Behind the Faroe Grind


By Ady Gil Faroe Islands, Koltur

Located northwest of Scotland between Norway and Iceland lie the Faroe Islands a magical archipelago in the North Atlantic ocean. The inhabitants of this beautiful place are the Faroese. Proud descendants of Norse settlers  they have prided themselves for 1200 years on their ability to survive in this remote area. Today the population is approximately 48,565 (source)

Rúni Nielsen, Faroe Islander, and Earthrace (ECO) chapter leader describes what life has been like for the Faroese of days gone by,

I’m Faroese and proud of it. We a very small group of people who have been on the brink of extinction many times. We have our own unique language which has survived intact despite the enormous pressure from 814 years of colonial oppression from foreign powers. The Plague tooks it toll in the 1300′s and again in 1400′s. 400 years of fighting off pirate attacks from the French,Ottomans, Dutch and others. Danish trade monopoly in the Islands prevented a proud and strong stock of weather beaten people to prosper in peace. During all these years, the Faroese kept their society despite dwindling in numbers (at one time approximately only 4000 people were left). We kept the parliament rule and structures in general. During WWII we sailed in wooden ship (sloops) to fish from Iceland to Great Britain where mines, submarines, and fighter planes infested the waters. Unarmed so to speak, each ship had only one single handheld machine gun. But we sailed and delivered the fish to feed a much bigger nation in need and peril. Many 1000′s of faroese lost there lives at sea. (Rúni Nielsen ECO Ch. leader Faroe Islands)

Near Vágur, Faroe Islands August 8, 2012 By Rúni Nielsen ECO Ch. leader

On August 8, 2012 a grind took place near Vágur. 196 pilot whales were slaughtered. On the following day another grind took place on the shore of Hvannasund. There 40 pilot whales were slaughtered. The meat is then distributed amongst the islanders.

Total count 459 whales for 2012. Total skins distributed 3279. 1 skin is 75 kg (165.5 lb) of food. 3279 skins x 75 kg (165.5 lb) /skin = 245925 kg (54,2172 lb) of food, 246 metric tonnes (54,2331.6 lbs). Inhabitants 1st of March 2012 48386 (10,6673 lb)  5.08 (11lb 3oz) to each man, woman and child if evenly distributed. Recommended maximum consumption per month pr 70 kg of bodyweight for adults is 300 gr.” This equals 116126 kg (25,6014lb). Over exploitation is thereby 129799 kg ( 28,6157,81 lb), which equals 242 too many whales taken this year already compared to the public recommendation. Keep it in mind that we here have calculated with a share for each and every man, woman and child. It is not recommended to feed to children or women in childbearing age. (Rúni Nielsen ECO Ch. Leader Faroe Islands)

Pilot whale meat for sale, Faroe Islands 2012. Photo by Sasha Alazy

Why the strict regulations on the consumption of pilot whale meat? Due to worldwide pollution heavy metals and PCB’s have accumulated at the top of the food chain. Whale and dolphin meat is known to contain high amounts of Mercury and PCB’s,

It was Dr. Pal Weihe, Chief Physician from the Faroese Department of Occupational Medicine and Public Health, and a leading researcher into the effects of mercury on people that eat grind meat, who said as far back as 1998 that his own Government should ban consumption completely to date, this hasn’t happened although a recent advisory notice from Faroese Food and Veterinary Authority (June 2011) halved the original 1998 recommendations from 10kg per person per year to just 4kg with additional notices surrounding consumption by girls and women of child-bearing age, and children. (source)

By Rúni Nielsen ECO Ch. Faroe Islands near Vágur, the Faroe Islands July 8, 2012

What will and won’t work to end the Faroe Islands dolphin drives? Dolphin activist Sasha Alazy who recently returned from the Faroe Islands shared his insight:

My personal experience from the Faroe Islands is the following: To solve problems, you have to stick to the truth and listen to both sides. Every story has two sides. Insults, aggression, discrimination and hatred do NOT help whales but builds support for whaling in this island country – it makes things even worse for the whales! Interference annoys them and creates solidarity, making things more difficult. We must learn that we cannot solve problems with violence or force change. If people understand this and put that “enemy image” aside, that would be a huge support for the anti-whalers. As my esteemed colleague Leah Lemieux said: ‘If you want the Faroese to become friends with whales, you must first become friends with the Faroese.’ (Sasha Alazy, dolphin activist)

Eco chapter leader for the Faroe Islands Rúni Nielsen suggests three objective reasons for ending the grind:

1. Not suited for consumption because of contaminant,

2.Unsafe killing method – even if immensely improved- different circumstances make in tangent to animal cruelty,

3. Pilot whale could be and endangered species. (Rúni Nielsen ECO Ch. Leader Faroe Islands)

The toxicity of whale and dolphin meat will most likely be the cause of ending whale and dolphin hunts worldwide.

…Earthrace Conservation believes that ultimately, it will be the health risks of eating whales that will end the hunts that outrage the anti-whaling lobby, and not the protests or physical confrontations that make the headlines. (source)

Join the Discussion on Facebook at Positive Changes in The Faroe Islands

13 thoughts on “Behind the Faroe Grind

  1. Pingback: Behind the Faroe Grind « thedabitchycode

  2. Pingback: Behind the Faroe Grind « savedolphinsph

  3. Hi Kirsten – I have just re-read your blog posting due to the comments on it. I fully understand all of the scientific information and ways that people are suggesting the situation be handled. However, I have to express my frustration with many of the people in the Faroes. I know the way of thinking. They have very similar thought patterns and behaviour as my own people in Iceland, with whom they have very close ties. Iceland has it’s own issues, as you know. The people are wonderful, but they simply do not see the bigger picture. In fact, in many cases of people I know personally, they refuse to see the bigger picture. Both countries are similar in that they are very isolated, are very proud people, and honour their heritage with great dedication. Both have immense national pride. They do not see “foreigners” as having any right to comment on their cultural activities. An Icelandic writer recently said that she deeply resents foreigners who comment on Icelandic whaling. The bigger picture is, of course, that we cannot continue as a world, to slaughter cetaceans for any reason whatsoever due to their endangerment, environmental threats to them, studies shown about their behaviour and intelligence, etc. etc. etc. But, when people insist on ignoring that bigger picture, and only focus on themselves and their cultural rights and ancient practices, I feel little hope right now that anything will change. Perhaps I am just feeling jaded right now, but I know my own people and they take on “battles” with fervour.

  4. great log Kirsten which will be much more useful for Faerose. But I don’t think that polluted meat will be enough to stop the whaling. That meat became a luxuary one in place to be a necessary one, and most of Faroese like it so much !!!! Day by day I am listening more and more interviews of Faerose I filmed, and I respect all of them even if as a cetacean lovers I can’t support the whaling but I definitively respect and like the way of living and thinking of most of your compatriots.

    • Thank-you for your comment Francois. It is quite a situation because the Faroese have a great way of living, try to be green and are terrific to travelers. But I do think all of us that oppose the grind are feeling some hope for the future as more Faroese come forward opposing a traditional food that is no longer needed and a slaughter that is inhumane.

  5. I hope this does not come in twice, as I had trouble with my login. I am sure, in fact, I know, that the Faroese are a strong and brave people. Their cultural attack under the Danes was very similar to that suffered by my own people in Iceland. I do not hate the Faroese. But I do hate the Grind. I think that because of it, the Faroese are looked at around the world as barbaric and uncivilized, which is a shame. And there is no denying that it is a horrible death for the Pilot Whales. And all to eat contaminated meat? If it is unsafe for women of child-bearing years because of mercury poisoning and other reasons, that is saying something that the Faroese should be very worried about. I saw, 20-30 years ago, aboriginal communities who fished from many of the lakes in Ontario, Canada become victims of mercury poisoning. It made them very sick, and caused genetic changes so their children were eventually sick as well. I hope that the Faroese consider all of these issues carefully and question what they are doing. It should not be a matter of becoming defensive. It should be for their own good – both for their health and how they are viewed for the Grind in the world. They are certainly not the only country by far, that needs to change. Canada needs to change. Iceland needs to change. China most especially needs to change. And on and on. The time is new now, not old.

    • Thanks for your comment Judy! What will end the grind is the toxicity of the meat. Although older generation may eat it, throwing caution to the wind I don’t think they are looking at the real consequences for the younger generation. They will be leaving them a legacy of an aged population that may be very have a higher incident of Parkinson’s not to mention the effects to children.
      I think though that we must keep in mind thought that insults and name calling has really added fuel to the fire. People that might have given up eating the dolphin meat now seem to associate it with nationalism. That is why those living there who oppose the grind are asking us to open up a dialogue. We need to stick with the three points presented in the post and keep our emotions out of it.
      1. Not suited for consumption because of contaminant,

      2.Unsafe killing method – even if immensely improved- different circumstances make in tangent to animal cruelty,

      3. Pilot whale could be and endangered species. (Rúni Nielsen ECO Ch. Leader Faroe Islands)

  6. I am sure, in fact I know, that the Faroese have been in many ways a brave and steadfast people. What happened to them under the Danes is very similar to what happened to my people in Iceland in the same situation. However, they must realize that what they are doing and how they are doing it makes them look bad in the eyes of the world. It makes them look barbaric and horrible. I would not want to be seen in that light. I do not hate the Faroese. That is a bizarre reaction, and of no help at all. But I do hate the Grind. And it is all for the purpose of eating contaminated Pilot Whale meat? If it is not recommended for women in childbearing age? That tells you something. There is something wrong with the meat, and it should not be consumed. Mercury poisoning, for example, can do terrible things to people e.g. the aboriginal people in Ontario fishing from lakes that had high levels of mercury some 20 or so years ago. They became very sick, and had very sick children.

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