Is Brussels set to take on the Faroes over the pilot whale hunt?

Conservation news


It's always a bitter moment when we report that the first grind has taken place in the Faroe Islands, but the season has now begun and 40 pilot whales were killed on May 4th.

This year, the start of the hunt has coincided with the submission of a motion in the European parliament by Spanish MEP Francisco Guerreiro,. The three-part motion (MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION on whale and dolphin hunting in the Faroe Islands | B9-0217/2024 | European Parliament ( ) calls for a suspension of the Faroes from EU funding programmes, mandatory labelling of fish products originating from the Faroes and finally the introduction of accepted international standards prohibiting the targeting of mothers and offspring. As it’s not a legally binding motion, you’d be forgiven for thinking it's probably a waste of time. However if it does pass (and that is quite possible), then the EU has to respond and set out how it intends to address the concerns.

The Faroes have been quite indifferent to international opinion about the Grind, but high-level actions which harm them economically are not something they can be flippant about.

Last year, a joint report Unravelling the Truth: Whale killing in the Faroe Islands was published by the Animal Welfare Institute, Environmental Investigation Agency, Oceanic Preservation Society, Humane Society International, OceanCare, Pro-Wildlife and ORCA. One of its key findings was that while support for the pilot whale grind and for continuing to kill pilot whales in the Faroes was as high at 84%, only 38% of respondents had taken part in it several times or more. 39% of islanders (2 in 5) had never taken part in the grind and 22% either once or occasionally.

There's a knotty philosophical issue at the heart of all this.

We live in a society where some things that are morally wrong are also perfectly legal. People who lie, cheat, deceive or break promises aren’t necessarily breaking any laws, but you do not see many people standing up to defend them. You’ll see even less arguing that while they didn’t behave like that in their own lives, they were perfectly fine with others who did.

It is said that when good people do nothing then evil triumphs. But in some societies, good people know they can’t change things and have to stay silent. But when indifferent people (like those in the poll, who don’t even take part in the Grind) shrug their shoulders and say they don’t have a problem with something that is fundamentally and morally wrong, then it just becomes normalized, and society loses its moral compass.

If the motion passes, it's unlikely that the status quo, or stalemate, or whatever we call it, will continue quite as before. That at least, is all we can hope for at the moment.

Photo credit: Rhian Grey

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