So far, Faroe Islanders have killed more pilot whales in 2010 than in any of the past 15 years, a worrying and inexplicable development. The average annual catch for the past 10 years has been 627 pilot whales, while 1,115 have been killed even before 2010 comes to a close.
The Faroese government has given no indication why so many whales have been killed this year, and despite claims to the contrary, TV footage shot in the Faroes clearly shows that the brutal methods used to kill the whales have not improved and are likely to inflict appalling suffering on the whales.
Joanna Toole, WSPA’s Marine Mammals Programmes Manager, said: “The chaos of killing large groups of these intelligent, social whales inevitably results in shocking cruelty. A highly modern community killing over 1,100 whales in this way is completely unacceptable.”
Highly controversial – and contaminated - meat
During the past two decades, extensive research, led by Dr. Pál Weihe of the Faroese Department of Public and Occupational Health, has been undertaken into the impact on the health of Faroese consumers of contaminants including mercury and PCBs which are found in pilot whale meat and blubber.
In August 2008, Dr. Weihe and Faroese Chief Medical Officer Dr. Høgni Debes Joensen issued a statement recommending that pilot whale no longer be used for human consumption due to the significant health threat it poses.
Safe consumption levels surpassed
The Faroese Government has said it is in the process of evaluating these findings, but in the meantime has recommended that consumers still follow its dietary advice of 1998 stating that people eat no more than one or two meals containing pilot whale meat in a month. It also stated that pregnant or breast-feeding women should refrain from eating any pilot whale meat at all.
Figures show that hunts in 2010 have produced about 550 tonnes of pilot meat and blubber for the archipelago’s 49,000 inhabitants, meaning 11kg of whale for every islander. This figure equates to approximately five times 1998’s supposedly safe consumption recommendations, and completely ignores the more recent warning not to eat pilot whale at all.
Since many people, including infants and some mothers, do not consume pilot whale meat and many others are unable to obtain it, some people will inevitably be consuming much higher amounts. By allowing these hunts to continue, the Faroese Government is callously ignoring both this proven threat to the health of its citizens and the unchecked cruelty inflicted on the whales.