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Faroese slaughter record number of pilot whales in 2010

A TOTAL of 1,115 pilot whales have been brutally slaughtered in the Faroe Islands so far this year, making it the largest kill of any whale species in the world.

Environmental and animal welfare organisations are deeply concerned about the escalation of these hunts, as more whales have been killed in 2010 than in any year since 1996 – and even more may be killed before the end of the year. The average annual catch for the past 10 years has been 627 pilot whales.

Despite Government claims to the contrary, Faroese TV footage clearly shows that the brutal methods used to kill the whales have not improved and are likely to inflict appalling suffering on the whales.

Joanna Toole, Marine Mammals Programmes Manager for the World Society for the Protection of Animals, said: “The chaos of killing large groups of these intelligent, social whales inevitably results in shocking cruelty. A highly modern community killing over 1,100 whales in this way is completely unacceptable.”

The Faroese authorities have given no indication why so many whales have been killed this year.

During the past two decades, extensive research, led by Dr Pál Weihe of the Faroese Department of Public and Occupational Health, has been undertaken into the impact on the health of Faroese consumers of contaminants including mercury and PCBs which are found in pilot whale meat and blubber.

In August 2008, Dr Weihe and Faroese Chief Medical Officer Dr. Høgni Debes Joensen issued a statement recommending that pilot whale no longer be used for human consumption due to the significant threat it poses.

The Faroese Government has said it is in the process of evaluating these findings, but in the meantime has recommended that consumers be guided by dietary advice it issued in 1998 – that only one or two pilot whale meals a month should be consumed, and women who are or may become pregnant, or are breast-feeding, should refrain from eating any pilot whale at all.

Jennifer Lonsdale, Director of the Environmental Investigation Agency, said: “Hunts in 2010 have produced about 550 tonnes of pilot meat and blubber for the 49,000 Islanders. This equates to 11kg for every islander, including babies – almost 1kg per month per person. This is about five times 1998’s supposedly safe consumption recommendations, and it completely ignores the more recent warning not to eat pilot whale at all.”

Since many people, including infants and some mothers, do not consume pilot whale meat and many others are unable to obtain it, some people will inevitably be consuming much higher amounts.

By allowing these hunts to continue, the Faroese Government is callously ignoring both this proven threat to the health of its citizens and the unchecked cruelty inflicted on the whales.


Interviews and images are available on request: please contact Jennifer Lonsdale at or telephone 0207 354 7960.



1. The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) investigates and campaigns against environmental crime and abuses.

2. The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) is the world’s largest alliance of animal welfare organisations, currently representing more than 1,000 member societies in over 156 countries. WSPA strives to create a world where animal welfare matters and animal cruelty ends. WSPA brings about change at both grassroots and governmental levels to benefit animals, and has consultative status at the United Nations.

3. Campaign Whale is dedicated to the protection of whales, dolphins and porpoises, and the environment:

4. OceanCare is a Swiss non-profit organisation. It was founded in 1989 and has a strong commitment to realistic and cooperative initiatives. The association works at national and international level in the areas of marine pollution, environmental changes, fisheries, whaling, sealing, captivity of marine mammals and public education:

5. For the kill, a herd of pilot whales is ‘driven’ into a bay by boats. As many whales as possible are beached, leaving others floundering in the shallows. They are secured either by striking a 2kg steel hook into the body of the whale or by placing a round-ended hook into the blowhole. A knife is used to cut behind the blowhole to the spinal column to sever the main arteries to the brain. The time it takes a whale to die from first wounding is frequently prolonged by the position of the whales and the varying expertise of the slaughtermen.

6.  Faroese TV Film of hunt on July 19, 2010 can be viewed here.

7. The Faroe Islands is a self-governing territory under the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Denmark, with a population of 49,000. The Islands are situated north of Scotland.

8. Groups supporting this release are members of Whalewatch, a global network of more than 50 organisations concerned with the killing of whales, dolphins and porpoises (cetaceans) on welfare ground.


Environmental Investigation Agency
62-63 Upper Street
London N1 0NY
Tel: +44 207 354 7960
Fax: +44 207 354 7961

World Society for the Protection of Animals
222 Grays Inn Road,
London WC1X 8HB,
Tel: +44(0)20 7239 0500