Social media is on a firestorm over the massive killings of the “Calderon Dolphins”, also known as pilot whales. The photos of the massacres are graphic and heart-wrenching, which has people fired up about the whale drive. The pictures and videos are almost unbelievable, so what is the story behind the whale drive? Here are the facts surrounding this story that is blazing through social media.
Whale drives in the Faroe Islands
The story circulating uses Denmark as the place these killings are happening, but the massacres are really occurring in the Faroe Islands. These islands are between Iceland and Norway, just Northwest of Scotland in the Gulf Stream. Although the Faroe Islands are within the Kingdom of Denmark, they are self-governing. Fishing is their primary source of income, and the nationals use the whale meat for food.
Whale drives in the Faroe Islands dates back to 1584. Over time, records show that an estimated 800 pilot whales are killed each year for their consumption. The number each year varies by opportunity, so some years more are slaughtered, and some years less. The information circulating says that the killing of whales is a ritual slaughter for boys to prove they are men, but the Faroe Island nationals counter that they depend on the whale drives for food. They eat whale steaks with blubber and potatoes, and then preserve and freeze the remaining meat.
The drives only occur when a school of whales has been spotted, and an elected whaling official has been notified. From there, word spreads through the community for the nationals to gather in the bay to catch and slaughter the whales.
Faroese whaling regulations
The Faroe Islands have their regulations set in place by the Faroese animal welfare legislation. This requires that the whales be killed as quickly as possible to reduce the suffering of the species. They require the nationals to kill the whale by using a spinal lance to sever the spinal cord, and in turn, cutting the major blood supply to the brain. This leads to unconsciousness and death within seconds, according to the Ministry of Fisheries. Faroese people also use blow-hole hooks to secure the whale, and whaling knifes to aid in the killing.
The Bonn Convention
Denmark is included in the Bonn Convention, which is the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals that protects mammals in the North and Baltic Seas, but it does not extend to the Faroe Islands. Although it doesn’t reach the islands, the pilot whales that swim there do meet the criteria of the Bonn Convention, and describes the whales as having a favorable conservation status.
Elimination of whaling
The United States is one of the anti-whaling countries, and has made efforts to eliminate whaling in other countries that have found loopholes in the international treaty to protect marine mammals, but even with campaigns to end the hunts, other countries continue to kill the whales. The World Society for the Protection of Animals has also found that there is no humane way to kill a whale at sea, which is why they staunchly oppose whale drives. They say there is proof that many of the whales end up suffering for over an hour before they die through the experience.