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Activist speaks out on traditional dolphin slaughter off Denmark’s Faroe Islands

Samuel Rostol spent over 2 months on island to document 7 different piles of whale hunts, called Grindadrap

Sumeyye Dilara Dincer   | 16.09.2021
Activist speaks out on traditional dolphin slaughter off Denmark’s Faroe Islands

ANKARA

The tradition of slaughtering dolphins and whales off Denmark’s Faroe Islands sparked new outrage especially among animal lovers and environment activists.

Samuel Rostol, a volunteer animal rights activist in the international non-profit marine conservation organization Sea Shepherd founded by one of the leading names of Greenpeace Paul Watson, told Anadolu Agency his experience on the island.

“I've been at the Faroe Islands for about two and a half months and during this time I documented seven different piles of whale hunts called the Grindadrap,” Rostol said.

“At this very last one has reached a medium worldwide now,” as around 1,400 dolphins were killed, he said.

“I was not there, unfortunately,” he said. “But this has been documented by locals so that we can now share the videos and the material from this.”

Rostol said he left the Faroe Islands just two days before the hunt, “which kind of speaks about the nature of these hunts to happen randomly.”

“When a pot of dolphins or pilot whales pass the islands, a call for a hunt (is made) … and the boats drive out and try to, like, chase these animals into the nearest bay or the nearest beach where these animals can be killed,” he added.

This summer, his main task has been to film these hunts with a drone, he noted, adding: “So I have filmed the slaughter, I have filmed the aftermath, and I also filmed a few chases.”

Not legal in EU

In the EU, this hunt is not legal, Rostol said, noting that the Faroe Islands is not a part of the bloc.

“So they are able to maintain this hunt that goes back centuries, they have recordings of this hunt from the late 1500s,” he said.

According to the animal rights activist, back then, this hunt was necessary for the survival of the villages.

“So for hundreds of years, this has been one way to sustain a nation that doesn't have a lot of options to grow food themselves.”

As the population in the island has gone up so did the need for food, he added. “But what we've seen simultaneously is worldwide pollution in the oceans.”

“So these dolphins and these animals being at the top of the food chain, eating a lot of other fish they accumulate a lot of toxins like mercury and other PCBs and dioxins,” he said.

Now, he said, the Faroe Islands are not dependent on this as a food source.

“So now they maintain this tradition, partially because it's under tradition, partially because they oppose to foreign interference, and at least they claim that many hunters still hunt because they don't want to stop because of foreign pressure,” he added.

“Traditions are hard to end,” he said. “People cling to their traditions with all their muscle fibers and this is one of those traditions where even their own health government is asking them to be very careful eating the meats and blubber, like the fatty tissues from these animals.”

Based on this fact alone, this hunt and this tradition might be nearing an end, according to Rostol.

Many people oppose this 'unnecessary violence'

Rostol also said he receives several messages from locals living in the Faroe Islands.

“They can tell me how they feel, but they can't do it publicly because then they will lose friends, they will lose family or they will lose their jobs or their customers.”

“So, the difficult part here is how can I be a part of inspiring people to speak out,” he said. “I'm working on right now trying to find a way to help or to show these Faroese that you're not alone. There are many people now, together with you who oppose, this unnecessary violence towards these animals.”

There are many companies and organizations that fight and urge people to boycott especially the Faroese salmon production which is one of the main export products of the island, Rostol noted.

“If that could happen on a worldwide scale, then the Faroese (people) would be forced by economic reasons to reconsider this hunts,” he said.

Since Faroe Islands are not part of the EU, they can kind of get away from an EU ban, he said. “But hopefully one day we'll see that the European economies go together and say we will not accept this atrocity towards animals and you have to stop or we won't buy your products.”

This year’s hunt was also criticized by Switzerland-based international marine conservation organization OceanCare.

“OceanCare is extremely concerned and greatly puzzled by the sheer size of this one particular hunt,” the organization said in a statement on Sept. 14.

Citing Fabienne McLellan of OceanCare, the statement read: “It is simply absurd and cruel, to cause so many highly evolved and sentient marine mammals to suffer. They have gone too far and we just hope that the local people will also strongly voice their criticisms and concerns.”

Meanwhile, Faroe Islands’ Fishery Minister Jacob Vestergaard defended the hunt in an interview with radio broadcaster Kringvarp Foaroya.

Vestergaard said the dolphin hunt had been done by the book and neither pilot whales nor white-sided dolphins are endangered.

The annual hunt, known locally as Grindadrap, during which whale hunters kill masses of white-sided dolphins, took place on Saturday and Sunday, said French news outlet News 24.

The remote islands, a Danish autonomous territory, remain the last place in Europe allowed to hunt sea mammals, as the hunt is considered an example of indigenous whaling.

Citing local sources and the Blue Planet Society, a volunteer group aiming to end overexploitation of the world’s oceans, News 24 said over 1,400 white-sided dolphins were killed in this year’s hunt.

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