Whales and Faroese consumers in danger.
ANIMAL WELFARE GROUPS CONDEMN FAROESE PILOT WHALE HUNT
“The Faroese Government is ignoring the terrifying health warnings of its own Chief Medical Officer. Allowing around 85 tonnes of toxic meat and blubber to be consumed by the islanders is astoundingly irresponsible.”
Jennifer Lonsdale, Director of the Environmental Investigation Agency
London, 29 May 2009 – Twenty-two animal welfare groups from around the world today fiercely condemned the Faroese government for allowing a grisly hunt for 188 pilot whales this week – putting both the whales and Faroese consumers in danger.
In a hunt, known as a ‘grind’ in Hvalvik on 23rd May a large family group of whales – including calves and pregnant females – was driven by boats into a cove where they were crudely killed in the blood of their pod mates. Pilot whales are known for their highly social behaviours and close-knit family groups.
The opportunistic hunts take around 1,000 pilot whales each year. Whilst hunts traditionally met subsistence need in the islands, this has not been the case for decades. It would seem that hunts are conducted partly as a sporting ‘rite of passage’ for young men.
Claire Bass, Marine Mammal Programme Manager for the WSPA, said of the hunts “Subjecting intelligent and extremely social animals to this sort of treatment is like something from the dark ages. ‘Culture’ and ‘tradition’ are simply not an excuse for this sort of cruelty in civilized societies.”
Recent research has confirmed that hunts are bad for the Faroese people, as well as the whales. Meat and blubber from the whales is highly contaminated with organic pollutants including PCBs and heavy metals, such as mercury.
Research undertaken in 2008 by Syddansk University in Denmark revealed that consumption of pilot whale meat and blubber is clearly linked with Parkinson’s disease - the Faroese are twice as likely to develop the disease than Danish people. The meat has also been linked to other defects such as foetal abnormalities, heart defects and developmental problems in children.
In response to these findings, on 8th August 2008 the Faroese Chief Medical Officer wrote an open letter to the Government stating that “pilot whales today contain contaminants to a degree that neither meat nor blubber would comply with current limits for acceptable concentrations of toxic contaminants…” Despite this unequivocal warning, meat and blubber from this week’s hunt is being prepared for human consumption.
Jennifer Lonsdale, Director of the Environmental Investigation Agency said “The Faroese Government is ignoring the terrifying health warnings of its own Chief Medical Officer. Allowing around 85 tonnes of toxic meat and blubber to be consumed by the islanders is astoundingly irresponsible.”
Perversely, the Faroese Tourist board promotes the islands for their nature and states on its website that “The protection and preservation of the natural environment and of the animal life in the Faroes is important, not only with regard to the tourist industry, but also for the country as a whole.”
Mark Simmonds, the Science Director at WDCS, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, concluded ‘It is deeply saddening that these hunts continue in European waters. There is considerable suffering by the whales and dolphins taken in these hunts and there is no need for the whale meat in the Faroe Islands.”
WARNING: Do not eat whale meat
FAROE ISLANDS (30 Nov 2008) — Chief medical officers of the Faroe Islands have recommended that pilot whales no longer be considered fit for human consumption, because they are toxic - as revealed by research on the Faroes themselves.
-Ends- Non-governmental organisations condemning the hunts include:
Animal Welfare Institute (USA)
Campaign Whale (UK)
Centre for Dolphin Studies (South Africa)
Cetacean Research and Rescue Unit (UK)
Dyrenes Venner (Denmark)
Environmental Investigation Agency (International)
Eurogroup for Animals (Europe)
Fundacion Promar (Panama)
Dyrebeskyttelsen Norge (Norway)
Humane Society International
Israel Marine Mammal Research and Assistance Center (Israel)
Marine Connection (UK)
Mammals Encounters Education Research (MEER) (Germany)
Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (UK)
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (South Africa)
Unidad Especial de protección y Rescate Animal (Costa Rica)
Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (International)
Fundacion Cethus (Argentina)
World Society for the Protection of Animals (International)
EIA Environmental Investigation Agency
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by DEBORA MacKAENZIE