Friday, August 13, 2010

Help stop the whale killing

Standing idle in the face of gratuitous cruelty, whether it applies to human or animals, just lowers us.


The Faroe Islands are a group of islands half way between Iceland and Scotland in the North Atlantic and belonging to Denmark. Every year since 1584, it is the scene of a barbaric and cruel mass-killing of Calderon dolphins and whales known as Grindadràp.

During this annual event, the local men use boats to herd the creatures into a cove and then kill them by hand with a custom-made tool much resembling a gaff hook. It is a local rite of passage for young men to kill their first whale or dolphin. The cove turns red with the blood spilled from these gentle and intelligent creatures. Can animals feel pain? What do you think? Images of the event can be found at You will find the images disturbing and they should be.

Animal-rights activists argue that the grindadráp is not only cruel, but in view of the ample food supply in today's Faroes, completely unnecessary. Additional argumentation is supplied by the Faroese Ministry of Health, which warns of excessive consumption of pilot whale meat, since it has been shown to contain high levels of mercury, PCBs and environmental poisons. The Faroese Chief medical officers Pál Weihe and Høgni Debes Joensen announced in late 2008 that pilot whale meat and blubber contains too much mercury, PCBs and DDT derivatives to be safe for human consumption.

We are not talking hunt for sustenance here; we are talking about an event whose sole purpose is to kill living creatures in order to toughen up the virility of the Faroese youth. Watching these graphic images is so overwhelming and we can feel so helpless watching such gratuitous cruelty.

It does not have to be that way. Corporate responsibility is not just an American concept—it applies to Danish companies as well. American consumers routinely buy Danish products starting with Lego toys, Haagen Dazs, Havarti, Haribo candy and, last but not least, Bang & Olufsen stereo equipment. Contact the retailers Walmart, Target, and Albertsons who serve as outputs for these products. Ask them to contact these makers to put pressure on the Danish government to stop these practices. As we all know, money talks. Businesses can be instrumental in making progress.

Human rights and animal rights go hand in hand. Standing idle in the face of gratuitous cruelty, whether it applies to human or animals, just lowers us. In plain words, there is right and there is wrong. This is wrong, terribly wrong.

Jean Jacques Bohl lives in Hailey. He teaches language at Wood River High School and is an advisor to Amnesty International.

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