As It Happens

Danish MP defends bloody whale hunt off shores of Faroe Islands

Animal rights activists are furious after a pod of over 100 pilot whales were slaughtered on the shores of the Faroe Islands. We'll speak with one Danish MP who defends the annual tradition.
People watch as local residents catch whales to slaughter them in a bay near the town of Hvalvik in the Faroe Islands in 2009. (Andrija Ilic/Reuters)

On Tuesday, the shores of the Faroe Islands were awash with blood. A pod of more than 100 pilot whales were corralled, brought ashore and killed. It's called "grindadráp" or "the grind." It's an annual tradition on the Danish islands that dates back to the 16th century.

"The Faroe Islands is a very tough climate and there's not that many sources of food in the area. Therefore, it's just one of the ways that people were able to get food in the old days," Rasmus Jarlov, a member of Danish Parliament, tells As It Happens guest host Helen Mann.

Inhabitants of Faroe Islands catch and slaughter pilot whales during the traditional 'grindadrap' (whale hunting in Faroese) near Sandur in 2012. (Andrija Ilic/Reuters)

Jarlov defends the controversial practice of whale hunting. Over the years, he has received thousands of emails from people who are outraged that the hunt still occurs.

If you are like most of us, that eat bacon and poultry every day — and never think of the conditions that these animals live under — I think it is hypocrisy to target the whale hunting.- Danish MP Rasmus Jarlov

"I understand the emotions that these very dramatic pictures trigger," says Jarlov. "But, I'm just asking that people think it through . . . If you compare it to any other source of meat, I would argue that it's much more humane than eating pork or poultry — where the animals live their entire lives probably without ever seeing the sun in very, very confined space for their entire lifetime."

Jarlov later continues, "If you are vegan or if you only eat meat from animals that live under very good conditions, I do think you have the moral right to criticize any kind of slaughtering of animals — including the whale hunt. But, if you are like most of us, that eat bacon and poultry every day — and never think of the conditions that these animals live under — I think it is hypocrisy to target the whale hunting."

Sea Shepherd, a marine conservation non-profit, has been protesting this hunt since the 1980s. The group says it is preparing to take legal action against Denmark to enforce legislation to make the hunt illegal.  

Whale hunting is illegal across the European Union. However, Jarlov says these laws do not apply to the Faroe Islands.

"The issue of whale hunting is an issue that's being taken care of by the local government in the Faroe Islands," he says. "So, there's not much we could do, if we wanted to."


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