My better half fought a lost battle (on the net) with a Bulgarian brat residing somewhere in Florida or California, USA. Someone who did not have anything to do in her spare time and decided to save the world and to attack the Faroese tradition of whale hunting on Facebook (where else?). And who, I bet, does not even have a clue where the Faroe Islands actually are on the map. I remember reading somewhere that this happens in “the North island of … Denmark”… What was I saying? No clue.
Mostly, my guy was somehow affected by the refusal of that lady to let him present his arguments and explain a little. She decided he must be silenced and in the end she was the one who knew better and from 5000 km away what actually happens here. I really adore these kind of people the same way I adore those that always know what happens in the country you live in, while suggesting you are completely … clueless. Unfortunately, the same thing applies to some of my own people, so, I have decided to write this article. Maybe I’ll manage to bring a little bit of light onto this aspect, even though I expect either a mass of insults and attacks or to be totally ignored. But, in the end, someone has to be the “Devil’s advocate”, won’t you agree? And here I am, trying to present the facts, as they are and as I see them, from that remote place.
Just to make clear some aspects: I am not Faroese, I was born and raised in another country far away, life happened to me and I moved here, to the end of the world. English is my second language and I know I don’t write perfectly, so I apologize for my mistakes and I would rather prefer for this not to become an issue. Neither the grammar nor the language mistakes are the issue here.
This is not an article through which I intend to find excuses, I don’t deny the existence of this practice, I don’t agree with it entirely (though I don’t judge anymore) and I am perfectly aware of what the whale hunting (aka Calderon dolphin “massacre”, as the net calls it) means and how is perceived. But, in order to get a pertinent image of what actually happens in reality, some things must be explained and made clear. When you decide to fight against something, you must know in the deepest details what are you fighting against. I am not a lawyer and I am not paid by the Faroese, as I was accused several times, so, if anyone considers this being true, they can very well stop here. I wrote this article because I really hate injustice and, especially, injustice rising from ignorance.
The things are not purely white or black, as a fellow blogger said to me once, and the people who try to paint them like that prove they let themselves be easily persuaded or, worse, they are, simply, purely ignorant. Moreover, I don’t even have the illusion I’ll convince those who don’t accept other opinion than their own and who have already issued a death sentence against the Faroe Islands and it’s people.
Some time ago I received a horripilated mail from a friend who lives in Italy and where a pathetic story was told, completely misinformed and twisted about the “barbarism” of the people living in … Denmark (more precisely in the Faroe Islands, but Denmark was pushed in front) who were killing “dolphins”, for fun and to prove … manhood 😯
How can the people who created that e-mail make so twisted affirmations, unjustified and without proof and, irronically, to be believed by such a big amount of people?
My friend, knowing very well where I live, was asking for some details and what is true and what not. In that moment I was rather speachless, I could not understand why so much attention so much verbal violence was suddenly directed towards the Faroe Islands. I was terribly sorry I’ve not been better informed and I started looking on the net. I realised what a big number of blogs and sites have published these “news”, without even trying to find out the truth that lies beneath it. Some have added their own little “contributions”, to make it more dramatic and to raise indignation, maybe badly impressed by the pictures (which are not easy to look at, I don’t deny). So, this is how I started writing this post.
So, first of all, I don’t know where this name of “Calderon dolphins” comes from. I know that “calderon” is the Spanish name for “cauldron” so probably this is the origin of this name. It is about what is called “long-finned pilot whales” categorized as one of the “toothed whales” species. They are part of the same family as the dolphins, but they are considered whales because of their behaviour. In extenso, Orca is also part of the dolphin family, but I really doubt anyone would call it a dolphin. Pilot whales are second one in size after the Orca in this family. Some people consider them dolphins, but I stick with the biologists and the name they’ve got. Even the Latin name globicephala melas (roughly translated “black round-head”) doesn’t contain “delphinus”. This is just for the sake of clarification.
Now, let me show you what Faroese people are actually hunting. Here it is:
Long finned pilot whale (Globicephala melas) – Long-finned pilot whale
This is how it looks and, in the upper right corner is shown the real size. And, in comparison, the one that people automatically think of when they hear the word “dolphin”:
The common dolphin (delphinus delphis)
I’ll rewrite a part of one post I read on the net:
“The Faroese celebrate the butchery of their victims in an carnival atmosphere of entertainment. Indoctrinated from an early age, children are often given a day off school to watch the fun. They run down to the bay and clamber over the carcasses of slaughtered whales & dolphins.”
Okay…. Well, I have been living here in Faroe Islands for almost 10 years, I have nephews and friends with children, and what is more, two of my best friends are teachers. I have NEVER heard about a day off from school for something like that. And, believe me, in the big “village” Faroe Islands, one can easily hear about things like that. It is unfair and incredibly despicable to make such statements. Besides, the hunt takes place mainly in the summer when there is actually … vacation. You should understand one aspect: any child is curious and I don’t believe seeing something like that will make them become monsters or scare them for life. I have lived in a country where every person living in a village raised animals and sacrificed them for Christmas or Eastern, I’ve seen how it is done and I don’t consider I am merciless or a monster, on the contrary, it taught me a lesson and now I can not stand to see animals in pain.
On the other hand, no one “celebrates”. This is an another petty afirmation. People gather on the shores, very true, but they do that because the meat resulting from the hunt (and which is the only reason for this activity, not anything else) is divided among the participants, even if they are on the shore and not in the water. Otherwise one can not procure, it is not traded, it is not sold anywhere.
Some have ventured to invent a “festival”, a “ritual” or some other enormities.I know how the “festival” came to life. In July The Faroese celebrate Olavsøka, the National Day, there are boat races and parades, dancing and singing in the middle of town. People dress in the national costumes, which are absolutely splendid by the way, and party for two days, celebrating Saint Olaf, the one who brought Christianity to the Faroe Islands. This has nothing to do with the whale hunting, but some, out of ignorance I would like to believe, adapted these festivities to the “festival of killing dolphins“. More, some of them said that people go to kill “dolphins” dressed in national costumes. As anyone would be stupid enough to ruin costumes that cost up to 3000€, and the pieces of which are collected for years, sometimes with great financial sacrifices, staining them with blood!!!
So, the site that I qoute, continues:
“Every year around 2,000 dolphins & whales are driven ashore and cruelly slaughtered in the Faroe Islands, mid-way between the Shetland Islands and Iceland. For centuries the Faroe Islanders have hunted pilot whales, driving entire schools into killing bays, where they are speared or gaffed from boats, dragged ashore and butchered with knives. Although the Islands are a protectorate of Denmark, they have their own Government and regulations governing the pilot whale hunt or “grind” as it is known.”
The only true affirmation here is the one regarding the Faroese Government. OK, so, last year (2009) 333 exemplars have been caught, two years ago, none. Where does the figure 2000 come from?? Spears are not legal anymore, they were banned almost 20 years ago, no one uses them.
The instruments are specially designed by the vets in order to make the animal suffer the least pain possible, a whale actually dies actually in a few seconds, maximum a few minutes. TheFaroese use everything that comes from a whale: meat, blubber etc. They do not kill for fun, no one tortures unnecesarily or lets them drown in their own blood (maybe you recognise the accusation). Who doubts these details or want to find out more information, can read here: http://www.whaling.fo/Default.aspx?ID=6770
What is conveniently let out is the fact that whale meat has been the most reliable source of food for a group of islands completely isolated, where nothing grows and where the farming land is about … 28 km2. That allows the existence of some farms, all of them owned by the state and that barely cover the neccessary supply of sheep meat. Last year the only existing chicken farm closed because of the imposibility of facing the competition from larger countries like Denmark or Sweeden and inspite of the fact that it was the only producer of salmonella-free eggs and chicken meat. Denmark boasts of the highest tax-level in the world and it is considered the most expensive country in Europe. Imagine now that the Faroe Islands (that everybody rushes to consider being … Denmark) pay taxes up to 20% more than in Denmark and import everything. That makes life 30 to 50% more expensive than in Denmark. This, in the conditions of a very small job market, with the salarial level lower than in Denmark and with an unemployment rate of 10% at present (2010). Denmark does not interfere economically, the Faroe Islands have their own economy and it is a separate country, with government, flag, anthem, economy, laws and a completely different language. So Denmark is just the “owner” that has some rights and that’s it. Oh, yes, the police, part of the coast guard, the court and the Constitution are still Danish. Now I dare ask: in these conditions, is it not normal for people to hang on this source?
The article states further
“Aside from the fact that the number of Calderons & North Atlantic long-finned pilot whales is unknown and they are listed as ‘strictly protected’ by the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats, this is an act of barbarism and pointlessness. By slaughtering 100 dolphins at a time, the Faroese are wiping out entire pods and family groups. They are removing building blocks from the gene pool of the species and damaging the web of life in the North Atlantic and the North Sea.”
Ok, I am deeply confused. Everybody called the pilot whales … Calderon dolphins. Now Faroese are killing pilot whales and Calderon dolphins?? Besides, the number of pilot whales is relatively known. Some sources estimate their number to 600, 000 worldwide, some to 200, 000 in the North Atlantic. How can a few hundreads hunted per year endanger an entire species? Besides, is anyone aware of the high level of mercury contained in the meat? Mercury that comes from the pollution of the ocean, pollution that will extinct, in the end, the whole oceanic life. This pollution is made precisely by those countries whose citizens yell so horripilated about the whales hunted by the Faroese and not by these islands which barely have the industry of a tiny-tiny town.
Studies are made, the Faroese biologists try to keep the whole ecosystem under control, programmes are applied with very little money (a disadvantage compensated for only by the passion of those who try to do something). You should actually know that the Faroese waters are among the cleanest in the world, exactly because of this respect for the nature and animal species, which other countries may not have. As for example mine. There are lots of protected bird protect species, there is a very efficient garbage disposal system, the fines for polluting are outrageous.
But let me get back to the article:
” The inhabitants of the Faroe Islands have no subsistence need for whale meat, and much of the flesh is left to rot and be dumped; it cannot be exported, as it is polluted with heavy metals and other toxins and therefore cannot meet EU heath standards for human food.”
Now I am actually laughing with tears. Really? The Faroese let the meat rot on the beaches? So, let me understand this right: Faroese people are so imbecile to let the meat (considered the best of the best, more delicious even than chocolate) rot on some small beaches, 150 m long and 50 m deep at their widest part, at a few dozen meters away from the houses where they live? No one, but no one, sees the enormity of such statements?
Again, the author does not have a clue what he is talking about. How to export whale meat when the law forbids selling it? Again, the entire prey is divided among the people, it is a way of helping others and it comes from old times when not every family had the luxury of a man capable of supplying it with food. I wonder if there is any other country where people help eachother without having a reason or expecting something in exchange. Yes, the part with the mercury is partially true and the Faroese Health Authorities have recommended a limited consumption and now they have introduced a motion into the Parliament, but that’s it.
The part that makes my inside boil is this one
“This bloody slaughter to attend Moz to ‘show’ entering adulthood(!) is absolutely incredible and no one in Denmark has moved a finger to prevent this barbarism that is committed against the Calderon – an intelligent dolphin who has the peculiarity of approaching people out of sheer curiosity.”
Wow, people! Stop spreading this lie! No one has to kill something to “enter adulthood”. My husband is Faroese, he never killed an animal of any kind and I don’t believe anyone considers him being a lesser adult. If you look with attention at the pictures, the men in the water are grown-ups, men over 30 years old. Do you really believe they have something to prove to anyone? One needs a lot of force and training to be able to stand in the freezing water (it has 8C all year round) and to drag a whale that weighs hundreds of kilos onto the shore. No one is so stupid as to give incredibly sharp knives to teenagers (another invention on another site). Knives that can kill you by only one cut.
Besides, sorry, but I’ve never seen whales coming to say hello to the boats or swimming along them. And I use the ferries daily. Not even along the one that sails to Denmark. This was also written to show what “monsters” these people are: the poor animals come to say hello and those horrible, horrible idiots take advantage of their innocence and kill them!
I know that the images are shocking, uncomfortable for the European raised in the big concrete fortresses and who sees the meat only in supermarkets, cleaned and nicely packed. Think that this is actually a form of hypocrisy. There are millions of animals that die each day for our consumption and none of them deserves to live or to die for us. Not pigs, not chickens, not lambs and not even raindeers. As a collegue of mine use to say “Imagine this is an abbatoir in open air!”. He had a point. There is even a saying “If abbatoires had glass walls, everyone would become a vegetarian”. So, if you are not vegetarian, who gives you the right to throw stones?
It is easy to slander a small nation who is not defended by anyone, not even by the country that people try to push in front, Denmark. And who does not have a say in a hypocritical and ignorant world. Maybe we should understand that it is another culture, another mentality and they should not be judged by our own values and mentalities, as much as some practices may disturb us. People should know their history first, to learn about the bad times, about the Danish oppression, which did not have any interest for this country to develop in order not to lose territory (they lost Iceland in WWII, why should they lose the the Faroe Islands, too?) and the control over it, about the chance they had to be occupied by the British army during WWII, a chance that offered them the opportunity to win their autonomy and the right to a national identity. About their mother-tongue, the Faroese language, which was forbidden in schools and official institutions before the war, Denmark pushing the hypocrisy to the point where people were told that “God does not understand Faroese”, so they could not even have the relligious service in their own language. Or maybe people should learn about the isolated villages where the ferry cannot moor when there is a storm and which are beginning to loose the population because of lack of connection and work. About the beautiful nature and harsh weather, about planes that cannot land when wind speeds more than 16 m/s, about many, many other things . This is what should be known first about the Faroe Islands, not only whaling, barbarians and, eventually, football.
National Georaphic declared these islands “The Most Appealing Destination” three years ago. This should tell people something, at least those who are not so blinded by fury and haven’t already issued the death penalty.
Maybe people should rather write pettitions for things that really have a purpose, there are so many children dying of hunger, animals killed for the vanity of some women who want furcoats or crocodile shoes. Let’s be honest: how many of those who yell so mercilessly on different sites own leather shoes or jackets? Eat meat every day? What makes them better than the Faroese who actually hunt for food?
Maybe you should find a better cause to fight for, kicking and pointing fingers at Denmark is not only disgusting and prejudist, it is also stupid. Because it is done out of petty revenge and from the need to show to the rest of the world how rotten and depraved is a “so-called civilised country” (quote from another virulent commenter) who “covers” what really happens in those remote islands. Grow up and leave Denmark with it’s own problems! You don’t solve anything, just like Brigite Bardot will not solve anything by complaining to the queen.
There are some links that may interest someone:
1. movie about Faroe Islands which I actually consider to be one of the most obiective I’ve seen out of all those that circulate on the Internet.
4. a small clip about how weather can be in the Faroe Islands. And not only in the winter.
5. Article from Australian Archaeology – you can find an interesting chapter about Faroe islands at page 53.
This being said, I rest my case!