The slaughter of hundreds of whales is just a ’natural part of life’ on the Faroe Islands, the remote nation has said.
It comes after horrific images emerged showing a pod of whales and dolphins being rounded up and butchered by villagers.
The disturbing sight of whales dying in a sea of blood continues to shock animal lovers around the globe, as they call on the islanders to finally end the violence.
A government spokesperson told Metro.co.uk that it may be a ‘dramatic sight’ for outsiders but whale meat and blubber is a ‘valued part of the national diet in the Faroe Islands’.
Every summer, around 800 pilot whales are massacred in bays across the remote islands as inhabitants prepare for the harsh winter months ahead.
Páll Nolsøe, a spokesperson for the ministry of foreign affairs and trade, said 145 pilot whales and seven white-sided dolphins were killed in Torshavn bay yesterday.
He said: ‘Whaling is a natural part of Faroese life. Traditional means of food production from local resources are an important supplement to the livelihoods of Faroe Islanders.
‘These include mountain grazing sheep, coastal fishing and whaling for household use.
‘The meat and blubber of pilot whales has for centuries been – and continue to be – a valued part of the national diet in the Faroe Islands.
‘Catches are shared largely without the exchange of money among the participants in a whale drive and the local community.
‘Each whale provides the communities with several hundred kilos of meat and blubber – meat that otherwise had to be imported from abroad.
‘It has long since been internationally recognised that pilot whale catches in the Faroe Islands are fully sustainable.
‘Scientists estimate that the pilot whale population inthe eastern North Atlantic is above 700,000 whales, with approximately 100,000 around the Faroe Islands.’
Mr Nolsøe said whale drives are only initiated when whales are sighted close to land.
Boats enclose behind the whales and begin to herd them to the ‘most suitable bay’ to be beached and killed, Mr Nolsøe said.
When the animals are close enough, a hook is inserted into the blowhole to haul them further up onto the shore.
A fisherman will then use a spinal lance – a ‘mandatory’ tool used in Faroese whale hunts – to stab the neck and sever its spinal cord, cutting off the blood supply to the whale’s brain.
Mr Nolsøe said: ’This method ensures that the whales lose consciousness and die within a few seconds.
‘Normally, the entire pod of whales is killed in less than fifteen minutes.’
He added: ‘All meat, including whale meat, involves the slaughter of animals. There is no doubt that the Faroese whale hunts are a dramatic sight to people unfamiliar to the hunts and slaughter of mammals.
‘The hunts are, nevertheless, well organised and fully regulated. Faroese animal welfare legislation, which also applies to whaling, stipulates that animals shall be killed as quickly and with as little suffering as possible.’
More than 260,000 people have signed Blue Planet Society’sonline petition calling for a banon hunting dolphins and whales in Japan and the Faroe Islands.
The campaigners say that most hunts are ‘unregulated, illegal and unsustainable’ and kill off ‘100,000 dolphins and small whales’ every year.
Dr Pál Weihe, 68, is head of the Faroe Islands’ Department of Occupational Medicine and Public Health, and has been investigating the unique diet.
It’s feared villagers are consuming high levels of mercury and PCBs from contaminated whale meat.
Dr Weihe found that babies born with high levels of mercury in their blood was connected to the amount of pilot whale their mothers had eaten.
This article was first published by Metro.co.uk on 30 May 2019.
What you can do
Protect whales and dolphins by donating as little as $1.
It only takes a minute. Thank you.
Fighting for Wildlife supports approved wildlife conservation organizations, which spend at least 80 percent of the money they raise on actual fieldwork, rather than administration and fundraising. When making a donation you can designate for which type of initiative it should be used – wildlife, oceans, forests or climate.