Commentary by Sea Shepherd Founder, Captain Paul Watson
During the summer of 2014, a VICE TV crew was in the Faroe Islands where they produced the report, “The Grind: Whale Hunting in the Faroe Islands.”
The filmmakers apparently were seduced by the myth that the Grind is a “sustainable” activity and a tradition upon which rests the very foundation of Faroese culture.
As such they deliberately left out a few very important facts, the first being that the Faroese do not depend upon killing whales for survival. There was not a single shot of a Faroese supermarket nor a mention that the Faroe Islands rank at the top in Europe for per capita income. There was no mention that any product that can be purchased in any supermarket in Europe is also available in the Faroe Islands, including tropical fruits, whale meat from Norway and products from all over the planet.
The film attempts to present the Faroese as being somewhat apart from the industrialized world, sort of like an indigenous utopia where life is as it has been for centuries. Yet there is no mention of the very industrialized Faroese fishing industry or the developing oil fields.
The Faroese want it both ways – to eat imported food and to present the myth that they depend upon killing whales for survival.
The film states that the killing of the whales in the grind is legal but ignored Sea Shepherd’s position that whaling is illegal in the European Union (EU) and that the Faroe Islands receive subsidies from the EU through Denmark. There is no mention of the hundreds of dolphins slaughtered each year or the thousands of puffins killed.
The film implies that all of the whales are utilized but ignored the evidence Sea Shepherd has presented of whale bodies thrown into the sea, our underwater film footage of decomposing bodies or whole bodies trucked off to dump sites and incinerators.
Last year’s Operation GrindStop 2014 was Sea Shepherd’s second most successful intervention. Whereas in the same period of time in 2013 more than 1,300 pilot whales and dolphins were killed, only 33 were killed in 2014. The film shows the killing of these 33 whales but ignores the Sea Shepherd interference against the killing, although it does show the arrests of some Sea Shepherd crewmembers without any explanation of what they were arrested for. Sea Shepherd’s most successful campaign to the Faroes was Operation Ferocious Isles in the summer of 2011; not a single whale was killed while Sea Shepherd patrolled the islands that year.
On the positive side, the interview with Sea Shepherd France President and GrindStop 2014 Offshore Campaign Leader, Lamya Essemlali was in sharp contrast with the interviews with most of the Faroese whalers. Lamya was understanding and she calmly stated Sea Shepherd’s position, whereas the Faroese made rude and very defensive comments in response. Actress Pamela Anderson, GrindStop 2014 Onshore Campaign Leader Rosie Kunneke and Lamya held their own in the face of some angry Faroese whalers at a media conference in Torshavn.
The sight of Faroese children jumping on the whales and playing with fetuses ripped from the bodies of their mothers was disturbing.
Also on the positive side there is the coverage of the issue of mercury in the whale meat and the effect it is having on Faroese children. In addition the cruelty of the Grind speaks for itself and the Faroese, in their own words, make our case for us. The one thing certainly left out of this report is empathy for the sentient, intelligent, self-aware, socially complex beings called the pilot whales. The report treats the whales as just material slabs of meat and tries to present the whalers as noble hunters surviving against harsh odds. The whalers drive cars, use expensive boats and have all the luxuries of any person in the developed world of which they are a part; their pretense of being poor and dependent upon free meat from the sea is pathetically bogus.
VICE saw what they wanted to see – a savage romantic myth that they painted with fabrications while ignoring all evidence to the contrary.