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WDCS has joined with partner organisations and conservation groups to renew its call for an end to the pilot whale drive hunts, or grinds, which occur in the Faroe Islands.

Representing six different countries, including Denmark, the coalition sent a statement and letter to the Faroese Prime Minister, Kaj Leo Holm Johannesen, about its concerns regarding the high number of pilot whales killed over the past three years in the annual pilot whale drive hunts.

2,423 pilot whales have been killed since the beginning of 2010, raising serious human health, animal welfare and conservation concerns. This year alone, 590 pilot whales have been killed in the hunts. WDCS, along with the other organizations, are urging the Faroe Islanders to bring a permanent end to the hunting of pilot whales and other species of whale and dolphin.

The drive hunts are an extremely inhumane practice where entire family groups of pilot whales are rounded up out at sea by small motor boats and driven to the shore where they are killed in shallow bays. Once they beach, blunt-ended metal hooks inserted into their blowholes are used to drag the whales up the beach or in the shallows, where they are killed with a knife cut to their major blood vessels.

WDCS believes that the driving, dragging and killing, all of which takes place within view of their pod members, is intensely stressful and cruel. Pilot whales, and other species, including bottlenose dolphins, Atlantic white-sided dolphins and northern bottlenose whales, are still hunted for their meat in the Faroe Islands.

There is no formal season for the ‘grinds,’ which typically occur during the summer months when the animals can be found closer to shore during the whales’ calving and breeding season. Pilot whales have been documented by WDCS during field work along the Western Isles of Scotland, only 228 nautical miles (262 miles) from the Faroe Islands.
In July 2011, WDCS worked to save pilot whales stranded on the beaches in Scotland, and we are saddened to think that these may be some of the same whales who were needlessly slaughtered in recent hunts in the Faroe Islands.
Human health effects associated with consuming pilot whale meat have been well-documented. Long-term research undertaken by Faroese researchers Dr. Pál Weihe and Dr. Høgni Debes Joensen, in association with other world leading scientists, has revealed that due to the high levels of mercury and PCBs found in pilot whales, consumption of the meat and blubber has detrimental effects on the development of fetal nervous and immune systems, and increases the risk of Parkinson’s disease, hypertension, arteriosclerosis of the carotid arteries in adults, and Type II diabetes.

Most recently, this same recommendation is reiterated in a recent article published in the Journal of Circumpolar Health where both Weihe and Joensen, the chief medical officers in the Faroe Islands, state that from a human health perspective, pilot whale should no longer be used for human consumption. This conclusion mirrors the broad international scientific agreement on the strong link between mercury in all cetacean (whale, dolphin and porpoise) products and a variety of human diseases and medical conditions including Parkinson’s disease, arteriosclerosis, immune suppression and hypertension. Threats to children include autism, Asperger’s Syndrome and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

WDCS continues its call for an end to the drive hunts, wherever they occur. Find out what you can do.