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Credit: Seacoast Science Center

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Consider the pilot whales

A new website has surfaced that shifts the focus from the conflict surrounding the pilot whale drive hunts, or ‘grindadrap,’ that usually occur in the Faroe Islands between the months of May and November, to the beauty and wonder of the pilot whale. Introduced just weeks ago, grindaboð.fo provides a Faroese perspective on pilot whales and threats to their survival. An English version of the website will reportedly be online by the end of September.

A stated goal of this new initiative is to pay tribute to this iconic animal that has played an important role in the survival of the Faroese people through difficult times in history. It also seeks to provide basic information about the pilot whale, and cetacean life in general.

WDC understands that whaling in the Faroe Islands has been considered to be an important part of Faroese tradition for many centuries. We believe, however, that in situations where they are no longer necessary for subsistence purposes and where they seriously and demonstrably compromise human health, animal welfare and wildlife conservation, such traditional activities should cease. WDC will continue to oppose these hunts, and indeed all cruel customs, no matter how deeply rooted in tradition.

However, instead of focusing on this conflict, it is wonderful to see an initiative coming from voices within the Faroe Islands seeking awareness and understanding of these amazing creatures, perhaps enabling the public to view these issues through a different lens, and through the perspective and consideration of the pilot whale, in all of its beauty, complexity, and capacity for suffering.

We hope for a day when the ‘grindadráp’ will end and all Faroese people will find new and harmless ways of engaging with pilot whales. Perhaps a first step is to engender a curiosity to understand and really know these complex, sentient, and social creatures, not as objects to be consumed or exploited, but as part of our shared marine heritage that deserves our reverence and respect.