UPDATE: In response to the article below, we have had the following message from Rob Reed, Environmental Scientist, Archaeologist, and Chief Operations Officer at Sea Shepherd UK:
“In 2013 (a year when there was no Sea Shepherd campaign) the Faroe Islanders killed 1,534 pilot whales and dolphins (the over 1000 you were thinking of) comprising of 1,104 pilot whales and 430 Atlantic White Sided dolphins.
In the following year (2014) Sea Shepherd launched ‘Operation Grindstop’ and a total of just 48 pilot whales (though every 1 is 1 too many) were killed in Grindadrap hunts.
In 2015 Sea Shepherd launched ‘Operation Sleppid Grindini’ in the face of new Faroese anti-activist laws as well as strong opposition from the Danish Navy and the Faroe islands killed 492 pilot whales.
The figures come straight from the Faroe Islands government and the statistics are available to the end of 2015 at www.whaling.fo.”
Here is the original article:
As I opened a copy of Diver magazine’s February 2016 issue it was with great sadness and dismay my eyes fell on an article by Jo Caird entitled ‘Away from the Grind’. The article was based in the Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic and basically recommends we travel to the Faroe Islands, ignore the Grind and go diving.
For those who have never heard of the Grind or are unsure of what it is, let me briefly explain. Wikipedia states that the Grind is ‘Whaling in the Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic and is the hunting and slaughter of mainly long-finned pilot whales when they swim near the islands, and has been practised since about the time of the first Norse settlements on the islands’.
Exact figures of how many Pilot Whales and Dolphins are slaughtered every year are hard to obtain. In 2014 it was over 1,000, in 2015 it was 800. But whatever the figures are it is true to say that every pilot whale that passes the islands is considered good for killing.
Cetacean pods and family groups of whales are driven to the shallow waters where they are impaled in the head or blowhole with a large metal hook and then dragged closer to the shore where people saw through the dorsal area to cut the spinal cord. If you are in any doubt about how much stress and pain these animals go through them simply watch one of the many videos on YouTube.
Cetacean family groups, swimming in blood, panic and scream as they watch and wait their turn to be killed. They listen to the death throws of others. We know scientifically that whales feel the same emotions that we do, pain, fear, hunger, happiness, exuberance and more. They are completely sentient.
Yet Jo Caird asks that we ignore all this just to go diving in a new location and explore the islands. She says that the Grind is a tradition and should be treated as so. Well, beheading, burning, hanging, crucifixion of people all used to be traditional but we have moved on since those barbaric times. Yes it still happens in parts of the world even today, but does that make it right? No of course not.
Cruelty to animals exists in most cultures but that does not make it justifiable. Cruelty in the name of tradition and sport makes it abhorrent.
In case you are still not sure about the Grind take a look at some of the images on the web from this so called ‘humane and traditional’ social event. Young or old, it makes no difference – all the whales die. Perhaps you can ignore the Grind – I know I can’t.
The Faroese claim the whales are a gift from God, but they do not belong to the islanders. The whales annually swim past my Cornish coastline and on up the west coast to Scotland and beyond. Historically we also used to kill whales but times change and the need for this resource has now passed and the brutal killing is no longer necessary.
As for Jo Caird’s article, well it left me cold, and as for the photos that went with it, as far as I could see, there is much better diving to be had here in the UK.
For me as a diver, the seas and marine life are to be shared and marvelled at. The wonder and exhilaration of experiencing communication with any marine species is unique and special. If ancient and bloody traditions such as the Grind continue to get support or are ignored, then we are all responsible for destroying a wonder of evolution as well as systematically destroying an environment that supports much of human life.
We are often outraged at the loss of man made things such as art or antiquities. A painting of an animal can become so much more valuable than the animal itself. These synthetic things are replaceable, life is not. When the last whale has gone there will never be another.
If you would still like to visit the Faroes to try the diving, make sure to visit one of the underwater graveyards where the whale remains are dumped. There is a short video on YouTube here.
If you are more interested in seeing whales alive, as in these photos by Chris Walter, then take at look at his site.
Perhaps even book a dive holiday with one of the many tour operators to other parts of the world where you can see them for real.
If you would like to know more about the importance and state of our oceans and our wildlife in general then have a look at the last report from WWF here.
Photos: Sea Shepherd