Animal Rights

Whale Slaughter Claim Misleading

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The recent video depicting the slaughter of long-finned pilot whales in the Faroe Islands was misleading in terms of impact and incorrectly asserted that this was a "rite of passage" for the island's teens.

The Faroe islanders have hunted long-finned pilot whales for centuries as a way to provide food stocks during the winter. The meat is never sold, but divided amongst the community, and any surplus is donated to hospitals and elderly care facilities. Locals pride themselves on using 90% of the carcass, and there is no evidence of any rites of passage connected to the practice.

The Office of Protected Resources, the headquarters program for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, lists entanglement in fishing gear as the top threat to long-finned pilot whales, and makes only passing mention of direct targeting by islanders, who since 1584 have taken an average of 850 whales yearly out of a North Atlantic population of 750,000. In a 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species report, the organization changed its classification from "Low Risk/least concern" to "insufficient data" in 2008, and listed anthropogenic sound, such as sonar, as the greatest threat to the species. That same report classified the Faroe island practice as "probably sustainable."

The Faroe island whale harvest does not have a major impact of the species, nor is it done simply for entertainment or tradition. This practice provides much needed winter food to a people who have a vested interest in maintaining adequate whale populations.