The slaughter of dolphins in Denmark in the Faroe Islands

The slaughter of dolphins in Denmark in the Faroe Islands


The massacres of pilot whales in the Faroe Islands (Denmark):
the horrible slaughter that is perpetuated every year

For years now we hear about it every now and then, almost like a whisper, as if the news were to pass over in silence.

Let's talk about pilot whales (species Globicephala melas) or as the pilot whales (so called because more than resembling dolphins are similar to whales) belonging to the family ofDelphinidae, known in Spanish as calderones.

They are very peaceful creatures who like to live in packs of mostly females with their young. They reach 5-7 m in length and a weight of over 2t and live on average 50 years.

They have a very meek character, they are sociable so much that they calmly approach boats and people without any reservations. They live in almost all the seas of the world where there are waters that are not too cold (in fact the only area in the world where they are not located are the waters of the pole).

(If you want to know them better, read the marine biology article dedicated to them)

Before telling what happens I want to show you some pictures because more than every word they explain what I want to talk to you about.

I'm talking about a real massacre that for many years has been carried out in the Danish islands Feroe (or Faroe) at the expense of pilot whales.

The Faroe Islands (which in Danish is written Fær Øer Islands) are an archipelago made up of 18 islands halfway between Iceland and Norway which since 1948 are an autonomous region of the Kingdom of Denmark (like Greenland) with ample autonomy for all internal political issues and are not part of the European Union with which they only have bilateral trade agreements.

The official estimate of the catches declared by the Faeroese it is about one thousand whale dolphins per year, a figure as they claim, "sustainable", while unofficial estimates speak of 1500-3000 per year. If we consider that these peaceful creatures live on average 50 years and the females reach sexual maturity around 7 years with very long gestation periods (15 months), such a massive killing, if added to the others that occur in the rest of the world, especially in Japan must cause serious concern for the conservation of this species.

The official reasons that push this people to carry out these slaughters we can read them from the website of the Faroe Islands: the killing of these cetaceans is a very ancient tradition that dates back to 1200 years ago and is linked to subsistence: to obtain food (considered an essential food for their diet), skin to make ropes , fat to obtain oil as fuel, stomachs as floats and so on. sheep that provide up to 60% of all meat products, seabirds are hunted, dairy cattle are raised to meet all internal milk needs, as is the cultivation of potatoes. In short, from what we read it is not clear why there is this need for hunting for subsistence of pilot whales.

This motivation, which could have been valid centuries ago, certainly appears somewhat anachronistic today, considering that the Faeroese now enjoy high standards of living and that it takes a lot of imagination to imagine that to illuminate their homes they use lamps powered with whale oil! Among other things, it is not explained why, despite being scientifically established that the meat of globicephala melas contains high levels of mercury, extremely harmful to human health, this hunt continues. In fact, always on the same site we read "this fact is a source of concern but it is not a reason to stop hunting because the health risks must be offset by the fact that whale meat is rich in polyunsaturated fats, is lean and rich in proteins ".

So what is the real reason? Maybe a hunt that has now become a sport?

But how does this hunt happen?

The calderones, peaceful animals, very curious and that move in herds, during their migrations, pass in the vicinity of the Faroe Islands, especially in the summer. hunting (the working daters give permission to participate and even a daily allowance). In practice, the whales are surrounded in a semicircle by boats and conveyed to small pre-established bays that are located close to the cities, towards the shallow water, where their slaughterers await them.

According to official sources, a clean cut would be made in the neck to sever the spinal cord and arteries for which the animal would remain paralyzed and lose consciousness in 5-10 ". According to the testimonies of the people who witnessed this slaughter, the videos and photos that are on the net, things do not happen exactly in this way: the whales, to be taken to the shallow water would be hooked by the tail, dragged ashore and then brutally stabbed to death while they struggle and scream in pain and the sea turns red with their blood.

Foreigners cannot watch this hunt, so I ask myself: if things are really so "human" as described by the Faroese, why is it forbidden to watch it?

A big complaint about this situation is made by

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

the company founded in 1977 by Captain Paul Watson, at the time, co-founder of Greenpeace, always in the foreground to try to stop these atrocities, which entitled the article "There is something very rotten in Denmark" of which we report some passages 'English:

"The horrific annual slaughter of thousands of defenseless pilot whales every year in the Faroe Islands, in the Danish language Faroe Islands, is just as cruel as the slaughter of the dolphin carried out by the Japanese in Taiji. I heard the screams of the mortally wounded pilot whales screaming for their lives as they bathed the avinated faces of their slaughterers with their hot blood, laughing as they raped them with their blades. It is a monstrous spectacle and it is an obscenity fully embraced by the Danish government and by many Danish people (...) ».

Although there is no evidence that they are endangered

as the IUNC Red List 2008 itself classifies it among the species of which there is no news (at this address you can find the card), so it is not possible to estimate their population, there is no doubt that their main food , squid, are constantly decreasing with the consequences that this entails on the population of this species as well as the fact that they are seriously threatened by environmental pollution.Now the question that arises is: given that these islands, although belonging to Denmark, are not part of the European Union,

is there a possibility of intervention that can put an end to this massacre?

To a post to the European Commission on this issue, Stavros Dimas, the EU Commissioner for the Environment replies that the European Union bans the hunting of all species of cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) according to Council Directive 92/43 / EEC , of 21 May 1992, on the conservation of natural and semi-natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora known as the Bern Convention on the basis of which it is also forbidden to sell or exchange cetaceans and the introduction for mainly commercial purposes pursuant to Regulation (EC) no. 338/97 of the Council concerning the protection of wild flora and fauna species by controlling their trade. However, this legislation does not apply to pilot whales that are hunted on the Faroe Islands as they are not part of the European Union. It is also true that Denmark has signed the Berne Convention but declaring that this agreement does not apply to Greenland and the Faroe Islands. Therefore the European Union cannot legally intervene towards these countries. Same goes for the IWC (International Whaling Commission) in fact, while protecting whales internationally, the pilot whales, being part of the "small cetaceans" category, do not belong to them.

At its meeting on June 5, 2008, the European Commission reinforces the above: "Whaling is not authorized in European Union waters. Under Community environmental law, all whale species are protected in EU waters. However, the EU does not oppose whaling by indigenous peoples for subsistence purposes - as provided for by the IWC Convention - provided that this activity respects catch limits established on the basis of scientific advice. (…) The Commission, on the other hand, condemns disguised whaling in the form of scientific research, as it is practiced in Japan. "

Now the fact that this archipelago does not join the EU it means that it is bound in this sense so that the European Union itself cannot be an authoritative voice, also considering that the Danish government does not enter into the matter.

But then if neither at the community level nor at the international level there is no control over the killing of pilot whales in the Faroe Islands, what can be done to put an end to these massacres?

If you do not acquire a cultural awareness but continue to think that the human being, as a dominant species, has unconditional rights over what is different from his nature and can dispose of them at will; whether economic interests continue to prevail; if the pleasure as an end in itself of hunting for pure sport and fun does not cease, the problem will never be resolved.

The civilized world with people of good will is working hard to try to find a solution. But the road is long and difficult. The same IWC meeting that was held in Santiago de Chile in June 2008 did not produce concrete results on the problem of whaling: they will still be the object of hunting for scientific purposes and Aboriginal hunting for subsistence purposes.

The United Nations, on September 25, 2008

in their annual progress report to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, they included "significantly reducing the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010". Progress will be monitored by measuring the percentage of species threatened with extinction (calculated with the IUCN Red List) which, among other species, also includes Globicephala melas.

The most disconcerting thing is that today a new motivation for these hunts is taking over

: whales, like dolphins, eat too much fish and therefore are depleting the seas and for this reason they must be hunted! Thesis supported above all by Japan, Norway and Iceland (the largest whale hunters in the world).

Unfortunately we know the ferocity of the Japanese and the massacres they carried out off Taiji in Japan: every year they hunt and kill about 20,000 dolphins destined, the less robust, for food industries and restaurants while the best specimens for dolphins and water circuses. In this regard, I would like to point out the interesting questions / answers of the Japanese Institute of Cetacean Research that are very "illuminating" regarding the motivations that push these people to these mass killings.

Environmental associations around the world are fighting, each in their own way, to stop these massacres at all levels and in all countries of the world. Many projects aim at creating marine reserves and strengthening the IWC's provisions on commercial hunting. Unfortunately, there are insufficient funds to support all the campaigns that should be carried out, so it is "the voice of the people" that must be heard, become more aware of the subject, stop eating whale meat, put pressure on on governments to adopt conservative policies.

Some time ago, driven by curiosity, I started doing a search to understand who and what was dealing with this problem, so I started searching the net to see how many associations, organizations, commissions, sub-commissions, control bodies, companies etc. . etc. (and allow me etc. which in this case is a must) that in the end I had to give up because the situation is so vast and tangled that it is not possible to find a common thread: it is a universe. Now, I am firmly convinced that each in its own way is important and gives its small / large contribution but perhaps if there were a little less organisms and that money were spent to do more in-depth studies, to create natural reserves, to carry out some awareness campaigns, perhaps some more results could be obtained today

At this point the initial question returns: why, despite being the massacres of the Faroe Islands perpetrated for years, do we hear about them only occasionally, in a whisper, as if it were to pass over in silence?

I believe that among the many environmental issues that anguish our country, and more generally the world, this in fact is considered an infinitesimal drop and therefore is considered as such, that is to say in a totally irrelevant way.

I do not consider this fact a justification because in the era of globalization, the declaration of the millennium (the most important declaration in the world that has ever been made) proclaimed by the United Nations and to which 189 countries (out of 191) have joined. Denmark and also Italy where, among other things, we talk about the conservation of the species, biodiversity, the protection of the sea and the oceans, even this small drop must have its own voice.

I point out this YouTube address, which shows this massacre and given the cruelty of the images I don't feel like putting it online on the site as it is also read by children.

In this article there is a lot of blood and I don't want to end it like this but with this image and this song by Roberto Carlos El progreso "Progress", so that they are a hope: that man finally becomes a human being.

Translated text:

"I wish I could tame a fierce beast,
I wish I could transform many impossible things,
I would like to decide many things that could make me feel good about myself,
I wish I could embrace my worst enemy,
I ask not to be able to see so many dark clouds in the sky,
sailing without finding so many oil stains in the sea and whales that are disappearing due to lack of commercial scruples.
I ask to be civil like animals. Lara la, lara la .... (twice)
I would like not to see so much green in a land that is dying and in the waters of rivers the fish that are disappearing,
I would like to shout that such black gold is nothing but black poison, we already know that for all this we already live less,
I can't accept certain things that I don't already understand,
the trade in weapons of war of the undead,
I would like to talk about happiness instead of sadness but I am not capable,
I ask to be civil like animals.
Lara la, lara la .... I ask to be civil like animals (twice)
I am not against progress if there is a good consensus, mistakes do not correct other mistakes, this is what I think (twice) "

If we can really do something, if you have any suggestions, advice or collaborations, write to us at [email protected]

Dr. Maria Giovanna Davoli

Online bibliographic sources:

  • (en) The IUCN Red list of Threatened Species
  • (en) Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (from which the photos are taken unless otherwise indicated)
  • (en) IWC (International Whaling Commission)
  • (en) Foroya Landsstyri
  • (en) European Parliament
  • (en) European Union


The geographical map was taken from De Agostini geographical atlas, Geographical Institute de Agostini Novara, 1998 edition

Video: The Faroe Islands annual whale slaughter