Annual Whale Slaughter Still a Tradition on the Faroe Islands
It’s been an extremely bloody few weeks in the "Ferocious Isles," even by Faroese standards. On Aug. 8, 107 Long-finned Pilot whales were slaughtered in Sandavágur, on Vagar Island, a Denmark territory. On Aug. 11, 21 were butchered in Leynar and on Aug. 13, 135 lost their lives in Húsavík.
The grind, as the Pilot whale drive is called, has a recorded history since 1584. There are 23 whaling bays assigned to six districts in which the meat and blubber are divided among the population. A drive is initiated when fishermen or ferries offshore sight dolphins. The dolphins are driven into a bay with boats and even jet skis and pulled up onto the beach with a hook in the blowhole. Then the spinal cord is cut with a knife.
The Húsavík massacre on Aug. 13 was not the only one that took place that day. In Hvalba, the incredibly high number of 430 Atlantic White-sided dolphins were driven into ‘whale bay’ and brutally murdered. Some people might be surprised to hear that these islanders are targeting species other than Pilot whales, but they have always hunted smaller dolphins, especially in Hvalba. They last killed Atlantic White-sided dolphins in Hvalba in Aug. 2010 and Risso’s dolphins earlier that year in April. Oravik took 100 Atlantic White-sided dolphins in Aug. 2009. That same month, Hvalba killed two Northern Bottlenose whales that were reported as stranded, and a month later Klaksvik took three Risso’s.
While White-sided and Bottlenose dolphins and Harbor porpoises can be driven to slaughter, according the local regulations, it is illegal to kill Risso’s and Orcas. In all of these instances, mistaking them for Pilot whales was cited as the excuse for killing them.
Photo courtesy www.facebook.com
Soon however, they will have to pass a test before they can participate in the bloodshed. The Minister of Fisheries announced that as of May 2015 all persons taking part in the slaughter must take a course in the laws and correct procedures relating to the grinds, and possess the relevant license to kill. They will get training in the use of the grind tools that will be permitted as of 2015, nostril hooks and spinal lances; the ability to recognize death signals (not suffering, as that is irrelevant to the killers) of the animals; and be familiar with all legislation before they can participate. Use of the grind knife and grinding hook will no longer be allowed except in special circumstances by permit. Some conservation groups have hailed these measures as the beginning of the end of the grind.
Sea Shepherd has led campaigns to oppose the grind in the Faroe Islands since 1985. During the 2011 Operation Ferocious Isles campaign, not a single whale was killed while Sea Shepherd was on patrol during the July-August high season. So far this is the only way that the lives of these magnificent animals have been saved. This work was chronicled in a five-episode series on Animal Planet called Whale Wars: Viking Shores.
The first grind this year took place on July 21 when 125 Pilot whales were killed in Víðvík. This is the village where in Nov. 2010, 62 Pilot whales were driven onto the beach at dusk. All animals were killed, but because it was too dark by then, the flensing had to wait until the next morning. By that time the corpses had already started to rot and most of the whales were discarded, killed for no reason.
The most savage of the recent grinds took place July 30 when 267 Pilot whales were driven into the bay of Fuglafjørður. Reports say that only four men were available to kill the panicking animals. For more than 90 minutes, they were held in the bay with boat-engine-noise and blowhole hooks until they were all slaughtered.
Neither the July 30 mess, nor the Nov. 2010 example were isolated incidents. The butchers regularly screw up without consequences. Animal welfare is a farce in the "Ferocious Isles" and the claims of a fast, two-minute death are more the exception than the rule.
In Klaksvík, July 19, 2010, 228 Pilot whales were driven ashore, despite the beach only having the capacity to hold 100 animals. Again it was dusk, and the lack of light combined with far too many animals resulted in a two-hour orgy of blood and suffering.
On Oct. 25, 2012, an attempt to tag 36 Pilot whales by the Faroese National Museum went terribly wrong. After the radio transmitters had been attached, the disoriented whales got stuck in the mud and ended up screaming on the beach. Museum officials could not be reached and the Torshavn government did not allow the villagers to kill the animals, as it is illegal to kill tagged dolphins. Only several hours later in the night, when it was decided that the animals could not be saved, the locals were given permission to slaughter them.
In Nov. 2008, the Faroese Chief Medical Officers Pál Weihe and Høgni Debes Joensen announced that Pilot whale meat and blubber contains too much mercury, PCBs and DDT derivatives to be safe for human consumption. Dioxin has now been added to the list and the latest dietary recommendation on the consumption of Pilot whale meat and blubber are:
- Adults should eat, at most, one meal of pilot whale meat and blubber per month.
- Girls and women should refrain entirely from eating blubber as long as they are still planning to have children.
- Women who are planning pregnancy within the next three months, who are pregnant or who are breastfeeding should refrain from eating whale meat.
- The kidneys and liver of pilot whales should not be eaten.
As a result of the health issues, much of the meat is now discarded into the ocean, as the underwater graveyards discovered by Sea Shepherd in 2010 and 2011 have shown. The grind is not a source of food. It is a despicable ritual blood sport.
On July 31, the EU brought economic sanctions against the Faroese. Not for killing dolphins, but because the Faroese government unilaterally tripled the existing quota for herring earlier this year. That quota had been agreed with the EU and Norway. A committee of member state representatives voted to back the European Commission's proposal to impose sanctions on the Faroe Islands for overfishing of Atlanto-Scandian herring.
These fishery criminals of Europe might still have to face litigation for the bloody grind as well. Denmark, of which the Faroe Islands are a protectorate, is in violation of three conventions it has signed whereby it vowed to do everything within its capacity to protect Pilot whales—the Bern Convention, Bonn Convention and ASCOBANS. As a result, Sea Shepherd France is bringing the matter to the European Commission in order to compel Denmark to enforce the obligations contained in these conventions and act to uphold the principles outlined therein.
The Faeroes economy depends in large part on fish exports. If you are upset by the grinds, consider not buying their products and urging your supermarkets and governments not to import them.
To contact the Danish Foreign Ministry directly with your complaints, call overseas at 011 45 33 92 0000 or send an e-mail to [email protected]
Visit EcoWatch’s BIODIVERSITY page for more related news on this topic.
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By Eric Tate and Christopher Emrich
Disasters stemming from hazards like floods, wildfires, and disease often garner attention because of their extreme conditions and heavy societal impacts. Although the nature of the damage may vary, major disasters are alike in that socially vulnerable populations often experience the worst repercussions. For example, we saw this following Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey, each of which generated widespread physical damage and outsized impacts to low-income and minority survivors.
Mapping Social Vulnerability<p>Figure 1a is a typical map of social vulnerability across the United States at the census tract level based on the Social Vulnerability Index (SoVI) algorithm of <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1540-6237.8402002" target="_blank"><em>Cutter et al.</em></a> . Spatial representation of the index depicts high social vulnerability regionally in the Southwest, upper Great Plains, eastern Oklahoma, southern Texas, and southern Appalachia, among other places. With such a map, users can focus attention on select places and identify population characteristics associated with elevated vulnerabilities.</p>
Fig. 1. (a) Social vulnerability across the United States at the census tract scale is mapped here following the Social Vulnerability Index (SoVI). Red and pink hues indicate high social vulnerability. (b) This bivariate map depicts social vulnerability (blue hues) and annualized per capita hazard losses (pink hues) for U.S. counties from 2010 to 2019.<p>Many current indexes in the United States and abroad are direct or conceptual offshoots of SoVI, which has been widely replicated [e.g., <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13753-016-0090-9" target="_blank"><em>de Loyola Hummell et al.</em></a>, 2016]. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) <a href="https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/placeandhealth/svi/index.html" target="_blank">has also developed</a> a commonly used social vulnerability index intended to help local officials identify communities that may need support before, during, and after disasters.</p><p>The first modeling and mapping efforts, starting around the mid-2000s, largely focused on describing spatial distributions of social vulnerability at varying geographic scales. Over time, research in this area came to emphasize spatial comparisons between social vulnerability and physical hazards [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-009-9376-1" target="_blank"><em>Wood et al.</em></a>, 2010], modeling population dynamics following disasters [<a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11111-008-0072-y" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Myers et al.</em></a>, 2008], and quantifying the robustness of social vulnerability measures [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-012-0152-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Tate</em></a>, 2012].</p><p>More recent work is beginning to dissolve barriers between social vulnerability and environmental justice scholarship [<a href="https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2018.304846" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Chakraborty et al.</em></a>, 2019], which has traditionally focused on root causes of exposure to pollution hazards. Another prominent new research direction involves deeper interrogation of social vulnerability drivers in specific hazard contexts and disaster phases (e.g., before, during, after). Such work has revealed that interactions among drivers are important, but existing case studies are ill suited to guiding development of new indicators [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2015.09.013" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Rufat et al.</em></a>, 2015].</p><p>Advances in geostatistical analyses have enabled researchers to characterize interactions more accurately among social vulnerability and hazard outcomes. Figure 1b depicts social vulnerability and annualized per capita hazard losses for U.S. counties from 2010 to 2019, facilitating visualization of the spatial coincidence of pre‑event susceptibilities and hazard impacts. Places ranked high in both dimensions may be priority locations for management interventions. Further, such analysis provides invaluable comparisons between places as well as information summarizing state and regional conditions.</p><p>In Figure 2, we take the analysis of interactions a step further, dividing counties into two categories: those experiencing annual per capita losses above or below the national average from 2010 to 2019. The differences among individual race, ethnicity, and poverty variables between the two county groups are small. But expressing race together with poverty (poverty attenuated by race) produces quite different results: Counties with high hazard losses have higher percentages of both impoverished Black populations and impoverished white populations than counties with low hazard losses. These county differences are most pronounced for impoverished Black populations.</p>
Fig. 2. Differences in population percentages between counties experiencing annual per capita losses above or below the national average from 2010 to 2019 for individual and compound social vulnerability indicators (race and poverty).<p>Our current work focuses on social vulnerability to floods using geostatistical modeling and mapping. The research directions are twofold. The first is to develop hazard-specific indicators of social vulnerability to aid in mitigation planning [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-020-04470-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Tate et al.</em></a>, 2021]. Because natural hazards differ in their innate characteristics (e.g., rate of onset, spatial extent), causal processes (e.g., urbanization, meteorology), and programmatic responses by government, manifestations of social vulnerability vary across hazards.</p><p>The second is to assess the degree to which socially vulnerable populations benefit from the leading disaster recovery programs [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/17477891.2019.1675578" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Emrich et al.</em></a>, 2020], such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) <a href="https://www.fema.gov/individual-disaster-assistance" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Individual Assistance</a> program and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) <a href="https://www.hudexchange.info/programs/cdbg-dr/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Disaster Recovery</a> program. Both research directions posit social vulnerability indicators as potential measures of social equity.</p>
Social Vulnerability as a Measure of Equity<p>Given their focus on social marginalization and economic barriers, social vulnerability indicators are attracting growing scientific interest as measures of inequity resulting from disasters. Indeed, social vulnerability and inequity are related concepts. Social vulnerability research explores the differential susceptibilities and capacities of disaster-affected populations, whereas social equity analyses tend to focus on population disparities in the allocation of resources for hazard mitigation and disaster recovery. Interventions with an equity focus emphasize full and equal resource access for all people with unmet disaster needs.</p><p>Yet newer studies of inequity in disaster programs have documented troubling disparities in income, race, and home ownership among those who <a href="https://eos.org/articles/equity-concerns-raised-in-federal-flood-property-buyouts" target="_blank">participate in flood buyout programs</a>, are <a href="https://www.eenews.net/stories/1063477407" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">eligible for postdisaster loans</a>, receive short-term recovery assistance [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2020.102010" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Drakes et al.</em></a>, 2021], and have <a href="https://www.texastribune.org/2020/08/25/texas-natural-disasters--mental-health/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">access to mental health services</a>. For example, a recent analysis of federal flood buyouts found racial privilege to be infused at multiple program stages and geographic scales, resulting in resources that disproportionately benefit whiter and more urban counties and neighborhoods [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/2378023120905439" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Elliott et al.</em></a>, 2020].</p><p>Investments in disaster risk reduction are largely prioritized on the basis of hazard modeling, historical impacts, and economic risk. Social equity, meanwhile, has been far less integrated into the considerations of public agencies for hazard and disaster management. But this situation may be beginning to shift. Following the adage of "what gets measured gets managed," social equity metrics are increasingly being inserted into disaster management.</p><p>At the national level, FEMA has <a href="https://www.fema.gov/news-release/20200220/fema-releases-affordability-framework-national-flood-insurance-program" target="_blank">developed options</a> to increase the affordability of flood insurance [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 2018]. At the subnational scale, Puerto Rico has integrated social vulnerability into its CDBG Mitigation Action Plan, expanding its considerations of risk beyond only economic factors. At the local level, Harris County, Texas, has begun using social vulnerability indicators alongside traditional measures of flood risk to introduce equity into the prioritization of flood mitigation projects [<a href="https://www.hcfcd.org/Portals/62/Resilience/Bond-Program/Prioritization-Framework/final_prioritization-framework-report_20190827.pdf?ver=2019-09-19-092535-743" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Harris County Flood Control District</em></a>, 2019].</p><p>Unfortunately, many existing measures of disaster equity fall short. They may be unidimensional, using single indicators such as income in places where underlying vulnerability processes suggest that a multidimensional measure like racialized poverty (Figure 2) would be more valid. And criteria presumed to be objective and neutral for determining resource allocation, such as economic loss and cost-benefit ratios, prioritize asset value over social equity. For example, following the <a href="http://www.cedar-rapids.org/discover_cedar_rapids/flood_of_2008/2008_flood_facts.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2008 flooding</a> in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, cost-benefit criteria supported new flood protections for the city's central business district on the east side of the Cedar River but not for vulnerable populations and workforce housing on the west side.</p><p>Furthermore, many equity measures are aspatial or ahistorical, even though the roots of marginalization may lie in systemic and spatially explicit processes that originated long ago like redlining and urban renewal. More research is thus needed to understand which measures are most suitable for which social equity analyses.</p>
Challenges for Disaster Equity Analysis<p>Across studies that quantify, map, and analyze social vulnerability to natural hazards, modelers have faced recurrent measurement challenges, many of which also apply in measuring disaster equity (Table 1). The first is clearly establishing the purpose of an equity analysis by defining characteristics such as the end user and intended use, the type of hazard, and the disaster stage (i.e., mitigation, response, or recovery). Analyses using generalized indicators like the CDC Social Vulnerability Index may be appropriate for identifying broad areas of concern, whereas more detailed analyses are ideal for high-stakes decisions about budget allocations and project prioritization.</p>
By Jessica Corbett
Sen. Bernie Sanders on Tuesday was the lone progressive to vote against Tom Vilsack reprising his role as secretary of agriculture, citing concerns that progressive advocacy groups have been raising since even before President Joe Biden officially nominated the former Obama administration appointee.