The Faroes cruel whale slaughter

The Faroes cruel whale slaughter

Every year around 2,000 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 Faroese pilot whale hunt has origins dating back some 400 years, the meat and blubber provided a valuable source of animal protein in the Faroese diet and the whale-oil became a significant export as well as being used for cooking and lighting. Even the offal and skeleton was utilised for animal feed and fertiliser. However, the hunt no longer provides essential protein for the Islanders, who enjoy a high standard of living, derived from fisheries exports to Europe and the USA. The Faroes economy is over 90% dependent on fisheries.

Recently the Islanders have indicated they want to kill whales commercially and it can be no coincidence that Denmark, which also defends ‘subsistence’ hunting of endangered whales in its other dependency of Greenland, is backing the resumption of commercial whaling. In 2006, Denmark alone backed a pro-commercial whaling declaration tabled by whalers at the International Whaling Commission’s (IWC) annual meeting in St Kitts.

Pilot whales
Pilot whales are toothed whales around 20-25 feet in length and can weigh up to five tons. They are highly vocal, social animals swimming in groups called schools that can number in the hundreds. Pilot whales use echo-location to navigate and hunt for squid their principal prey. Often, entire schools of pilot whales will beach themselves and eventually die. It is not known whether such mass-stranding events are navigational errors by the whales or deliberate acts to help sick or injured group members at risk from drowning. Although still considered common pilot whales are at risk from marine pollution, over-fishing of squid and fish-stocks, entanglement in fish-nets, and whaling.

Whale meat and public health
The Faroes Health Authority has recommended that consumption of whale meat is limited to no more than twice a month. Women are advised to avoid it altogether if they plan to have children! This is because of the toxic contaminants that accumulate in the whales bodies through the food chain. These contaminants include mercury in the flesh, liver and kidneys and polychlorinated-biphenyls (PCB''s) in the blubber. PCB''s are highly toxic industrial compounds linked to damage to the immune system and reproductive failure. Although subject to a voluntary manufacturing ban since 1977, some countries still produce them (see our environmental briefing section for further in information).

The IWC has called for research into the impact on human health of eating whale products and a resolution called for the IWC and World Health Organisation to co-operate on the issue.

Campaign Whale objectives
Campaign Whale is opposed to the slaughter of pilot whales in the Faroe Islands believing that it is unacceptably cruel, is no longer an important food source for the population and constitutes an unnecessary threat to the species, the size and status of which is unknown. Campaign Whale wants the Faroese Government to end all whaling as quickly as possible.


If you would like to protest about Faroese pilot whaling, please write to the Faroese Prime Minister and the Danish Embassy. The addresses are :

Jóannes Eidesgaard
Prime Minister of the Faroe Islands
Foeroya Landsstyri
Box 64, FR - 110
Faroe Islands.  

Sigmundur Ísfeld
Counsellor/Representative of the Faroes
55 Sloan Street
London SW1X 9SR
United Kingdom Tel  +44 (0) 20 7333 0227
Fax +44 (0) 20 7333 6707



The Ambassador
Embassy of Denmark
55 Sloane Street
Tel: 0207 333 0200


Please also write to your local retailer asking them to boycott Faroese fish until whaling is stopped.