Massacre of the Innocents

The annual cull of the endangered pilot dolphins just off the coast of the remote Faroe Islands is barbarism.

There are still pictures capable of shocking us, possibly even galvanising us into action. This may be one of them. Take a long hard look at this image; knots of onlookers, a vast shoal of pilot dolphins, men seemingly wrestling in a sea of red.


This is the annual cull of the endangered pilot dolphin just off the coat of the remote Faroe Islands in the outer reaches of the North Atlantic. It is a scene that will be familiar to generations of islanders, who for centuries eked out a precarious existence in these far northern lands, close to the Arctic Circle. On closer inspection, the sea is foaming red with blood, the dolphins herded together so that there can be no escape. They are savaged with sharp billhooks; perhaps it takes three deep gouges to kill these magnificent creatures. Imagine the panic and the fear and the noise! Dolphins, as we know are intelligent, sensitive creatures.

This barbarism is taking place in what is officially part of Western Europe. The Faroe Islands belong to Denmark, which is of course an upstanding member of the European Union. And as we all know the European Union has adopted whole panoply of legislation designed to end cruelty to animals. In fact, such is the exemplary record of the European Union in these matters; its Parliament regularly condemns other countries that allow cruelty and exploitative behaviour towards animals.

So why is this barbarism allowed to continue? Those who have protested to the clearly embarrassed Danish Government have been politely informed that although Denmark is responsible for the Faroe Islands, its domestic policies remain a matter for the Faroese. In others words the Faroe Islands are outside the jurisdiction of the European Union, although the Faroese are happy recipients of plenty of EU largesse.

The Danish authorities also request protestors to think of local customs and habits, and seem to suggest that the Faroese are dependent on dolphin meat – much in the same way the Japanese Government is wont to defend whaling. It would be possible to have some sympathy with the Faroese dolphin killers, if like the Inuit, they lived on a subsistence level. But there is little evidence that the Faroese are dependent on dolphin meat. Quite the reverse; their living standards would be the envy of many who live in warmer climes.

So all of your Americans and Brits who are even now preparing warm coats for your pet dogs this winter, or who are just about to visit the pet shop to get a treat for your cat, spare a thought for the massacred pilot dolphins of the Faroe Islands. And if you have a moment or two, why not write and protest to the Government of the Faroe Islands at mfa@mfa.fo

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