get them to stop the practice
“The Faroese have eaten pilot whale meat and blubber since they first settled the islands over a century ago. Today, as in times past, the whale drive is a community activity open to all, while also well organised on a community level and regulated by national laws. Records of all pilot whale hunts have been kept since 1584 and the practice is deemed sustainable, as there an estimated 778,000 whale in the eastern North Atlantic region,” a local representative said in a statement.
“Approximately 100,000 swim close to the Faroe Islands, and the Faroese hunt an average of 800 pilot whales annually. The meat and blubber from the hunt is distributed equally among those who have participated,” the statement continued.
There are many reasons for the locals to give up this barbaric practice, if not for the ecosystem and the whales, they should consider their own health. Experts have warned that due to toxins in our environment, these fish often contain high levels of mercury and persistent organic pollutants (POPs.)
Whales strewn along the beach after the hunt. Photo Credit: Blue Planet Society
These toxins can cause a number of adverse health effects, including problems with intellectual and neurological development and a weakened immune system.
Last year, the government of Japan announced plans to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and allow the commercial killing of whales.
This will be the first time since 1986 that Japan has explicitly allowed whale hunting for commercial purposes. For years Japan promised to hunt whales only for scientific research, but whalers have reportedly become unhappy with the limits placed on their hunting abilities.
According to the BBC, government spokesperson Yoshihide Suga said that whales will only be hunted in Japanese territorial waters. Previously, Japanese whalers were allowed to hunt in Arctic waters for research purposes. Whalers have promised to shut down operations in those areas and remain within the approved sea borders.
The seas were turned red with the blood of the whales. Photo Credit: VCG
Japan’s prior “scientific” hunting has been criticized by activists suggesting the research was just an excuse, as the resulting whale meat was ultimately sold from those “scientific” hunts. Advocates for Japanese whalers have said the meat was sold so it would not go to waste.
Officials in Japan say that eating whale meat is a cultural tradition, but whale meat reportedly accounts for just 0.1% of all meat sold in the country.