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Coalition condemns latest whale killings in the Faroes

Whalewatch challenges ‘inadequate’ public health and whale hunt guidelines

A coalition of 10 conservation and animal welfare organisations from around the world today expressed their shock and dismay at the killing of a further 167 pilot whales at Funningsfirdi, in the Faroe Islands, on October 13th.

The groups – including the Environmental Investigation Agency – also described present human health and whale hunt guidelines issued by the Faroese Government this year as ‘wholly inadequate’ and are urging an immediate suspension of whale and dolphin hunting.

In a letter sent to the Faroese Government on October 7, the Whalewatch coalition expresses its fundamental opposition to the hunting of pilot whales and dolphins in the Faroe Islands because it seriously compromises human health, animal welfare and wildlife conservation.

Representatives of the coalition visited the Faroe Islands in May this year, meeting with representatives from the Ministries of Fisheries, Foreign Affairs, Tourism and Environment, as well as the Chief Veterinary Officer, Chief Physician at the Department of Public Health in Torshavn, and Chair of the Pilot Whalers Association.

The Faroes Government has subsequently issued new guidelines relating to the health risks of consuming pilot whales, which the campaigners claim ignore the results of long-term scientific studies on the issue.

They express further concern that the Government has failed to implement any meaningful legislative changes to hunting methods to improve animal welfare. The coalition members believe the Government’s weak response to these issues leaves public health and animal welfare seriously compromised.

In their letter, the groups question why more than 1,700 whales have now been killed since 2010, with more than 570 this year, despite the recommendations of the Faroese Chief Physician and Chief Medical Officer that pilot whale should not be eaten at all due to the high levels of toxic contaminants. New health guidelines issued by the Faroese Government in June advised limiting consumption, but did not advocate the zero consumption recommended by the medical advisors.

Even the Government’s new health guidelines, the campaigners argue, could not justify the numbers of whales being killed which produces whale products in quantities far in excess of what the public can safely consume.

The coalition also outlines serious animal welfare concerns, including evidence that the old whaling hook and knife are still being used despite the Faroese authorities’ claim that new ‘more humane’ killing weapons have been developed. The coalition also asserts that hunters have little control over the welfare of hunted animals and believes it unacceptable that these social and intelligent animals suffer extreme stress and appalling injuries, sometimes over several hours.

Further concerns are raised over the Government’s assertion that the hunts are sustainable, given that existing population estimates are over 20 years old, and given the mounting and serious threats to the whales in addition to the hunts, including climate change, toxic pollution, entanglement in fishing gear, ocean noise and military sonar, ship strikes and habitat loss and degradation.

Speaking on behalf of the coalition, Andy Ottaway said: “We are pleased to be able to continue an open dialogue with the Faroese Government and people over whaling and we greatly appreciate the hospitality and openness of the people we met during our visit.

“However, we don’t believe that any cultural tradition should take precedence over the serious public health, conservation and animal welfare issues that need to be addressed. We hope that our concerns will be heard by the Government and people of the Faroes and that the whaling will be suspended in order to protect both the whales and the people who eat them.”

For further information and interviews, contact:
Andy Ottaway, Campaign Whale
+44 (0)7900 804761
andyo@campaign-whale.org

EDITORS’ NOTES

1. The Whalewatch coalition letter was signed by American Cetacean Society, Animal Welfare Institute, Campaign Whale, Dyrevaerns-Organisationernes Samarbejds-Organisation, Environmental Investigation Agency, Humane Society International, OceanCare, Society for the Conservation of Marine Mammals, Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society and the World Society for the Protection of Animals.

2. The Whalewatch delegation in May met with Kate Sanderson, Director Fisheries, Trade and Regions Policy; Mr Rogvi Reinert, Permanent Secretary for Ministry of Fisheries; Ulla Wang, Special Advisor to Ministry of Fisheries; Rói Magnussen from the Ministry of Tourism; Dr. Maria Dam, Umhvørvisstovan (the Environment Agency); Jústines Olsen Senior veterinary Officer;  Dr Dorete Bloch and Mr Bjarni Mikkelsen from the Færøernes Naturhistoriske Museum; Pal Weihe, the Chief Medical Officer in the Faroe Islands; Chair of Pilot Whalers Association Mr Ólavur Sjúrðarberg; and three Sýslumenn from different districts, Finnbogi Midjord, John Kruse and Karl H. Johansen

3. ‘Dietary recommendation on the consumption of pilot whale meat and blubber’ issued by the  Faroese Food and Veterinary Authority June 1, 2011

4. Letter sent to the Faroese Government

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