Open letter to Local.fo in response to the London Author who wishes to stay away!
Dear Faroese People,
I’m probably going to be unpopular to all sides now. I am anti-whaling and disagree strongly with the grindadráp. I even once wrote a similar letter to that of Isabel Losada to the Faroese Tourist Group, Visit Faroes Islands, a long time ago now.
However, I have come to realise, by talking and listening to people, (including Faroese, some of whom take part in grindadráp) that the issue is not so black and white. I became a Faroes Whale Action Group member on Facebook a few years ago and recently was asked to join the admin as I have become more confident in challenging some of the misinformation and more hateful posts.
It is my experience in this forum that has shaped my belief that hatred only spawns more hatred on both sides; where abuse is not tolerated but where the two sides can check out information/misinformation; to challenge each other respectfully, exchange ideas and yes, develop respect for each other despite our huge cultural differences.
I learned that the whaling practice was in decline within Faroese communities until a certain so called environmental group came to the islands, taking direct action in an invasive gesture, drawing world wide attention to the Faroe Islands whale killing and in the process, doing very nicely out of donations from mainly westernised animal lovers who were shocked at photos of the killing.
I learned that the climate is bleak, to say the least and the soil not suitable for growing many vegetables so most have to be imported at great expense to islanders.
I learned that farming of sheep and geese is relatively small scale with the farmers often slaughtering their own livestock, so being responsible for their lives and deaths. That their main income is from exporting fish that they catch. That Faroese people hold animal welfare close to their hearts, have strict animal welfare laws so have to be trained before wading in the waters to kill the beached pod of whales. That they pride themselves in a quick kill with a specifically developed lance and to ensure that this happens are licensed on completion of that training.
I also learned that theirs is a rich culture; education is effective and highly valued; most Faroese are multi-lingual and can argue well in languages other than their mother tongue.
I learned that their hunts are not commercial but that the whale meat is shared fairly within the community that reported, drove in, killed and handled the dead carcasses of the pod. This can account for up to a quarter of meat consumption in communities.
I learned that many people, myself included, live in countries with far greater animal welfare issues in our own farming and slaughterhouse activities; in our sport hunting and in our own controversial badger culls, yet we choose to bring our righteous indignation to these small communities on these tiny, yet beautiful islands.
I learned that Faroese, regardless of their views or whether they eat whale meat or not, are subject to barrages of abuse, lies, misinformation, hate mail, death threats, internet trolling, cyber attacks that are just unacceptable. We would not tolerate even the slightest abusive behaviour in our own children yet think it’s ok to bully and threaten Faroese families. That is appalling, so much hatred towards people alongside the so called love for pilot whales.
I could go on.
So do I now agree with the grindadrap? Hell no, nothing would make me happier than if Faroese communities decided to let it go. But I now totally accept that these decisions are not mine to take. It is up to the Faroese and their right to self determination.
And to the lovely, well meaning person who sent her open letter, I ask: Which other countries will you be boycotting for holidays? France with their appalling record of dolphin bycatch that dwarfs the kills in Faroes? Or for their foie gras production? Spain for their bull fighting? Iceland for restarting commercial whaling? Norway and Japan for that matter? China for eating anything that breathes? How about USA for their chlorinated chickens?
Will you be boycotting the UK, where you live, for the badger cull which flies in the face of current scientific data? Or maybe for our appalling fox hunts, illegal but still occurring; hare coursing; grouse and pheasant shooting and the illegal killing of raptors preying on these game birds?
For our abattoirs where animals are killed behind closed doors after long cramped journeys in huge multi-deck lorries? For our own dolphin bycatch in UK waters, where about a thousand harbour porpoises and many hundreds of common dolphins die each year in UK static and mobile fishing gear?
In every country and island group there are awful practices somewhere, from spear fishing turtles to the death of millions and millions of sharks. You could find your holiday destination choices somewhat diminished.
If we really want to see the end of the grindadrap, certainly calling all Faroese people ‘backward’ is both untrue and self defeating. Abuse saved not a single whale and the tourism industry in the Faroes is alive and thriving. Rather get to know about the culture, history, traditions, stories, lifestyles, problems and solutions. Foster friendships not enemies. Speak with and listen to people whose culture is as rich and colourful as any.
I will visit, I will talk to people and hopefully experience the hospitality and culture for which Faroese are known. Walk and wonder at the stark beauty of the islands; diversity of the wildlife and unique life styles. I would never go to watch a grindadráp nor eat whale meat or blubber. But that is my choice as a visitor. I have learned that the Faroese are about so much more than the grindadráp.
Evesham, Worcs. UK