THE PERFECT PAIR DOLPHIN TRILOGY PRESENTS DOMINIC DYER - TIME TO USE TRADE SANCTION TO END WHALE AND DOLPHIN SLAUGHTER ON THE FAROE ISLANDS
The brutal slaughter of over 1400 white sided dolphins on the Faroe Islands has triggered huge anger and revulsion around the world and has once again brought global attention to the long and bloody history of whale and dolphin killing in this beautiful but isolated archipelago 200 miles to the Northwest of Scotland.
As a young boy I have vivid memories of seeing footage of the whale and dolphin hunts, or the “Grind” as they are called in the Faroes. Before the age of social media, it was left to a few intrepid film makers to bring into our living rooms the wild beauty of the Islands and the defiant spirit but violent actions of some of its people.
In 1972 National Geographic made a short documentary film called ‘Faroe Islands - The last of the Vikings’ which painted a picture of a uniquely independent people largely untouched by the outside world in the last remaining outpost of the Viking Spirit.
The film included a whale hunt, in which an armada of wooden rowing and powered fishing boats drove a pod of pilot whales into the shore. The noise and excitement of the people involved was clear to see as they threw rocks into the water and used their vessels to form a ring around the increasingly alarmed pod of whales. As women and children cheered from the quayside the whale hunters plunged their sharp tipped harpoons into the bodies of the whales.
As the sea turned red with blood and the whales twisted in agony, the narrator of the film made a statement to the viewing audience which stays with me over four decades later. He said “when the whales come these peaceful people revert to another age where killing becomes an outlet for native savagery when Viking blood boils”.
But why, nearly fifty years since this film was made, does this barbaric slaughter continue?
Although the European Union has a ban on the killing of whales and dolphins by its Member States under an EU Council Directive and the Bern Convention, this does not apply to the Faroe Islands as a self-governing country in the Kingdom of Denmark. The Faroe Islands is also not a member of the International Whaling Commission, and whale and dolphin hunts can be legally licenced by the Faroese Government.
In recent decades several marine conservation organisations have engaged with the Government and people of the Faroe Islands to end the whale and dolphin hunts. Public meetings and debates have been held, studies have looked at the economic benefits of developing a whale watching industry, documentaries made and books published, yet the brutal killing continues.
Although the Faroe Islands are an autonomous region of the Kingdom of Denmark, they could not continue to kill whales and dolphins without the active support of the Danish Government who retain responsibility for military defence, policing, justice, currency control and foreign affairs.
Over the past five years Danish naval vessels, helicopters and military personnel have even been used to monitor and disrupt the activities of Sea Shepherd activists, who record the brutal reality of the whale and dolphin hunts in order to inform a global audience.
However, one key driver for change within this isolated island community that has been forced to connect with the modern world, is international trade.
Prior to leaving the European Union, Britain had little leverage over the Faroes or Danish Governments on this issue, but that has all changed with Brexit.
In March 2019 the UK Government entered into a Free Trade Agreement with the Faroe Islands which now accounts for over 25% of the Faroes’ global trade. In the past 12 months the value of exports from the Faroe Islands under this agreement reached £582 million, a 142.5% increase on the previous year. Most of this trade involved cod, shellfish and farmed salmon which is sold in UK supermarkets. In comparison, the total value of UK exports to the Faroe Islands over the same period amounted to just £34 million.
Since becoming Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has made his opposition to whaling very clear. He has raised serious concerns with the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Japan’s resumption of commercial whaling, at the G7 Summit in Biarritz in September 2019. In January 2021 he made a stand against the killing of a minke whale by Japanese fisherman in Taiji cove, telling the Telegraph “At a time when we are already seeing the tragic and irreversible destruction of our natural world, with the sea increasingly pumped full of plastics and climate change threatening entre eco systems, it is more important than ever to take a stand against the cruel practise of whaling.”
The Prime Minister’s wife Carrie and father Stanley have both joined me to campaign against whaling outside the Japanese Embassy in London, and in recent days the Defra and Foreign Office Minister Lord Goldsmith has taken to social media to call the mass slaughter of dolphins on the Faroe Islands “one of the most sickening spectacles I’ve ever seen. It shames our species.”
I have now started a Government e-Petition calling for a suspension of the Free Trade Agreement with the Faroe Islands until the whale and dolphin slaughter hunts ends for good. If Boris Johnson is not willing to put on hold £34 million of British exports to stop this brutal slaughter of marine mammals 200 miles from our shores, his government’s commitment to global wildlife protection will be seriously undermined.
No whales and dolphins should be brutally slaughtered in the Faroe Islands to put cod and farmed salmon on our supermarket shelves. It’s time we used trade sanctions to end this barbarism for good.
Policy Advisor Born Free Foundation
Author Badgered to Death Badgered to Death: The People and Politics of the Badger Cull : Dominic Dyer, Chris Packham: Amazon.co.uk: Books
Suspend trade agreement with Faroe Islands until all whale & dolphin hunts end - Petitions (parliament.uk)
Article originally published on 22nd September 2021 by Mail+
Re-published on The Perfect Pair Dolphin Trilogy blog page with kind permission of Dominic Dyer