Usually when one looks for cruel customs and bloody traditions, the view is on Polynesia, India, China and Africa, and doesn’t think for a moment that, in our, as we call it “civilized” neighborhood, brutal barbarism is hiding, carrying with it incomprehensible amount of cruelty and mischief, Serbian Daily “Telegraf” reported.

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Image credits: lail-alsahara.com

Faroe Islands, self-governing state within Kingdom of Denmark, but not part of the EU (alliance of the states that put strong emphasis on animal rights and environmental protection), are home of the customs which will make anyone wonder why Denmark or Brussels haven’t done anything to make this cruel custom to stop, “Telegraf” asks.

What is the word about?

During the summer, hundreds of Long-finned Pilot Whales are being slaughtered on the beaches of the Faroe Islands, not because people are hungry or they need meat, but because it is a century-old ritual, “Telegraf” writes.

Anyone can participate, but usually only men do. Women stay in the back and cheer for them.

Image credits: lail-alsahara.com
Image credits: lail-alsahara.com

When the flock of the whales is seen near the coast, a fleet of ships is formed that these peaceful, smart and very curious creatures lures to the shore. After the whales wash up on the beach, it is impossible for them to escape, and then the slaughter begins.

A special whaling knife which cuts the dorsal fin of this beautiful creature is used. If they do not manage to pull the whales to the sand, men use special hooks which are sticked in the whales’ backs in order to control their movement, according to “Telegraf”.

Image credits: lail-alsahara.com
Image credits: lail-alsahara.com

However, residents of the Islands see nothing wrong in this. They consider it to be their tradition which cannot be taken from them by anyone, it is part of their tradition and identity.

No hunting is pretty and bloodless

According to Elin Brimheim Heinesen, the pilot whale is one of the most common whale species in the oceans all over the world, especially the long finned pilot whale. Pilot whales are not endangered according to the authorities in this matter.

The NAMMCO (North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission) is the real authority on all matters regarding the North Atlantic pilot whale. The NAMMCO base their estimation on sightings – and they estimate that the number of long finned pilot whales in the North- and East Atlantic is 780.000, and that’s excluding the West Atlantic, so the number might be, even significantly higher. The ACS (American Cetacean Society) agrees with those numbers and the IUCN also agrees that the pilot whale hunt is, as they say: ‘probably sustainable’. The IWC doesn’t consider itself an authority on small cetaceans, of which the long finned pilot whale is one. So the pilot whale is not on the list of endangered animal species.

The Sea Shepherd organisation stands alone in its claims that the long finned pilot whale is endangered.

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Image credits: lail-alsahara.com

The Faroese have killed pilot whales for at least 1.200 years, so the pilot whales should probably have been extinct by now, if the pilot whaling in the Faroes was a threat to the population as a whole. Since 1584 (that is how long it’s been carefully monitored) the Faroese have killed 850 pilot whales (in later years around 800) on average a year, so that’s a tenth of a percent (0.1%) of the pilot whale population only in the North Atlantic, which is very far from exceeding the pilot whales’ reproduction rate at around 2 %. There is nothing to indicate that the pilot whale population is in decline.

Heinesen says that most images and videos of pilot whale slaughter on the internet are outdated (including ours in this article). She says that it doesn’t happen like that any more. The whales are not being stabbed and hacked to death with spears and hooks. Killing methods have improved a lot, especially since the 1980s. Spears are forbidden, and hooks are now rounded and put into the blowholes of the whales to drag them into a better position for a quick kill. New methods have been developed which have decreased the time to death of each whale to 2-4 seconds. The pilot whale slaughters were without a doubt more violent than necessary years ago, but it’s different today. Besides, it is not possible to hunt and kill wild animals in any ‘pretty’ or non-bloody way.

No hunting is pretty and bloodless. It’s not a rational argument to say, the Faroese have to stop killing whales because it is too bloody. This is irrational and a failed argument too.

Heinesen further claim that people in the Faroe Islands don’t kill pilot whales because it is a tradition. They do it for food, as they’ve always done. But opponents call this practice of getting food ‘a tradition’, because this way of living off of the natural resources of the ocean has been common on these islands for more than 1,200 years.

“Pilot whale meat and blubber is so common and natural for the Faroese to eat that to them this food is no different than beef or bacon is to people in other countries, where they have a tradition for eating cattle or pig meat. It’s just that you can’t breed pilot whales in the same manner as you can breed cattle or pigs,” Heinesen wrote on her website.