Subject: Whaling Faroe slands

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Mon, 31 Oct 1994 18:30:07

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Subject: Whaling Faroe slands
 
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Subj:	Faroese whale hunt gives
 
Date:         Fri, 28 Oct 1994 10:41:00 UTC
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From:         r.mallon1@genie.geis.com
Subject:      Faroese whale hunt gives
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Faroese whale hunt gives meat, boosts national identity
     By Lars Foyen
     TORSHAVN, Faroe Islands, Oct 28 (Reuter) - The Faroe
islanders' centuries-old tradition of driving schools of pilot
whales into bays and slaughtering them with knives enrages
environmentalists all over the world.
     But the 46,000 inhabitants of the 18-island group between
Norway and Iceland, have no plans to stop.
     "The Faroese see the killing of pilot whales as an act in
full harmony with nature. Using the whales as a natural resource
is an important part of the Faroese identity," said Eydun
Andreassen, social anthropologist at Torshavn University.
     A deep crisis caused by declining fish stocks, reducing the
islands' overall economic output by 30 percent in five years,
has made the whale hunt all the more important.
     "A large element of subsistence economy makes Faroese
society more robust than you might think. Many people catch
their own fish and birds and eat whale meat," said Kjartan
Hoydal, head of the government Fisheries Board.
     "In parts of the islands where the whaling season has been
very good, families have had whale meat on the table twice a
week," Hoydal said.
     About 25 percent of the meat consumed on the Faroe Islands
comes from whales, he said, adding that none of the meat and
blubber is wasted.
     Up to 2,000 whales were slaughtered each year in the 1980s,
falling to 800 in 1993 and an estimated 1,000 this year.
     Pilot whales, which can be up to seven metres (23 feet)
long, are found in large schools in the North Atlantic, the
Mediterranean and the Pacific and are not threatened by
extinction.
     Subsequently, they are not covered by the regulations of the
International Whaling Commission (IWC).
     But when the whale became a symbol of conservation in the
1980s, protests grew against the Faroese practice which
environmentalists called a cruel, ritual orgy of killing.
     Foreign television film of up to 200 beached whales being
stabbed to death at the same time, staining the water dark red,
was broadcast into millions of homes around the world.
     Protesters are not as active now as in the late 1980s when
environmentalist groups sent boats to the Faroes to take
"direct action" against the hunt. But there are still calls
for consumer boycotts of Faroese fish in Britain and Germany.
     A British army soccer team last summer cancelled a game in
the Faroes in protest against the whale hunt. Last year,
ex-Beatle Paul McCartney showed a film of a Faroese whale hunt
during a concert tour.
     The international protests have had no effect. Opinion polls
show 95 percent of the Faroese support the hunt.
     Andreassen believes the protests reflect just how far modern
man has been removed from his hunter origins.
     "Most people in modern countries meet nature packed in
plastic in a supermarket. Here people take part in the whole
process of putting food on the table -- breeding, slaughtering,
preparing, cooking and eating.
     "The Faroese do not understand the idea of the whale being
a higher creature than other animals," he said.
     The Faroese, descendants of Norwegian Vikings who settled
there around 800 AD, did not enter the modern world until this
century when efficient fishing methods enabled them to win a
standard of living commensurate with that of their Nordic
neighbours.
     In the midst of a modern market economy linking villages on
the 18 islands with excellent roads, bridges and tunnels, the
ancient, communal whale hunt lives on.
     Most male members in a district take part if they get the
chance, even high government officials like Hoydal. The meat is
distributed according to traditional rules, the main rule being
equal shares to all inhabitants of a distict.
     The Faroese have revised hunting rules to make the slaughter
as painless as possible but the essence of the practice is
unchanged.
     "We have never found a more efficient way of doing it.
Professional butchers would only be available in small numbers
and the process would take longer time and be more painful.
     "If all pigs in Britain were slaughtered in one place it
would also be a bloody event," Hoydal said in his office,
situated in a group of traditional red-painted cottages at
Torshavn harbour, the seat of the Faroese government.
     "Methods of slaughter were discussed before
environmentalists like Greenpeace appeared on the scene. The
hunt was much bloodier as late as in the 1950s and 1960s,"
Andreassen said.
     "It is no longer accepted that the slaughter should be a
ritual of violent ecstasy as, to be quite honest, was sometimes
the case."