The change from indifference to an active stance in favour of pilot whale hunting

An armada of high-powered motor yachts and boats chasing pilot whales. Photo: Andrija Ilic / Reuters

By Erla Brekkustova

As a child in the 60’ties we had whale meat (grind) and blubber occasionally, but not often, since no one in the household participated in the whale hunting and slaughter. So probably during my whole childhood we kept within the recommendations from the health authorities that came after the studies of whole Faroese cohorts showing that mercury had a negative impact on the performance of the children.

Pilot whale meat and blubber has regained popularity even amongst the younger generation, as a defensive reflex against the pressure from radical foreign conservationists. Photo: Arne List

When I attended gymnasium (higher secondary) I usually had a hot meal at the school at lunch time, and here I got grind and blubber regularly, typically once a week. I didn’t question that, but I have later realised that the reason for this was because the school probably managed to get this for free. Hence they unknowingly feed the forthcoming generation of parents with food that was full of mercury and other pollutants that are detrimental in particular for fetuses.

Shortly after I left gymnasium it was found out, that the liver and kidneys of pilot whales contained huge amounts of mercury, and it was recommended to avoid using any of the intestines for consumption. In 1998 we finally got our first health recommendation suggesting that we should only eat grind and blubber once or twice a month.

Until a few years ago I have considered that this tradition with pilot whale hunting was only a question of time till it ceased also here (it has been practiced in many places in the North Atlantic). The young generation was not interested in the food resource, and even less in the hunting, so when the old boys went into retirement, the era or pilot whale hunting would be over. Another reason for the expectation of pilot whale hunting as a soon bygone era was that we got a new recommendation from the health authorities which stated, that pilot whale meat and blubber were not suitable for human consumption due to several types of pollutants.

However, this did not happen due to a very aggressive and confrontational so called conservation society, which has decided that they will make the Faroese population stop hunting pilot whales. What actually happened was that “pressure begets back pressure”. Using violent methods to tell people that what they are doing is wrong triggers that they defend themselves. Thus now the younger generations have become eager whale hunters, and even pregnant women openly appraise this fantastic source of meat.

Thanks to this conservation society it will now take two more generations where the whale hunting will continue and the Faroese population will be eating polluted meat. The resources would have been much better used by fighting against pollution – protecting both the whales and the world-wide human population.

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