Jan 13 2017

But why can’t we all just be vegetarians?

FoodThose who ask such a question simply have too little knowledge of the living conditions in countries such as the Faroe Islands. They have not understood the underlying reasons which make it possible for people to live in such remote places with a harsh, sub-Arctic and oceanic climate with very little arable land.

Less than 3 percent of the land in the mountainous, steep Faroese landscape can be grown. This prevents, to a large extent, the Faroese people from growing plants for food. They can, at the most, grow a little potatoes, beets, rhubarbs and some herbs. You can’t even grow fruits and vegetables in greenhouses in a sustainable way (it has been tried several times and it did not pay off), and certainly not in the quantities that would be required to keep  52,000 Faroese people alive.

In sub-Arctic and Arctic regions with very short summers plant-growth is very limited. This means that people who live in these places, have to live off the animals that exist in their vicinity – either by eating the animals themselves or by selling the slaughtered animals / fish to other countries in order to afford importing fruits and vegetables. Nature and climate set these conditions. Unless the people comply with these conditions, no one can survive in the great Arctic and sub-Arctic regions on earth. Millions would have to flee to southern climes, where you can grow fruit and vegetables – to areas, which are already overcrowded.

The Faroe Islanders have to live by what they have at their disposal. Life on the islands requires – and has for more than a thousand years required – some very specific skills that the Faroese people have developed and perfected to survive this place. Besides the little dry land at their disposal, their “land” is the sea around the Faroe Islands, and it is from there, they draw far the most of the resources they feed on or live by. This includes fish, sheep, cattle, hares, birds and … yes, pilot whales too.

You have to live by what is available
The fact that the Faroe Islanders live surrounded by the sea, obviously has great significance in terms of what kind of food people eat in the Faroe Islands, contrary to what people – let’s say – in Italy, Hungary, Mongolia, Sierra Leone or Australia eat, where they have a completely different climate and quite different food alternatives.

People all over the world obtain the food they are able to obtain where they live. You have no other choice but to live by what is available in your environment. This is what becomes your food culture – or food “tradition”, if you want. The available resources become the basis for your economy in the long term. In the Faroe Islands it is a fact that fishing is the “agriculture” the Faroese first of all have to live by, because there is not much else to eat or earn money by. In order to survive the Faroese people simply do not have other choices but to harvest their marine resources.

The Faroe Islanders are, thus basically, a people which exist only by virtue of what nature in their habitat gives them. Specifically, Faroe Islanders live mostly of fish exports, which account for over 90 percent of their exports. They make a good living out of it. The Faroese people simply base their good standard of living on the ocean wealth.

No supermarkets without killing animals
Many foreigners obviously find it difficult to grasp or familiarize themselves with the natural living conditions in the Faroe Islands, because they themselves live under quite different conditions. They just see the good standard of living in the Faroe Islands, which is on par with the standard of living in other countries in the western world. And they see the many Faroese supermarkets and all the fruits and vegetables on the shelves in the supermarkets, and on the basis of that they can’t understand why the Faroese people – just as they do themselves – don’t just buy more fruits and vegetables instead of killing animals.

They forget that without the killing of animals, there would be no fruits and no vegetables on the shelves. They forget that the reason why the standard of living in the Faroe Islands is as high as it is, is very much linked to killing of animals, which is the exact reason why there are any supermarkets at this place at all.

It is only because the Faroe Islanders have killed whales, sheep and fish for their own consumption, plus killed some more fish for export that they can afford to import all the fruits and vegetables you see in supermarkets in the Faroe Islands. Without the skills of the Faroese to be able to kill animals in an efficient and sustainable way (the Faroese, certainly, are not interested in cutting the branch off on which they are sitting), there would be no supermarkets that sell fruits and vegetables.

Killing of animals makes fruit and vegetables affordable
If the Faroese were forced to stop killing, let’s say pilot whales, for example, they would just have to kill more other animals to cover the loss. They would first have to kill many, many more fish in order to export more, so they can afford to import more food from abroad. In practice it would mean that many more fish in the sea around the Faroe Islands and many more foreign cows, pigs, chickens or other animals had to die and be slaughtered, in order for the Faroese to cover their food consumption as a replacement for the loss of whale meat, which represents around one fourth or fifth of the Faroese meat consumption.

Or if the Faroese – in accordance with many a vegan’s dream – suddenly all became vegans / vegetarians – or let’s say, if the entire world population was vegan / vegetarian, and the Faroese therefore couldn’t kill any fish, any sheep, any birds or any whales anymore – well, that would mean that there would be no food at all in the islands because the Faroese people would have nothing to export and make money off and therefore would have no money at all to pay for the import of fruits and vegetables.

It would be completely impossible to survive in the Faroe Islands. Therefore the Faroe Islanders still have to kill animals even today, quite simply to survive on the islands – even if they themselves were vegans / vegetarians all together.

Differences between urban people and people in the Faroes
I myself grew up in a family where most of the family members had typical Faroese occupations. They were fishermen, sailors and sheep farmers – people who lived in the middle of, and directly by nature. They would never survive if they couldn’t use the natural resources available in their immediate environment. In my childhood, I lived in the midst of their world. I learned the natural rhythm over the year, the seasons the Faroese have adapted their lives to, and all the traditions in the different seasons associated with sheep farming and fishing. Something that most globalized and high tech city residents know very little about and / or have been more or less alienated from.

Let me also tell you that I have lived much of my adult life, actually a quarter of a century, in a major city – namely in Copenhagen. I therefore know the mindset one often meets, especially among urban residents. You could say that I have a good basis for comparison. I have seen the Faroese and Danish (Copenhagen) culture both inside and outside. And they are very different.

I find that many urban residents live in an almost entirely man-made - not to say ‘artificial’ – world, which certainly feels very real to them, but is in fact very far from the harsh life in the North Atlantic where humans are much more subject to the whims of nature. Urban residents are not forced to, in the same degree, to be responsible for their own survival by living directly off of natural resources. Urban dwellers have the luxury that they can entrust their survival – i.e. provision of food – to the system and let others do the dirty job, which is to kill the animals they eat.

Urban people humanize animals
Therefore, most urban residents don’t really know what it means – or what it involves not having any other choice, if you want to survive, but to kill animals, as many people in the sub-Arctic and Arctic regions have to do to a larger extent. Therefore urban residents often perceive animals differently. Animals – especially mammals – are creatures that the urban residents mostly perceive as sweet, nice pets. They also see wild animals kind of the same way, not that they want to keep them as pets, but the animals are humanized (in other words, anthropomorphized) – i.e. attributed human qualities and personified to such an extent that they now rank on par with humans or higher. The higher the “cuteness” factor, the more they will be offended by the fact that the animals are killed in order to end up as food for humans.

Therefore, killing of animals – especially those who are perceived as particularly sweet and intelligent (and thus humanlike), such as whales for example – will be compared to the murdering of people. Some people even relate so closely to animals emotionally, that they set them higher than humans. They will defend the animals with their lives, and the world should therefore partout be forced to regard the animals in the same way. It’s this kind of people who join rabid animal welfare organizations like Sea Shepherd, for example.

The Faroese people are different in a way that even though they have been modernized and globalized in recent years and are, in many ways, similar to urban residents to confusion – and although many young people, especially in Torshavn, are very much influenced by the outside world and no longer have the same feel for what makes the wheels spin in the Faroe Islands, most people still feel , that they have a very close connection to the old way of living and surviving in the Faroe Islands in close harmony with nature. They still have a direct “hands on” understanding of the importance of the natural resources, and the fact that their own survival actually depends on the killing of animals, on using every bit and let as little as possible go to waste – and, not least, on doing it in a sustainable way.

Great respect for what ensures the survival
Faroese nature is hard to overlook. You just can’t escape nature when you live in such a small archipelago in the middle of the North Atlantic. Nature is omnipresent all around you all the time. You can’t possibly forget it. Especially because the climate is so harsh for most of the year, especially in the fall, winter and spring, so you can’t help that you literally feel nature with your entire body every day when you step outside the door.

Although everyday life for many Faroese people (especially in the only city in the Faroe Islands, Torshavn, with 20,000 inhabitants) might look like everyday life as it is for people in most of the Western world, there are so many other aspects of life in the Faroe Islands, which are still very different because of the natural environment, the Faroese live in.

Although the Faroese appear modern and well-educated, it is a fact that everyone – every Faroese – is still very dependent on the relatively limited range of natural resources they have access to in this small country in the middle of the vast ocean. This fact is something that almost every Faroe Islander is very aware of. Most Faroese people know what this nation builds its entire existence on, and therefore (usually) have great respect for, what’s ensuring the foundations of everyone’s survival in the islands.

Self-provided food an important part of culture
It may well be that many Faroese people live a modern life in line with Copenhagers, for example, but at the same time many of them still provide food for themselves and their families in the old ways too – at least in part. Something which is very difficult for outsiders to understand is that it feels like a necessity for many Faroese people to live both a modern and a more traditional life where you hunt your own food. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the Faroese can never feel completely certain that the system will catch you if you fall. Therefore, people make it a point of honor to be as self-sufficient as possible.

The entire community is designed in a way where people appreciate and agree that it is necessary to interrupt your daily work when the time has come to bring the sheep home and slaughter them, or go hunting for fulmars and other birds, or hare-hunting, or attending pilot whale killing – and also to prepare and store the food you have provided for yourself and your family. These foods, which people themselves provide, constitute a large part of the total consumption of food and are indispensable for most families – especially for the 12% of the Faroe Islanders, living on or below the poverty line.

Cultural Imperialism to expect vegan lifestyle of the Faroese
In some years, Faroe Islands has been invaded every summer by a lot of righteous people who bring their vegan- or vegetarian lifestyle with them, many incited by organizations like Sea Shepherd. They come to try to force the Faroese to abandon the life that has always been natural for people to live in these parts of the world. They do not understand that the local food from nature’s larder is inextricably linked to the Faroese people’s survival and culture as a whole. They do not understand that when Faroese people kill whales, for example, it’s not so fundamentally different from what butchers do in their own country.

It can’t be regarded as anything other than cultural imperialism when outsiders invade a country (as it happened in the summers of 2014 and 2015) in a number equal to one million foreigners invading Great Britain or France, for instance, interfering with people’s lives there, soiling them with smear campaigns in the media around the world, making all sorts of contortions to prevent them from eating the food they have always been used to eating, and preventing them to survive the way they have always done in the natural environment in which they live. It can’t be regarded as anything other than cultural imperialism to travel to a foreign country that you have no relation to, to tell the people who live there, they must live in ways that do not feel natural to them and require them to live a different kind of life that is totally incompatible with the environment, the Faroese people live in. How can you demand that the Faroese should adopt a lifestyle that basically belongs to a completely different climate and a completely different environment, and in the long run would effectively mean that the livelihood in the islands would crumble?

Will they ever understand?
Faroese people can defend their lifestyle and fish and meat-based survival all they want against attacks from Sea Shepherd, for example, but fanatical anti-whaling activists will never let themselves be convinced by them anyway – and hardly any vegetarians / vegans around the world either.

But it may work to explain to ordinary reasonable people around the world – especially those who are happy to eat meat themselves – why the Faroese people have to kill animals / fish, and thus make them understand that no matter if the people in the Faroe islands become vegans / vegetarians or not, it is absolutely necessary for them to kill animals (fish) anyway to export, if they expect to have any hope of being able to maintain a sustainable society and survive on these windswept islands.

Permanent link to this article: http://heinesen.info/wp/blog/2017/01/13/but-why-cant-we-all-just-be-vegetarians/

Sep 06 2015

How to identify a psychopathic cult leader

Some religious leader become really dangerous - such as Jim Jones, who was responsible for the mass suicide of 909 followers in Jonestown, Guyana 18th of November 1978..

Some religious leader become really dangerous – such as Jim Jones, who was responsible for the mass suicide of 909 followers in Jonestown, Guyana, 18th of November 1978.

Leaders prone to psychopathy engage in promoting fanaticism and extremism. Psychopathic behaviour is characterised by the use of emotional manipulation, intimidation, bullying, terror and fear mongering in order to gain power and control over others. This article deals with psychopathy especially among religious leaders, who might gather devoted followers to form religious cults – sometimes with a tragic outcome.

By Elin Brimheim Heinesen

(This is a translation of a school project I wrote many years ago, dealing with the subject: Psychopathy among leaders in religious communities, how to recognise a psychopathic cult leader and how to avoid being caught in their web. Psychopathy is a phenomenon, which applies to a percentage of all leaders, no matter whether we’re talking about religious leaders, political leaders or leaders of different organisations or movements. It is important to identify psychopathic leaders, because some of them are extremely scrupulous and will lure people onto a dangerous self-harming path. This piece is written about the dangers of psychopathy of religious leaders, but there are, obviously, similarities between the leaders in question and other non-religious leaders with the same psychiatric disorder. Here it comes:)

Psychopathic leaders may use various methods to gain control over others. Some use grand gestures to impress. Others gain their power in a more subtle indiscernible way. Most of them have a charismatic persona with an extraordinary ability to persuade others, sometimes with charm, sometimes with intimidation – always making a deep emotional impact. But you can recognise a psychopathic religious leader’s agenda by the fact, that his focus is not on getting his followers to do good deeds by, for instance, showing love and understanding. No, he focuses on “enemies” and the “evil” he claims humanity needs to be saved from. And he focuses on getting his followers to “fight” on his side against this “evil”. Fighting enemies is a goal in itself.

Presents him/herself as the solution.
A common method a psychopathic leader uses in order to win followers for his church or religious community is to paint a very grim picture of the horrible evils threatening this world, which the followers need to fight against. Some of these evils are, however, not real, but more or less invented by him in order to exaggerate the threat and shake people to their core. If they’re scared they will become more susceptible to his influence, when he takes the next step: namely, giving people the “solution” to the problem.

He tells them that he has the key to the “only way to be saved” from all their problems and all the evils in this world, and that he knows exactly how to fight it. By making people believe that he – in person – represents the only religion that can save everyone, they come to regard him as the saviour and the only true leader.

Gaining control over others.
What happens, in reality, is that he only uses religion as a tool. His true agenda is to win adherents for himself personally. Religion is an effective tool he can use to fulfill this agenda. A psychopathic leader’s missionary work is not about saving anyone or anything. It is solely about getting admiring followers, over whom he can gain control. Being powerful is the only thing he cares about.

When he claims that he genuinely cares about fighting against evil – often bragging about how successful he is at it – it is only a way to lure people into believing that they really need to support the cause and enroll into his church or religious community. In reality, the church or the religious community is an extremist cult under his total control.

However, leaders of religious extremist cults may very well believe that they really are fighting the good cause, and that they have been inserted by God to do this job, not even realising that they, in fact, are psychopathic megalomaniacs, driven by an insatiable lust for admiration and power over others.

Taking advantage of fears.
But how come that followers don’t see through that? Well, as a psychopath this leader is a master at manipulation. He obtains his power by always hitting people emotionally where they are most fragile. The world is a very scary place sometimes, and life can be quite complicated. Many people feel overwhelmed and challenged, more so than they can bear. Consequently, many are on the brink to give up hope, hoping to be saved from their hopelessness and shown a way forward.

This is something power-hungry psychopaths can take advantage of. And that is why they like to target emotionally vulnerable, confused and insecure people, many of which lack cultural identity or strong roots, and often desperately in need for something to believe in. The more rootless and hopeless they feel, the stronger is their wish to be part of something “good” in order to feel better and more worthy, which makes them easy prey for an extremist cult leader.

Seduced into a web of illusions.
The psychopathic leader offers them a simpler and more manageable worldview, where everything is divided into black and white, good and evil, right and wrong. As a psychopath he is often extremely well articulated and persuasive in his way of instigating proselytes, convincing them into believing that he really “knows” – with absolute certainty – what is right and what is wrong.

Then he gives the confused a “chance” to choose the “right side” and offers them to be part of a movement, where they can feel good about themselves in a community of like-minded people. This has a very seducing effect on some people, who never realise how they are being deceived into a web of illusions. They don’t see how they are being tricked, because the leader makes sure that everyone in the community is applauding them every time they act in favour of the movement and every time they oppose anything that draws them away from the movement.

Turning frustration outwards.
This mutual backslapping, which keeps the flock together, becomes addictive. If someone dares to express the slightest doubts, he will immediately put them into place by playing on their guilty conscience, appealing to them to choose to “do the right thing” and not fall into sin and temptation. If they choose “the evil side”, he promises, doom is certain.

This attempt at dividing people into “us” and “them” is an effective strategy the leader uses in order to make his followers project all their frustrations outwards against an external enemy. The followers become so devoted to their leader and to the fight he’s instigating them to act out, that they are not aware of how he’s always avoiding any criticism, pointing it away from himself by furiously attacking all opponents of his religion. By always acting confident in his ‘belief’ that he is the leader of the “good people” fighting against “the bad people”, he makes sure that all he says and does seems believable and trustworthy in the eyes of his followers.

Fuelling fear of condemnation and exclusion.
Anyone who gets in his way by not following suit is, of course, a dangerous threat to the leader’s position of power. If people are resisting and questioning the leader’s views – or interpreting the world in a different or more nuanced way, they will be deemed as the enemy, who represents “evil”, and they must therefore be fought vigorously.

Anyone questioning the cult’s beliefs will be demonised and dismissed as wayward “infidels”, unable to see the light, and sentenced to be outcasts forever, surely ending up in hell. There is no compromise. You’re either inside or outside. You’re either with the movement or against the movement. You’re either good or evil, either saved or doomed. There is no middle way. Fuelling people’s fear of condemnation and exclusion from the community is an effective way of holding the flock in place, reducing the numbers of renegades.

The making of a make-belief world.
This also, very effectively, removes his followers’ focus away from any temptation to find out for them selves what is real and what is not. If they are presented to other, perhaps more factual world views, they will not see it, because they are so devoted to their leader that they will mistrust anything that goes against their leader’s version of “reality”.

It is very important for a psychopathic cult leader to make sure that his followers are not tempted to do any fact-checking, because if his followers would do that, they might realise that their leader never had any intention of being truthful. On the contrary! In order to achieve as much power and admiration as he can, such a leader won’t hesitate to tell lies that serve his agenda, completely unscrupulously and ruthlessly.

If anyone exposes his lies, he will just aggressively accuse them of being liars themselves, and he will say that they – as the “evil human beings” they are – are only interested in “sabotaging the good cause”. Which is why they shall be regarded as the “enemy”. He knows that nothing can make people more loyal to each other than having a common enemy, so it’s very important to make sure that his cult has enemies. In fact, he welcomes enemies, because they help him inflate his movement.

A psychopathic cult leader is a true expert at persuading people into believing in a make-belief world of good and evil, in which he and his followers are the true heroes – concurring the evils in this world. The leader creates this illusion that if the whole world just followed his “just” rules and the ethics of his religion, the world could reach an utopian state. He convinces the followers to believe, that “if everyone would be just like us, the world would be a much better place!”. Anyone opposing to this is an obstacle, the righteous need to overcome. This is a world-view, which seems appealing to many, because they so wish it to be true.

All for a fix of admiration.
However, a psychopathic cult leader’s actions often reveal that he – like other psychopaths – is basically indifferent to others. In reality he acts selfishly, only in his own interest. It’s, for instance, characteristic for psychopathic cult leaders that they don’t care much about acting as good examples to others, thus, often allowing themselves to break the very rules they preach. If caught in the act, they always have some good “excuse”, claiming some kind of “right” to do as they please just because they are the leader. This reveals how much they feel superior to others and that their true motifs are selfish.

A psychopathic cult leader does not consider it as his duty to express compassion, sympathy, empathy or love for others. Human interaction does not appeal to him. In fact such leaders often disassociate and physically separate themselves from their followers as much as possible to live in isolation most of the time – allegedly to meditate and work, thinking of new strategies for the cause. A psychopathic cult leader graces his followers with his appearance, only when he needs to preach his gospel and restore the follower’s faith – in other words: when he wants his fix of admiration.

The goal is total mind-control.
A psychopathic cult leader may claim that he is selfless, and that he does what he does for a good cause. But proselytizing for a particular faith is not a selfless act. Selfless acts are not about getting followers and only accept people, who share a particular faith or a particular identity, which may grant them inclusion in a particular defined group interaction, deeming everyone else as evil infidels.

Selflessness is about being humble, inclusive and good to everyone – without fear or favour. It is about meeting others on eye-level, like the fellow human beings they are, and love them unconditionally, regardless of their standpoints. It’s about being a good example to others and at the same time to understand and accommodate others, no matter the differences, recognising that every individual has their own reality and perception of right and wrong and a right to decide for them selves, what to do and what to believe in. It’s about trusting that if human beings are given a fair chance, they will make good choices to the benefit of all.

However, a psychopathic cult leader does not care much about any of that. His “love” and “acceptance” does not include people, who don’t follow his every whim. That is what reveals him as the psychopath he is deep down, with only one egotistic purpose: to seduce and deceive well-meaning people into admiring him so much, that they will see him as their ultimate hero and saviour, whom they gladly will follow at the beck, without any form of criticism or questioning. Just like other psychopaths he loves to have unlimited power and admiration, and he won’t stop before he’s gained total mind-control over his followers.

The dangers of being controlled by a psychopath.
This kind of leaders are master manipulators. They often have an extraordinary ability to gain ultimate control over their followers, who never realise how much they are taken advantage of – or how much they are under control. They don’t realise the fact that their leader has the power to make them do things, which totally go against their originally good-natured behaviour.

That is why such a leader is extremely dangerous, because he can use his power to, for instance, make his followers hate anyone who “threatens” the movement and its “good cause” with utter intensity. If he wants to, he can make his followers fight these “evil” opponents vigorously, also violently or even murderously, under the excuse that they only do it for the “good cause”.

And last but not least, these leaders can also even make their followers inflict harm on themselves in various ways – even commit suicide! Just think about religious extremist suicide bombers. Also, a very well known horror example of that, is what happened in 1978 in Jonestown, Guyana, where nearly 1,000 people in blind faith committed mass suicide together on the orders of their religious leader, Jim Jones.

Followers won’t admit they are being deceived.
Even though the proselytes perhaps are being told many times by people outside the movement, that they are being deceived by their leader, this seems only to infuriate them, making them defend their leader even more and dissociate and isolate themselves even more from anyone, who questions their belief in their leader. This is also known as the Stockholm syndrome, when people blindly defend someone, who’s actually holding them hostage – whether we’re talking about minds that are being held hostage, or about people actually being held hostages physically.

They still don’t realise, what is actually going on, because their emotional attachment to their leader, to their faith and to the movement, they’re part of is so strong. Their need for believing in their cause is so much greater than their ability to think for themselves. The longer they’ve been under their leader’s spell, the more they will lose this ability. Slowly, but surely they are robbed from their independency, dignity and humanity, behaving more and more as human robots. When people loose their ability to think for themselves and just follow the crowd they’re in, nothing else matters to them any longer – the only thing that still resonates in their mind and souls is their leader’s spellbinding and hypnotic orders. They don’t seem to have room for anything else any more.

How can these adherents admit to themselves, that they are “dumb” enough to let themselves be deceived to such a great extent and that they have followed a dangerous path all along? Of course, they will do anything to keep their eyes shut and cling to the simple make-belief world their ‘wise leader’ has opened up and shown them, because they really believe that holding on to their faith is the only way to survive – or to make themselves worthy enough to be allowed to go to heaven after they die. Without it they think they would be totally lost and destroyed. They would just die and go straight to hell. These thoughts are so scary that they will do anything to hold on to their belief.

This is an integral part of the deception into an extremely self-destructive belief, the psychopathic cult leader has effectively managed to lure them into, which has given him the ultimate power, without him ever truly caring for any human being other than himself.”

Hassan, Steven (1988): Combatting Cult Mind Control.
Hare, R. D. (1991). The Hare Psychopathy Checklist—Revised.
Enroth, Ronald M.; Chrnalogar, Mary Alice (1992): Churches that abuse.
Tobias, Madeleine Landau; Lalich, Janja, Ph.D. and Langone, Michael (1994): Captive Hearts, Captive Minds: Freedom and Recovery from Cults and Other Abusive Relationships.
Langone, Michael (1995): Recovery from Cults.
Lalich, Janja; Singer, Margaret (1995): Cults in Our Midst.
Chrnalogar—, Mary Alice (2000): Twisted Scriptures: Breaking Free from Churches that Abuse.
Wohlforth, Tim; Dennis Tourish (2000): On the Edge: Political Cults Left and Right.
Jenkins, Philip (2000): Mystics and Messiahs: Cults and New Religions in American History.
Snow, Robert L. (2003): Deadly Cults: The Crimes of True Believers.
Ronson, Jon (2011): The Psychopath Test.


Permanent link to this article: http://heinesen.info/wp/blog/2015/09/06/how-to-identify-a-psychopathic-cult-leader/

Apr 06 2015

Utopian vegan dreams defy laws of nature, causing more damage than good

wildboar-nmnhs-attack-5047233-hHumans are and have always been predators as far as we know. Nowadays, humanity has become vainglorious in thinking that it has “evolved” from its predatory nature, so much so that many have started thinking that it’s a good idea to deny our meat eating habit and cravings. On the surface it might look like we have wandered far from our origin by practicing our so-called civilized life-style, but the fact is that, statistically, most people still like and enjoy eating meat, so the question is if humanity really has changed that much. Can we really escape our own nature, developed through millions of years of evolution? Can nature be dismissed like that so easily?

If we displace and suppress the predator in ourselves, won’t it just bite us in the back? Won’t we just risk disturbing a delicate balance in nature, which has always been there? Perhaps we rather need to acknowledge what we really are in order to be able to cope with it in a more controlled fashion, and thus save ourselves and the world.

If we don’t realize who we really are deep down and start acting accordingly, our self-denial might cause disruption of the natural cycle of life in which we take part. In fact it could result in an ecological disaster. The ironic thing is, that those with the best intentions, who see themselves as the most nature friendly and life preserving people, might perhaps end up putting nature in the most danger, without even being conscious of it. Let me explain how.

Nature is about transformation
It’s thought provoking how fear of death, pain and injury is a common denominator for all human beings and animals. Nothing wants to die, if it can escape it. All life has a strong will to live, and all living beings will do anything possible to survive. Strangely, it is the same will that urges animals to kill and eat each other.

It’s quite interesting that everything works this way. It seems that everything that lives, lives off of other living things – plants or animals. Everything dies and is reborn in this cycle. The universe feeds on itself. But why does nature function this way? Why do we need to kill other living beings in order to live? Why can’t we just eat dirt and/or cadavers, so that no one has to suffer or be killed?

Nature is not about moral or ethics. It’s all about transformation – transformation of energy – to keep the cycle of life and death going. So far it has been like this for billions of years – long, long before any humans walked on earth. That’s a fact.

American Indians, for instance, are said to have understood and accepted this natural cycle of life and death. They knew that natures’ balance depended on it. You don’t take more out than you put in. They hunted animals sustainably, and they thanked the Great Spirit and the animals for giving their lives so that the people could survive. The same still applies to the peoples of the High North – i.e. people living in the vast arctic and subarctic areas on earth with little or no arable land. They still have no other choice than to live off of the natural resources at hand, which among other things means: killing animals to survive.

Animals measured by “cuteness-factor”
But in later years these ancient ways of life seem but a faint memory of a distant past for most modern people. Our world has become more and more artificial and technology-based. Technology has made many peoples’ lives so efficient, so comfortable and so protected, that we do not longer feel the same responsibility for our own survival – not in the sense that we, personally, have to grow our own vegetables or go hunting for our own meat. The system takes care of that for us.

Thus, “animals” are not something most people think of like something you hunt and kill in order to eat. Killing is something we only do to each other in wars – or for fun on our computer- and TV-screens. In fact, we are quite obsessed with blood-dripping violence in the computer games we play and the films we watch. One could ask: Why are we so obsessed with violence and blood? Why all this scare-mongering in our media and entertainment? What does it tell us about ourselves? Could it be that we need to find artificial ways to thrill and scare ourselves, now that we no longer experience it so much in natural way?

In most people’s world today, animals are no longer seen as hunting prey, but something you either keep as your pet to keep you company – or something you watch for entertainment in a zoo or in TV, where animals are measured by their ‘cuteness-factor’. Animals in general – at least mammals – have become more and more human-like in our view nowadays.

People have become so alienated from the old ways of life and so ‘disneyfied’ in their thinking that they have almost displaced the fact that animals still are just as much a food source for humans as they’ve always been. But how can you blame people for thinking this way if they almost only are presented to animals as pets in their daily lives and never see how the meat on the table really gets there? Admittedly, it must be difficult to see the connection between one’s cute pet and the packaged meat from the supermarket refrigerators.

Humanity has an insatiable lust for meat
People see this development in our thinking as “evolvement of the human kind”. But the fact is that we’re just deceiving ourselves. We fail miserably in facing reality. Even though many of us might not be able to accept it, we can’t deny the fact that most human beings are still meat-eaters, which means that we, basically, still are predators. This alienated fantasy-like reality we have created around us hasn’t changed humanity’s cravings for meat, only sensitized people in such a way that most of us are not able any more to kill anything, nor see animals being killed.

How can we bring ourselves to harm any animal when we project ourselves into them and identify with them? We know that we don’t like pain ourselves and that we don’t want to die, so why would the animals? It feels somehow “wrong” to kill these innocent beings. We don’t like the fact anymore that any living being has to loose its life in order for us to eat it. The problem is: we still love the taste of them, don’t we? So what do we do about it? How do we cope with the fact that in order to satisfy humanity’s insatiable lust for meat we actually need to breed animals in the billions, just to kill and eat them?

Live in blissful ignorance
We have this romantic idea of cozy farm life with cows grassing peacefully in the sun on green fields living happy lives, but in fact nothing could be further from the truth. The truth is that mostly everywhere, farming has become a cold-hearted mass-industry, where billions of animals are seen as nothing but ‘products’, kept in slavery in huge animal farm factories, out of our sight, often under holocaust-like conditions, living a miserable life, never seeing the light of day, force-fed with food totally unnatural for their kind, and forced to reproduce in unbelievable numbers. As soon as there is enough meat and fat on their bodies, they’re put on assembly lines in endless rows only to be killed mercilessly in abattoirs far away, where any access is strictly prohibited for outsiders.

And why is that? Why do we keep the meat producing process out of the public eye? It would seem that we need to protect ourselves from really realizing how truly horrible we are to animals, because we don’t dare to look ourselves in the eye. Our self-deception is phenomenal. We don’t want to be confronted with these “dark” sides of humanity. The system we have created helps us to do like ostriches: Stick our heads in the sand and live in blissful ignorance and indifference.

The magnitude of the cruel mass slaughter of animals worldwide is almost unimaginable. It seems that most people are unable to realize how much pain our modern way of life really inflicts on each single, individual animal among the billions we kill. What would happen, if we really had to face to witch degree the human race exploits animals and how much animals suffer for our sake? Would we really change our ways – or just learn to live with the guilty conscience?

Who is more “evolved”?
Many people turn to vegetarianism or veganism to ease their guilty conscience, but most do not. Since there’s not much many feel they can do about the way the world is organized, people think they have no other choice but to go with the flow. It’s easy, because we’re not the ones killing the animals, others do the dirty job for us – so we forget our own responsibility in the big picture.

But then… from time to time it happens that some people come across an animal slaughter in plain sight – or in gory pictures or videos – where people still slaughter animals the ancient way, out in the open. It is very likely to happen in small pockets of preserved cultures that haven’t fully adopted the industrialized mass-exploitation of animals yet and therefore don’t hide their meat producing process away from the public eye. Experiencing these practices is so shocking to some of the unprepared spectators that they become horrified and outraged: “You evil mass-murderers!” they shout out loud. “This atrocity doesn’t belong in the 21th century! Why don’t you evolve like the rest of us!”

Those “primitive cultures” carrying out these slaughters, do it like it is the most natural thing to do, and seemingly without any guilty feelings – and that is highly provocative, especially for those who never could bring themselves to harm any animal (which includes most of us). So we regard ourselves as “more evolved” and “morally superior” to these heartless people.

Discriminating distinctions between animals
But are we really? Do we really think that just because we don’t have blood on our hands personally, that we are any better? Is our own culture’s mass-exploitation of the animal kingdom really more ethically acceptable? Isn’t the highly industrialized mass breeding and killing of animals, in fact, even more sinister and perverted? Talking about seeing “the speck in your brother’s eye”, but not noticing “the log that is in your own eye”…

To justify ourselves we start to make more or less absurd and discriminating distinctions between animals – as if some animals are more worthy and more deserving of our care than others. Mammals most like us are definitely on the top of the list, because they are the “cutest”. But we still eat mammals, also intelligent mammals.

Why would we think it is okay to eat one kind of mammal, but not another kind of mammal? A life is a life, isn’t it? Why would the life of, for instance, a domesticated animal be less worthy than the life of a wild animal? Isn’t the only difference that domesticated animals are just unlucky to have been born into a century where mass breeding,  exploitation and enslavement of these kinds of animals has developed to the most extensive yet in human history? But does that make it more “natural” or ethically acceptable to kill and eat these animals?

Hopeless alienation from our natural selves
What is really happening here? one might ask. Is it that we – in our quest to eradicate all evil in this world – have become so disgusted with the reminiscences of the predator in us – our own nature – so when we see others outplay, what we don’t accept in ourselves anymore, we get angry? Are we, in fact, just projecting our anguish and frustrations over our own hopeless alienation from our natural selves, onto others who represent, what we hate to admit is part of our own nature as human beings? Very conveniently for us, these incidents open a vent through which we can unleash the steam, we’ve been holding down.

Bottom line: Many are so uncomfortable with the fact that blood has to be shed in order for us to get meat on the table that we are now defying and challenging the laws of nature and trying to find ways out of this ‘vicious’ cycle of life and death, which for billions of years was natural.

The first idea that comes to mind is this: Why don’t we all just eat plants? What if we became vegetarians or vegans, all of us. That would solve the problem, wouldn’t it? No. That creates other problems, besides that it goes against millions of years of evolution. It doesn’t restore the ecological balance in nature that the modern farming and agriculture practically has destroyed. And it makes life impossible for all those people living in arctic, subarctic and high altitude areas with no other survival means than to hunt in the wild or to breed livestock.

No escape from guilty conscience
Does it even solve our ethical dilemma? It might just lead to further questioning, for on the other hand: What makes us believe that it is okay to kill and eat one kind of living beings – like plants – and not another kind of living beings – like animals? Do plants not have the will to live also – just like the animals? Just a thought. They have no chance to defend themselves. Is it okay for us to take advantage of that? I wonder what would happen, if people found evidence that showed that plants do also have something that resembles sensitivity, feelings or even some kind of intelligence. Some really do believe that. Maybe we should eat only ripe fruit that has fallen onto the ground and is about to die anyway…

Or what if we – as the intelligent beings we are – found ways to just eat food that was a 100 % synthetically produced? Would that really change anything? Isn’t it just another side of the same coin? Isn’t it all just about trying to find a smart way to escape from our own self-created guilty conscience over the fact that our bread is the death of another?

In summary, it’s hardly possible to live up to the ‘moral standards’ some people have developed today. It seems almost impossible to eat anything without feeling guilty or bad about it. But if we really, seriously, did anything to find alternative food sources that could be accepted as 100 % ethically “correct” today, wouldn’t it just be the same as to oppose the framework for how the whole ecosystem works and has always worked?

Causing catastrophe instead of utopia
What about the fact that animals eat each other, like they’ve always done? Is it also ‘immoral’ when animals do it? Why would animals have this “right” to cause other animals deaths, if humans were denied the same “rights”? It’s puzzling and mind-boggling to the absurd. If we are to be consistent, shouldn’t we also prevent the animals from inflicting pain on others and from eating each other?

But what would happen to the ecosystem if we went through with it and really tried to implement this idea? Is it possible to eradicate all “evil” – all anxiety, all pain, all death – in this world? Wouldn’t it just disrupt the great cycle of life in which plants and animals live off of each other? Won’t we just tip nature’s balance and cause a catastrophe, instead of the utopia we dream of, if we went too far down that path?

What makes us people today – in the relatively very short period, we have been around in this world since the beginning of time – so special and different that we have to change something so fundamentally natural as the life and death cycle? Is it okay? I’m just asking…

Acceptance of our role in the natural cycle
Wouldn’t it be better if we, instead of fighting against it, just realized and accepted what history has shown to be our true nature – the fact that most of us are omnivores and have no intention of becoming anything else. And then learn to live with it in a morally acceptable and ecologically sound way.

The natural cycle has already been disrupted enough as it is. If we want to restore it and regain the ecological balance, what to do? If every single human being is to live in a sustainable way in accordance with their surroundings wherever they are on the planet, it means, basically, that we need first and foremost to live off of the resources available in our vicinity – also if it includes killing of animals for their meat, because they are the only resource available some places. We might perhaps have a chance restoring a natural balance if we rely as much as possible on local food supply rather than on questionable foods transported thousands of miles from opposite corners of the world, leaving a trail of dangerous CO2 emission, often sprayed with chemicals for duration and packed in plastics, which end up in nature, poisoning our lands and oceans and threatening our health and fertility.

But if we want to live in balance with nature, is it possible to leave animals completely out of the equation, even though we would have the choice of living off of plants only? If we want to maintain an ecologically sound food production don’t the animals play an important role – together with the plants – in the natural cycle of life and death anyway? So shouldn’t they be part of this cycle as they’ve always been? Just like we humans are also? I would say, of course. Of course we should include the animals. But we don’t need to put billions of animals in small cages, feeding them in a way, that is completely unnatural to them, as we’ve seen happening in the farm industry at least the last hundred years. That is animal abuse and we should stop doing that. But to stop eating animals altogether is not the only alternative.

Instead we could keep fewer animals in open, controlled environments that resemble natural ecological systems, but are much less cruel than today’s animal farming methods. And we could also still hunt animals in the wild, where it is possible to do it in a sustainable way. We would still need to kill animals, because if we don’t kill – and eat – some of them, then we would soon face an overpopulation problem, and then nature itself would take care of the problem and kill the animals anyway – for instance, by diseases and starvation – which would be much crueler than if we just had killed the animals ourselves. Being so many of us – 7 billion, soon to be 9 billion people – we cannot avoid having an impact on the environment. It’s not that we can leave nature completely alone, unfortunately, but we can utilize it sensibly and make our influence in a sound, non-destructive, replenishing way.

Therefore we should encourage sustainable hunts and support the establishment of a diversified farming system, replacing the highly simplified industrial monocultures we have now. Instead of few enormous monocultural farms we could have many smaller, diversified farms, where plants and animals are an integrated part of a rich, local permaculture adapted to the nature of the place, where animals are allowed to roam freely, and where all resources – plants and animals – can be utilized to the benefit of all, but in a balanced, cyclic, efficient, controlled, sustainable, respectful way, without the pollution, the waste and the destruction of nature we see happening because of the modern industrial farming today, which first and foremost is driven by commercial greed. We need a better alternative. A better, more sustainable approach would give us a chance to start treating animals with the respect they deserve, allowing them to live a good, satisfying, natural life, until we slaughter them, humanely of course, for food. They might even have much better lives than they would have, if they were left solely to nature’s raw ‘mercy’.

This is a goal possible to achieve on a worldwide basis. It’s a matter of choice and a matter of mobilizing political will – and then just do it.

Permanent link to this article: http://heinesen.info/wp/blog/2015/04/06/utopian-vegan-dreams-defy-laws-of-nature-causing-more-damage-than-good/

Nov 21 2014

You Provide Sustenance For Yourself With What Is Available To You

FoeroyskurSeydurAs simple as the sentence in this header may sound, the more difficult it seems to many to comprehend what it really means. I came to think about that, when I tried to answer some questions I got today in an E-mail from an Australian journalist, asking me: 1. Do Faroe islanders consider pilot whales to be “higher order” animals, and sentient creatures? Do they have respect for them?  2. Are there any other animals in the Faroe Islands that are noticeably championed as animal welfare/rights cases (for example, in Australia caged chickens and live cattle exports are prominent)? 3. Why do you think the external pressure from other cultures to stop the whaling in the Faroe Islands could be seen as cultural imperialism? This was my reply:

Oh, my…. the questions you ask are really big questions, I couldn’t possibly answer in just one E-mail. I will try, but to do any justice to the issue, I feel like I have to explain the fundamentals of a whole aboriginal culture, and that cannot be explained – not even if I wrote a whole book about it. It has to be lived, I guess. I have a feeling that it would still be very difficult to understand for anyone who hasn’t been part of this culture from childhood.

Sometimes I really regret, how alienated most people in the world have become to what life is like for people, who live in the midst of nature or very close to it - Especially in the high north – and have to live off of local natural resources in a much more direct way than any urban dweller could even imagine.

What is completely natural for people in the Faroes, seems so alien to other people, who have never lived here – or in similar places – so they can’t possibly understand the Faroese way of life. And thus many of the aspects of this life provokes them. People are often provoked or disgusted by what they don’t understand.

To be fair: The Faroese are also themselves sometimes provoked by traditions in other countries – fairly or unfairly. Some people in the Faroe Islands – a sheepherding country – are, for instance, provoked and even disgusted by the Australian tradition of mulesing merino sheep, which seems very cruel to them. But do they really know that for sure?

A natural and a modern life
I’ve tried to explain Faroese food culture in an article I wrote, that perhaps might give you just a little insight into what it’s like to live and grow up in the Faroes under the special conditions we have here – especially for us who have come to a certain age and grew up in a much more backwards society than the Faroe Islands are today.

But the extraordinary thing with the Faroese people is, that even though people here have become quite modernised in later years, they still have very close ties to the old way of life in close connection with nature, simply because you can’t ‘escape’ nature, when you live in such a small archipelago in the middle of the North Atlantic. Nature is ever present all around you all the time. You can’t possibly forget it. Especially because the climate is so harsh most of the year, so you cannot help literary feeling it with your whole body each and every day, when you walk outside your door. But mostly because you’re never able to dismiss the fact that your natural environment is what you life depends on.

Even though part of daily life for many people, especially in the only city in the Faroes, Tórshavn, with 20.000 inhabitants, might look similar to daily life for people in most of the western world, Faroese life is still very different in other aspects, because of the circumstances we live in. The Faroese people might be very modern and well-educated and all, but they’re all still extremely dependent on the relatively small diversity in natural resources they have access to in this small country in the midst of a vast ocean.

Everyone in the Faroes is very conscious of the fact that this is what people here build their whole existence on. So they might live a modern life, but, simultaneously, still provide a sustenance for themselves–not only with a modern fishing fleet–but also in the old ancient ways.

Something which is very difficult for others to comprehend, is that it’s a necessity for the Faroese people to be both modern and traditional – and possible also, because the whole society is arranged in a way where people appreciate and agree that it is necessary to interrupt your daily work when the time is ripe to bring the sheep home and slaughter them, or go bird-catching, or go hare-hunting – or participate in pilot whaling – and, additionally, to prepare and store the food you have provided for yourself and your family. This food constitutes a large part of the total food consumption and is completely indispensable for most families – especially for the 12% in the Faroe Islands who live at or below the poverty line.

I’ll give you a link to two articles I’ve written that might be relevant to you, and another one written by a New Foundlander, who seems to have a clear understanding of, what life is like in the Faroes. Probably because there are many similarities between life in New Foundland and the Faroes.

Relations to animals
I will also give you a link to a brand new short documentary about a Faroese fulmar hunter, who also works as a journalist on a daily basis. I’m sure the documentary will provoke and disgust some city folks, who might even engage in a new hating campaign against the “savages” in the Faroes because of it. But I will bet on, that most of the people, who will feel provoked by this, still munch delicious burgers, probably not even aware of the fact that they personally let other people do the “dirty work” for them (like killing and slaughtering the animals they eat). They eat the meat without any thoughts for the animals they put in their mouth, as opposed to the Faroese of whom many have a much more direct contact with the animals they eat – both in life and death.

But first I will try to give you some relatively brief answers to the concrete questions you asked me.

Do the Faroese have respect for whales?
You asked me if the Faroe Islanders consider pilot whales to be “higher order” animals, and sentient creatures – and if the Faroese have respect for the whales. At first I found this an odd question to ask. Almost insulting. I had to remind myself of the fact that you have no way of knowing, because you come from a country very far away, so the Faroes must seem very remote to you – and our way of life must thus also seem quite alien to you.

Well, to answer the question. Yes, the Faroese certainly do have respect for whales – and other animals as well. Animals in the Faroes are likely treated much better than animals are treated most other places in the world – definitely better than farm animals in the industrialised world. There is no denying, though, that animals of different kinds are killed, slaughtered and eaten in the Faroes, but most of these animals live a very good life before that. They are treated respectfully and with love as long as they live.

Faroe Islanders raise a lot of sheep – there are more sheep than people in the Faroes – and the Faroese people love their sheep. But they still slaughter them to eat them, because they have to. It’s not disrespectful to do so. People’s lives are just dependent on it. And even the sheep would suffer greatly, if some of them weren’t slaughtered each year. Of course the Faroese value and respect these animals. The better they treat the animals, the better food they get – and they can eat the animals with a good conscience, not least.

All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others
And yes, Faroe Islanders are very aware of the fact that whales are “higher order” animals and sentient creatures. But there are practical reasons and facts of life in these islands, which mean that this doesn’t prevent them from wanting to eat the whales, just like they’ve done for 1200 years at least. Not any more than the love and respect the farmer feels for the sheep he raised, prevents him from slaughtering the sheep and eating them. It seems very difficult for some people to wrap their head around these facts of life.

The Faroese are also aware of, that many other animals that people kill for food are “higher order” animals and also sentient beings. Not just whales. Sheep and cows are also highly sentient beings. People here do not see much difference between the whales and these other animals. They value them all. That’s why they want ALL animals to have a good life, including the whales. Sheep roam freely in the mountains. Whales roam freely in the ocean. And some of these animals are taken for slaughter, so the people can survive. It doesn’t mean that the Faroese respect any of these animals less than the others.

What makes the difference?
And why do the Faroese look differently at this than other people outside the Faroes? Why do the Faroese consider all animals – or rather mammals – to be equal, as opposed to people elsewhere, who somehow have come to favour the whales – and thus in fact, in a way, disrespect all other animals, because they make an unfounded difference between the whales and the other mammals, giving the whales privileges they don’t give other animals. Unfounded at least seen from a Faroese perspective.

Well, the difference lies in people’s different living conditions. People could never survive in the Faroes on plants alone, because of the climate. So the Faroese have always been dependent on protein from animals – both domestic animals like sheep and cows (we have no pigs in the Faroes) and wild animals like birds, hares, fish, and whales.

The fact that the Faroese live surrounded by the ocean, has of course a major significance in regard to what kind of foods, people eat in the Faroes, as opposed to what people in – let’s say – Italy, Hungary, Mongolia, Sierra Leone or Australia eat, where they have a whole different climate and lots of other food alternatives. The ocean is the “farm fields” of the Faroese. They have no other choice than to harvest the ocean resources to be able to survive.

You eat what is available to you. You have no other choice than to live of what is available to you in your surroundings. And that is what forms your food culture and your economy, because you must either eat what is available to you, or sell to others what is available to you to be able to afford to import other foods.

Whaling not commercial but still economically significant
Let me emphasise in this regard: The Faroese kill Pilot whales, but their meat is NOT exported, though. The Faroese keep it for themselves. They still hold on to the old tradition of killing pilot whales and sharing the meat and blubber with each other in the community – for free. Private people might sell a small part of their share to restaurants and food stores in Tórshavn, if they have more than enough for themselves, but it’s forbidden for firms to hunt whales and sell them on a commercial basis. This is what makes the big difference between Faroese whaling and whaling in other countries, which is solely commercial and done for profit.

Pilot whale meat and blubber does still have a great significance for Faroese economy, though, because it represents a quarter of the meat consumption in the Faroes. If the Faroese would stop eating this food, they would have to replace it. They could certainly not replace it with crops from local agriculture with only 2.14% arable land available and an inhospitable climate, which makes it almost impossible to grow anything edible on the islands. Notice the treeless landscape.

They would have to catch a lot more fish – or kill other animals in their (ocean) area, in order to export these goods and thus be able to afford importing more of other foods, like the fruits and vegetables, foreigners seem so eager to force the Faroese to eat more of.

Fruits and vegetables don’t just magically appear in the supermarket. They have to be imported – and for what? The Faroese have to earn money by using the resources available. The Faroese would have to catch a lot more fish – or kill a lot more other animals in their (ocean) area, so they could export these goods and thus be able to afford importing more of other foods, like the fruits and vegetables, foreigners seem so eager to force the Faroese to eat more of.

Either way, animals will have to be killed in order for the Faroese to survive in their environment, which – as I already stated – is quite inhospitable most of the year, because there is nothing else to live of there.

Veganism is not an option for everyone
You have to understand the context – how everything is woven together.

If all killing of animals suddenly would be prohibited, it would not be possible to inhabit all arctic and subarctic areas in the world, This would have dire consequences for all the people living in these colder areas, because everyone there is dependent upon the killing of animals – fish, seals, whales, bisons, reindeer…. either for their own consumption or for export, so they can import fruits and vegetables. People of the north could not afford any fruits or vegetables, unless they exported killed animals of some sorts. See?

Millions of people would have to be deported from these cold areas to more southern areas with a warmer climate, where crops can be grown, which probably would cause total chaos in the world, now that we already have a refugee crisis.

Is this a scenario we should wish for? What about just letting the people in the north live their lives in peace the way they have been living it peacefully for centuries. They are not the monsters people seem to imagine them to be. They are just trying to survive and adapt to their environment as best as they can.

Cultural imperialism
The local food available to you is intrinsic to your culture as a whole – and it cannot be considered other than cultural imperialism, when outsiders invade a country (which happened in the summer of 2014) – in numbers equivalent to a million foreigners invading, for instance, Britain or France – trying to interfere with people’s lives there, soiling them with smear campaigns in the world media, making all kinds of efforts to prevent them from eating the food they’ve always been eating, and from surviving the way they have to, because of the environment they live in and of.

It cannot be considered anything other than cultural imperialism to go to a foreign country you have no relation to, telling the people there, that they should live in ways, that are not natural to them, and demanding that they should live a life that belongs to a whole other climate and a whole other environment.

Well, I could say a lot more about this, but that’s it for now.

Here are the links I promised:

My article about Faroese food culture:
“If we loose our food, we loose who we are”

Another article I wrote about the Grindstop 2014 campaign:
“Cultural Clashes Make the SSCS Grindstop Campaign Counterproductive”

The article written by New Foundlander, Ford Elms:
“Nature – not just something to be visited, but a home where people provide sustenance for themselves”

And last but not least, the short documentary about a Fulmar Hunter, made by Ed Ou and Elise Coker, from VICE, who visited the Faroes this summer:

Hope this is useful for you.

Best regards
Elin Brimheim Heinesen

Permanent link to this article: http://heinesen.info/wp/blog/2014/11/21/you-provide-sustenance-for-yourself-with-what-is-available-to-you/

Aug 10 2014

Nature – not just something to be visited, but a home where people provide sustenance for themselves

cropped-0U7W0422b.jpgOBS! The author of this article, Ford Elms, New Foundland, Canada, has allowed me to copy and publish it here:

In a tradition going back more than a thousand years, the Faroese renew their connectedness to their history, their culture, their communities, and the natural world around them. The pilot whales return to the Faroe Islands, and the people harvest this bounty from the sea.

The Faroes are small islands in the middle of the cold North Atlantic. The growing season is short, the islands rocky, grudgingly yielding grass and a few of the more hardy vegetables. The people’s diet has traditionally relied heavily on meat and seafood, and the pilot whales are a welcome addition. It’s a natural thing, of course, something many in the 21st century don’t understand, while pretending they do.

At a time when many people have to call themselves “human animals” to remind themselves of their place as part of nature while never actually understanding what that means, the people of the Faroe Islands have known it from their earliest childhoods.

You can’t tell wild animals how to behave. The return of the whales is not predictable. Some years they don’t come at all. Few things remind you of your place in the natural world as when nature does not provide you with the food you depend on. So in this modern world of schedules and deadlines, those who can down tools and attend to what nature has dictated, and man’s artificiality falls before something far greater.

A pod of whales is sighted, and the call goes out. Grindaboð! People drop what they are doing and gather for the Grindaboð. You can’t tell a wild animal to wait until you get off work at the office. Families gather on the beach, some man boats to go out and slowly drive the pod onto the shore. Only certain beaches are used, they have to be long and shallow to allow the whales to be driven high out of the water. Kids, parents, grandparents all gather. The men begin the arduous and dirty task of killing the whales, dragging them high on the shore before dispatching them with a cut to the spinal cord. Blood fills the water, as it must.

In the almost subconscious way that traditions are passed on in traditional cultures around the world, the kids learn by watching. Often, it’s watching out of the corner of their eye, as they play around the beach, climbing on the dead whales, watching their elders, learning skills their people have known for centuries.

Because it’s no easy task to kill a whale properly. Do it wrong, and a majestic animal could lie for hours, dying slowly in agony. You have to make it quick, a job that gets harder as the blood gathers, the water is churned up by the thrashing of the whales, and fatigue starts to set in. Kids have to learn how to do it right before they take their place besides their elders. This is not play.

And the old men, their joints stiff and their reflexes dulled, stand back and watch, remembering the Grinds of their boyhoods, criticizing how the young ones aren’t as good as they were in their day, or complimenting the skills of the more expert. And the old women share the news, and wink to each other at the younger girls eyeing the younger boys taking part for the first time, and the boys eyeing them back. And the old women remember when they were the ones doing the eyeing.

Then it’s over. The whales are butchered and the meat distributed in a complicated tradition as old as the Grindadráp itself. The blood clears from the cove and the communities go back to their houses. What they have done might not seem like much. Or it may seem to some a horrendous crime. Yet, what have they actually done?

They have taken part in something that binds them to their ancestors. They have provided sustenance for themselves. They have renewed their traditional connections to each other and the natural world around them, connections that their detractors in their self-righteous, bigoted ignorance cannot possibly understand, and so do not condescend to try. They have done this for themselves and for their children, children who, without really even being conscious of it, are learning who they are.

And for that they are derided by people who have no knowledge of who they are themselves, nor of what they are defaming, people who romanticize the natural world while spreading hatred of those who are more a part of that natural world than these self-righteous judges could ever hope to be. It takes a village? Well, these are the villages it takes.

Many of their detractors live in urban environments, their paved and synthetic lifestyles wreaking havoc on the natural world. This havoc extends to the Faroe Islands, where mercury is a worrisome part of the food chain. The Faroese leave a far smaller footprint on the global ecosystem. Yet those whose lifestyles contributed a lot of that mercury use its potential toxicity both as an argument against eating whale, and as a weapon to portray the Faroese as somehow mentally deficient and no better than brute beasts, all the while ignoring the ominous fact that the whales they claim to defend are being poisoned in their natural environment. As one Faroese man said, why is it acceptable for whales to be poisoned with mercury as long as no-one kills and eats them?

But the Grindaboð continues, fiercely defended by the Faroese as central to their culture. Who knows how long it will last. And if it is lost, will we have lost much? We will have lost something that, though it is not unique to the Faroe Islands, is in short supply. We will have lost a people whose lives were governed by rhythms as old as the planet, who understood the land and sea around them, and their place in it, and that they have as much right as the orca to eat the pilot whale, being no less natural than the orca.

Whether you think it a great loss depends, I guess, on what respect you have for human beings and human cultural diversity. I consider loss of a traditional culture to be an immeasurable tragedy, no less so than the loss of an animal species. We lose something of the human experience. These people live their lives knowing that nature is not something to be visited once in a while in an attempt to feel spiritual. It is their home.

How ironic then that people who live their lives worlds away from the source of their food, and who seem to consider the wilderness as a colossal petting zoo populated by furry four legged humans who can’t talk, should preach to them about respect for nature.

Ford Elms, August 2014

Permanent link to this article: http://heinesen.info/wp/blog/2014/08/10/nature-not-just-something-to-be-visited-but-a-home-where-people-provide-sustenance-for-themselves/

Aug 04 2014

Cultural clashes make the SSCS’ Grindstop campaign counterproductive

banner-pilot-whales-02-title-960x390by Elin Brimheim Heinesen 

In the old days the Faroese killed pilot whales, because they needed the food. Nowadays the Faroese still kill pilot whales – not only because they need the food – but also to prove to them selves that they are Faroese. What people eat becomes intrinsic to their identity as people. And this might probably be an even greater need than the need for this particular food. It seems very difficult for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to understand that their highly visible and provocative presence in the Faroes for the time being only strengthens this need even further. The Grindstop campaign is therefore highly counterproductive.

Especially in this day and age, where globalisation threatens indigenous or local cultures everywhere all over the world, it has become very important for many to hold on to what is left of their distinct cultural identity with even greater determination.

Despite the Faroe Islands’ relative remote location, the Faroese people have not been able to avoid globalisation. In fact, the Faroese people have welcomed globalisation and have become quite westernised and modern in most ways, but the Faroese have, at the same time still managed to preserve a great deal of their old cultural heritage – some of it unbroken for more than a thousand years.

The Faroese are very proud of the fact that they to a great extent have managed to let their modern life style coexist in harmony with their old inherited life style. They are proud of the fact that they – in contrast to many other modern cultures – have managed to preserve basic values from a time, where life was much simpler, which also makes their culture as unique as it is, and they don’t want to loose what they regard as this very valuable and important part of their cultural identity.

They certainly do NOT agree with foreigners who claim that certain parts of their culture – like the controversial pilot whaling – is a primitive and barbaric tradition. Seen from a Faroese perspective, people who claim so have been misinformed or just don’t understand the basics of life in the Faroes, probably because they are prejudiced, alienated city-dwellers with no real understanding of how it is to survive in a place where people live in a very close relationship with nature, and where most people are dependent on what they provide for themselves directly from nature’s larder.

Faroese mentality molded by tough circumstances
When we meet other cultures, unfamiliar to us, and compare our culture to other cultures, we notice the differences between us and “the others” and the feeling and understanding of our own distinct identity grows stronger.

The Faroese are a very self-aware, proud and stoic people. On a daily basis, the Faroese seem to have a very individualistic mentality, but in times of crisis they have in fact a great willingness to help each other. Everyone is determined to do whatever it takes to protect and secure the survival of the community. Otherwise the Faroese would never have survived for so long on these remote islands.

This strong Faroese mentality has been molded by the tough circumstances in this very small and remote place with a very harsh nature and a hostile climate, especially in the dark, stormy winters – a fact of life that makes the Faroese society quite vulnerable. This society has been ridden by countless crises since the beginning of time. It’s almost incomprehensible how people have managed to survive here for such a long time.

The fact is that all these recurrent threats from outside, that still occur from time to time – whether we’re talking about natural, economical or other threats – have unified the Faroese people in the most extraordinary way. The pilot whaling practice is an example of the special Faroese solidarity that lives on – it’s a communal effort and a way of providing free food for everyone leaving no one out, regardless of the person’s status in the society.

This strong solidarity, which is natural for the Faroese people to show each other has enabled the Faroese to tackle the most incredible challenges over and over again, to such an extent that they have even managed to multiply and thrive in this place – to be fair, sometimes with economic aid or loans from Denmark, which the Faroese always have paid back, with interest.

The Faroe Islands are still a part of the Danish kingdom, but this North Atlantic archipelago is it’s own nation with an extensive, independent home rule. Even though the Faroese have not (yet) chosen to leave the Danish Kingdom completely (mostly because of strong historical, cultural and family bonds) there is no doubt that the Faroese hold their national pride and self-determination in high regard. The strong self-reliance and proudness of the Faroese people is one of the reasons, that the Faroese chose not to follow Denmark into the EU in the early 70′s. They do not want to sacrifice their autonomy, which they have fought so much for, just to become puppets among other puppets of the Brussels administration.

This self-determination is in fact very significant for the Faroese. People who intend to have an impact on – or that want to change Faroese cultural values, will not succeed in their efforts, if they don’t understand these important factors of Faroese mentality.

The Faroese will never tolerate being shamed by others
It’s not that the Faroese want to isolate themselves totally from the rest of the world. Anyone who visits the islands notices how remarkably knowledgeable, literate and cosmopolitan in general most Faroese are. The Faroese certainly welcome foreigners and are willing to cooperate with anyone who, notably, shows them respect and has well-intended purposes.

The Faroe Islands is one of the oldest democracies and most peaceful countries in the world. The Faroese are perfectly alright with the fact, that other people’s opinions might differ (even a lot) from theirs, and they are also always willing to discuss any issue with others in a respectful manner – yes, even willing to change some of their ways, IF other people have convincing arguments and, of course, ask them nicely.

What they don’t want, is to be overruled by others! They do NOT accept that others interfere with their affairs by coercively imposing their own values on the Faroese, acting as intruders, obviously with no interest in having a respectful dialogue, but mostly just throwing dirt and spreading sensationalist propaganda to attract international media attention, purposefully to create international outrage and thus hoping to put enough pressure on the Faroese to make them stop doing what they do.

But the Faroese will certainly NOT tolerate being demonised and shamed by others! The Faroese are not ashamed of who they are. On the contrary! They have never ever made a secret of what they do and how they live, and they have never been afraid of discussing openly about their ways with those, who oppose them.

The Faroese are a strong-minded people, not afraid to stand up for themselves and defend what they consider to be their legal, historical rights – even if their opponent is a 100 times larger or more. Just think of the recent herring and mackerel war between the EU and the Faroes, which the Faroese ended up winning.

The Faroese hold on to their rights, but are willing to improve
The Faroese are convinced that they have a right to make use of the natural resources in their own territory, including pilot whales. These resources have laid the foundation for the survival of the Faroese people for a very long time, and even though some claim that it is “not necessary” to kill pilot whales any more and that pilot whales are too contaminated to be fit for human consumption, the fact is that pilot whale meat and blubber – besides being a very important part of Faroese culture – still plays a big role in sustaining a healthy economy in the Faroe Islands, because this free food saves the Faroese from buying a lot of expensive foods, imported and transported (in polluting wessels) from countries far away.

The Faroese believe that they have the sovereign right to decide if or when they should stop pilot whaling. They think that whale-saving efforts should rather be concentrated on stopping the pollution that threatens the oceans and the maritime foods the Faroese live on, among others the pilot whales.

The Faroese also have every reason to believe that they are perfectly fit to take care of this natural resource, because they have done so in a sustainable way ever since people inhabited this remote archipelago more than a thousand years ago. They have, in contrast to many other hunter-gatherer societies, kept records of their whale-catch since medieval times, and they continue to ensure the sustainability of this practice, constantly trying to improve their methods.

The pilot whaling practice has, in fact, improved a lot, especially in later years – NOT because of recurrent confrontations with SSCS, but because of an increased knowledge among the Faroese, based on scientific facts, provided by, among others, the Faroese themselves, and because of convincing arguments put forward by sensible and credible people who understand the importance of a mutual respectful dialogue. Nowadays the Faroese do everything in their power to make sure that the whales don’t suffer more than necessary during the herding and killing process.

So in the eyes of the Faroese, there is nothing others really can point their fingers at here. Especially not meat-eating people from countries with a polluting big farm industry, exploiting animals in the billions, which, seen through Faroese eyes, is a much more destructive and cruel practice than their own pilot whaling practice.

Ethnocentric cultural imperialism does NOT save whales
This is what the people in the SSCS don’t seem to understand: That if they invade the islands the way they’ve done this summer and put pressure on the Faroese people by confronting, judging and moralising the Faroese, sensationalising their way of life in international media, claiming that the Faroese people kill pilot whales, not for food, but only “for fun and entertainment” (which is one of the most outrageous claims infuriating the Faroese), imposing their own self-righteous rules onto the Faroese by telling them that their way of life is “wrong”, and that they need to change – not ever listening to Faroese arguments – it will only have a counterproductive effect.

The outcome is that the Faroese shut their ears too and will just be even more convinced that they need to hold on – even more strongly – to their old way of life and that they need to fight against what they see as ‘ethnocentric cultural imperialism’ from foreign alienated city-dwellers, who just don’t understand the basics of Faroese culture, on which they base their life and survival.

The fact is that the SSCS – by doing what they do for the time being – actually only harm their own cause! They are even postponing possible improvements of the pilot whaling practice, because as it is, the Faroese definitely won’t give anyone the impression that they are giving in to SSCS’ pressure.

SSCS may succeed in postponing some whale kills for a little while. But rather sooner than later the Faroese will go back to their old ways, even more determined and eager to keep on doing what they’ve always done. Before you know it, the Faroese have caught up and reached the average number of annual whale kills again – just as it happened the last time SSCS were in the Faroes. The year after, the Faroese killed almost 1,500 cetaceans, and thus almost doubled their yearly average, so people could fill up their freezers again with this beloved tasty food, many consider to be the Faroese national dish.

Claiming that Paul Watson and SSCS save pilot whales in the Faroe Islands, is just not a fact, I’m afraid. It’s quite the opposite!

Others have been much more successful than SSCS
If people want to have an impact on the Faroese pilot whaling practice, there are in fact other more effective ways. Ady Gil and Pete Bethune from the Earthrace Conservation Society, which has a whale-saving agenda, similar to the SSCS’ agenda, just using different methods, were actually much more successful than the SSCS has ever been, when they visited the Faroe Islands a couple of years ago, because they were clearly not as confrontational and conflict-seeking as SSCS – or especially Paul Watson – himself.

Ady Gil and Pete Bethune didn’t invade the country with a hoard of very visible, uniformed people and vehicles, threatening to break Faroese laws and painting grim pictures of the Faroese people in international media. Instead the two came to the Faroes, behaving as respectful guests with a positive attitude, visiting different people in the Faroes, including whalers, talking to them about their lives, making research about Faroese culture, and inviting the Faroese to have a mutual respectful dialogue about the whaling issue. These two people showed genuine interest in the Faroese, their culture and their arguments and respect the Faroese right to decide for themselves how they want to live and behave.

By behaving in a respectful way, using only information and dialogue as means and trying to establish a whale-watching business in the Faroes, they actually succeeded in convincing some Faroese people to join their cause and start a branch of the Earthrace Conservation Society in the Faroes. A movement that grew – until the SSCS arrived!

Even Faroese who strongly support the pilot whale slaughter, actually respect people like Ady Gil, Pete Bethune AND the locals who have joined them, acknowledging their compassion for the whales, even though they don’t agree with their views that the Faroese pilot whaling should be stopped.

Even Faroese against pilot whaling turn their backs to SSCS and their methods
In contrast to this, the average Faroese people see no reason to why they should respect the SSCS as an organisation – or Paul Watson in particular. And why is that? Well, it’s simply because Paul Watson and other SSCS people haven’t shown any respect for the Faroese. They have gravely damaged the relationship by aggressive rhetoric in which they again and again dehumanise and demonise the Faroese people.

They have told so many lies and have spread so much disinformation in worldwide media, calling for a boycott of the Faroe Islands, ditching the Faroese population as a whole, censoring and not allowing the Faroese people to defend them selves, for instance, on their pages in social media – and thus proven over and over again that they in fact have no regard for the Faroese people, even though they claim, that they do have respect and that they only do what they do out of compassion and in defence of the whales.

But in any case, the fact is that this disrespectful behaviour, especially presented by Captain Paul Watson himself, only creates deeper conflicts between the Faroese and the SSCS and makes it almost impossible for the Faroese to believe that the SSCS has come to the Faroes with good intentions.

This is why any discussion between SSCS and the Faroese always seem to end up being unfruitful and pointless, only digging the trenches deeper, making the Faroese even more convinced to keep on practicing the pilot whaling.

The demonising, insulting and hostile rhetoric the SSCS leader has put forward so far, only postpones any possible solutions or agreements, and has resulted in the fact that even Faroese people that earlier maybe leaned towards being against pilot whaling, now turn their backs on SSCS and join the pro-whalers.

Fail, SSCS!

(Published in The Arctic Journal, August 21th, 2014: http://arcticjournal.com/opinion/914/cultural-clashes-make-sea-shepherd-campaign-counterproductive)

Permanent link to this article: http://heinesen.info/wp/blog/2014/08/04/cultural-clashes-make-the-sscs-grindstop-campaign-counterproductive/

Aug 15 2013

What is the disagreement between the EU and the Faroe Islands (really) about?

A school of Jack Mackerel (Trachurus declivis). Fairy Bower, Manly, NSWBy Elin Brimheim Heinesen

A quarter of the total Faroese exports may be affected by the restrictions, if the European Union’s sanctions against the Faroe Islands are implemented. This seems like a quite severe punishment of a very small and economically vulnerable nation in the North Atlantic, totally dependent on its fishery. But according to the EU – and most international media – the Faroe Islands is an overfishing “Bandit State” that deserves punishment. Is this a fair portrayal of the situation?

The EU claims that the Faroese fishing fleet is overfishing the Atlanto-Scandian herring and mackerel stocks, which fishermen in the EU zone have struggled so much to sustain, so now the EU has been ‘forced’ to take on the ‘honorable’ role as the great defender of sustainable fisheries in the North Atlantic.

- As a consequence of their unacceptable actions, the Faroese must be punished with sanctions until they fall into line, EU commissioner Maria Damanaki says.

This is the official story most people have been presented with in international media. The Faroese disagree strongly with this version of the story, which they claim is only political spin.

- We’re not overfishing, says the Faroese Minister of Fisheries, Mr. Jacob Vestergaard, and emphasizes that the Faroese are not trying to push the upper limit of the overall Atlanto-Scandian herring and mackerel quota.

- The Faroese strongly support sustainable fisheries. Of course we want to fish sustainably, he says. – Fishery is almost our only source of income. And we do not want to cut the branch on which we are sitting. So seen from our point of view the disagreement is not about overfishing. It is solely a fight about the allocation of the current quota. Clearly the EU does not want to take any of our claims in regard. But according to international law the EU has no legal right to interfere with fishery regulation policies in our own zone, since our waters aren’t EU regulated waters. We’re willing to negotiate with the coastal states involved and to come to an agreement with them, but nobody seems to want to sit down with us and listen to our arguments for, why we think the Atlanto-Scandian herring and mackerel stocks should be allocated differently between the states around the North Atlantic. Maybe because it would force them to rethink the case, and no one wants to reduce their own quotas. So they just choose not to listen. But we are certain that we have a legal, natural and a historical right to a larger percentage of the total quota of the Atlanto-Scandian herring and mackerel stocks, says Vestergaard.

Clear breach of international rules and agreements
Chairman for the Republican Party in the Faroes (a party in favour of an independent Faroese Republic, not to be compared with the American Republican Party), Mr. Høgni Hoydal agrees:

- Seen from the Faroese side, the announced sanctions are in clear breach of international WTO rules and in breach of the Trade Agreement between the Faroe Islands and the EU. Faroe Islands is doing nothing which is contrary to international law and practice. According to the UN Law of the Sea Commission, the Faroe Islands have full right to set quotas for catching fish in their own waters. The framework for the sanctions and this act of implementing sanctions on the Faroes is clearly intended to impose economic and trade policy instruments of power into a legitimate conflict between coastal states on the management of migratory fish stocks and allocation of fishing quotas.

- This penalty framework and the possible sanctions will not only be a real problem for the Faroe Islands. It will create asymmetrical negotiation situations for all countries negotiating with the EU about fisheries agreements in the future. It should be a matter of principle for all the Nordic countries to challenge and relate to this. Furthermore, the absurd in this case is that the Atlanto-Scandian herring, which is now used as a justification for sanctions, is not in the EU’s fishing zone and the EU was not initially approved as a coastal state for the Atlanto-Scandian herring. This happened only in 1997 after the EU – without any agreement (!) – had set its own quota unilaterally at 150,000 tonnes, says Mr. Hoydal.

- The EU has no historical right to claim a more extensive share of the total quota than we have, because a nearly non-existent quantity of Atlanto-Scandian herring is swimming in EU waters. And if the EU cares so much about the stock, why haven’t they gone forward showing a good example by refraining, at least from a part of their share? Vestergaard asks.

Not putting up with being used as scapegoats
The current allocation of fishing quotas is based on figures from research made in the mid nineties. Much has changed in these waters since then. The Faroese government says, that recent marine environment research around the Faroes shows that there is much more mackerel and herring in Faroese waters today. This is the reason why the Faroese wanted to increase their share from 5% to 17% of the overall herring quota of 619,000 tonnes.

- But nobody wishes to listen to our arguments. Based on historical reasons as well as on changed biological conditions of life in the waters around the Faroe Islands, we clearly have a right to a larger share of the total quota, says Vestergaard.

- We will not put up with being ignored and used as scapegoat by EU politicians, just because we’re a small nation, all too easy to bully because we’re insignificant in the global perspective. We will fight for our share of the quota to which we are entitled. Nobody wanted to take our arguments seriously, so therefore, we had to put action behind our words, and set our own quota unilaterally – just like the EU did back in 1997. This does not mean that we’re not open to negotiations. But future negotiations about renewed stock allocations must be based on current facts, not on research done more than fifteen years ago.

- The EU claims that the herring is in decline, and that the herring distribution in the North Atlantic is concentrated much further east and north of the Faroe Islands. But our research does not confirm this. We have made scientific research together with Norway and Iceland that proves that large quantities of mackerel and herring have migrated into Faroese waters and that they feed on our fishing grounds where they grow big and fat. We have the full right to make use of these resources, says Vestergaard.

Marine Scientists in the Faroe Islands, Iceland and Norway confirm that global warming has tilted the whole ecological balance in the Northern Seas. Large quantities of mackerel and herring have in later years invaded the Faroese zone, almost displacing other fish stocks, on which the Faroese are very much dependent.

Large quantities of herring in Faroese waters
The Faroese believe that this gives them the legal right to take a larger quantity of the whole quota, despite of what the EU claims about declining stocks, but these EU claims are not based on the latest research, the Faroese counter argument.

As it is, marine research seems to indicate that the ecological balance in the Northern Sea as a whole might be in a critical condition because of exceptionally large quantities of mackerel and herring in the sea north of the Faroes – inside as well as outside the Faroese economic zone – eating away of the plankton and small fishes, other fish species in these waters usually feed on.

The whole system might be about to collapse, as described in these articles:
http://www.nrk.no/nordland/_-vi-styrer-mot-kollaps-i-norskehav-1.11158489, http://www.imr.no/nyhetsarkiv/2013/juli/makrell_over_hele_linjen/nb-no, http://www.imr.no/nyhetsarkiv/2013/juli/norsk_makrellkartlegging_ferdig/nb-no.

This is the latest Faroese research that confirms this:

A Faroese fisherman, who doesn’t want his identity revealed, described the Faroese viewpoint on Facebook as such:

- Seen in the big picture the situation is not sustainable anyway if the mackerel and the herring stocks aren’t regulated more effectively. According to international law we have the right to regulate the stocks in our own waters. The Faroes are NOT a member of the EU. So seen from the Faroese point of view, the EU has no business in trying to regulate fishery in Faroese controlled waters. This whole situation with EU interfering in Faroese fishery regulation policies in our own waters is absurd! Through the latest decades we have managed to regulate our own fishing grounds much better and much more sustainably than so many other coastal states. Our system has been admired worldwide and others have copied our methods. But some countries have done a very good job of emptying their own seas, which probably is why they now want to come after the fish in Faroese waters. These countries are the ones fishing unsustainably, not the Faroese!

Who’s the real bandit
But the Faroes’ counterparts have managed to present a completely different picture of the situation to the public in the EU. The EU claims that the Faroe Islands does not meet the conditions for sustainable fisheries, and therefore, the EU needs to implement sanctions against the Faroe Islands. EU politicians have thus managed to put forward a very simple and clear picture of the situation, which so far seems to ‘sell’ well in foreign media, but is it a true picture? The Faroes are now largely considered to be the ‘Bandit State’ in the public eye in EU with regard to fishing, but is this a fair portrayal? And why is it so important for the EU politicians to make an example out of this case?

The EU Commissioner Damanaki was quite clear at a news conference the other day.

- Fishing must be sustainable, she said – Faroe Islands fishing is not sustainable – therefore EU has to implement sanctions against the Faroe Islands.

The same claim as Damanaki’s was heard a week ago in the message from the Danish Food Minister Mette Gjerskov (who left the ministry due to a cabinet reshuffle this weekend), when she said that even though Denmark does not advocate non-sustainable fishery, the Danish government does not believe it is the right course of action to impose sanctions against the Faroes.

Denmark is caught in a conflict between its obligations as a member of the EU and its obligation towards the Danish Commonwealth, which consists of Denmark, as well as the Faroe Islands and Greenland – two autonomous regions under the Danish Commonwealth, that have chosen not to be part of the EU. It seems obvious that in this case, Denmark has chosen to take the EU side, as it would seem to be more advantageous for them – not least for the Danish fishermen.

In the public Danish analysis of the case, which the Danish Food Minister Gjerskov has presented together with the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we see that Denmark does not only believe it’s bound to follow possible sanctions that the EU implements, but also that the Danish case is based on the EU notion that the Faroe Islands does not fish sustainably. This is the claim, which forms the whole legal basis for the EU sanctions, but it has no base in reality, according to the Faroese. They are quite disappointed by the Danish vague stance on this matter.

Bogi Eliasen, a Faroese expert in foreign affairs,says:

- Ms. Gjerskov is supposed to be “the Faroese voice” in the EU, but publicly she puts an analysis of the situation forward, which actually is based on the counterparty’s case: that the Faroe Islands do not fish sustainably. The Faroese consider this claim to be untrue and an unfair accusation. In their view the EU is ‘the bandit’ here, because the EU has no legal, historical or natural right to claim a large share of Atlanto-Scandian mackerel and herring, and now they are portraying the Faroe Islands as the ‘pirates’, although the Faroese are in full legal right to do what they do?

The Faroese are loosing the media war
Even though their legal rights are in place, the Faroese seem to be the looser in this ‘war’.

- The world does not consist of law alone, and to be right in a legal sense is not always enough, Eliasen says.

- Although the Faroese – seen from a communication point of view – have a good case, appropriate to communicate to international media, it is only the Damanaki version of the story that fills the media outside the Faroe Islands – to such an extent that it has become a matter of course to call the Faroe Islands a Bandit State. The Faroes’ opponents have managed – with good help from the media – to win the public opinion to their side politically. And when the dominating political systems are supported by the public opinion this way, it can be extremely difficult to resist, even though the Faroese have the legal rights to do what they do.

- Furthermore, when a top politician like Damanaki chooses to go to such an extent to punish the Faroe Islands, and anything else would mean that she would lose face and credibility, yes, it will not always be the applicable rules or justice who have the final say. The Faroe Islands are right, there is no doubt about it – but it doesn’t help to know that, if only the Faroese know that they are right…, says Eliasen.

- This is a good simple populist case for a politician, and so far Damanaki has been able to play this game almost without resistance. The Faroese have not done a good enough job at communicating their version of the story, but they are not the only ones that should be blamed for this, because the Faroes – with their only 48.000 inhabitants – are inherently not as resourceful as the EU. The international press should be much better at analyzing the whole situation, says Eliasen, pointing to the fact that e.g Scottish and Irish fisherman have been caught in large scale cheating over the last decade. – The lack of critical journalistic investigation of the Faroe-EU herring war in international media is blatant, says Eliasen.

- This is the reason why it has become a battle of who is best at using the media to convince the public of who’s right – not about who really IS right. It’s about appearance – who is best at playing the good guys as opposed to the bad guys in the public eye – not about what is fair or not, says Eliasen.

Permanent link to this article: http://heinesen.info/wp/blog/2013/08/15/what-is-the-disagreement-between-the-eu-and-the-faroe-islands-really-about/

Aug 20 2012

Dear Anonymous Hacktivists (and everyone else)

Well, this really takes the biscuit! This morning a number of Faroese websites were hacked by some people who call themselves Anonymous Australia in an attempt to harm the Faroese because of their pilot whaling practice. Now these people are threatening to do the same to a number of other Faroese people and institutions – including me!

They’ve put up a long list of names (mine among others!) whom this warning, allegedly, is addressed to – here: http://pastebin.com/aaPp5XKK.

Once again I’ve been named an “advocate” of the pilot whaling…! (The first time was by Capt. Paul Watson on the SSCS site. He actually called me an “APOSTLE” of whaling…!) My goodness! And thus I’m an enemy of … well, who? They are anonymous … and if I get them right, they say that I can count on being the next target of their hacker attacks - at least that is how I understand this claim: ”To those who support killing whales we only have one thing to say, expect us” in their warning.

I must say, I am completely baffled.

For everyone with an open and non-judgmental mind, who bothers to read what I’ve really written on my blog and elsewhere about the issue of pilot whaling, it should be totally obvious that I first and foremost have tried to create understanding both ways.

I have advocated for establishing dialogue between those who oppose each other in this matter and not be so judgmental. And I have defended the Faroese against arbitrary attacks.

I have never said that I supported pilot whaling unconditionally. On the contrary. I myself have advocated – mostly in articles written in Faroese to the Faroese public – for stopping the killing, IF it is not possible to continue this tradition on a sustainable and non-commercial basis. I have also urged people to take the health warnings seriously, and asked the Faroese authorities to issue stricter rules in regard to the pilot whale killings.

I have also pointed out, that as long as the health authorities in the Faroe Islands still claim, based on scientific research, that it is within safe limits to eat a certain amount of pilot whale meat and blubber, many Faroese have a hard time understanding why they should stop eating food they have been used to eating for more than a thousand years.

What I’m trying to do is to help outsiders understand the way many Faroese people think about this. The Faroese are not driven to do this because they are “evil” or “bloodthirsty” – or what ever bad things people might call them – not any more so than any other meat eaters and butchers in this world. As long as outsiders believe that the Faroese are somehow only killing pilot whales as some kind of “sick fun” just to be cruel, you will never reach the Faroese and make them understand YOU, because these assumptions about the Faroese are simply not true – and not fair.

You can only win this “war” with reasonable arguments and scientific facts. Only that way you might be able to convince people in the Faroes that you are right. NOT by name-calling, threats, hate-speech, attacks and hacking. All this has been tried for more than 30 years now, and with no result. It will only postpone a solution. It might take some time to reach mutual understanding, but the respectful way is the only way.

This world is insane enough as it is. Please, check your facts, be a good example to the Faroese and let reason prevail.

Permanent link to this article: http://heinesen.info/wp/blog/2012/08/20/dear-anonymous-hacktivists-and-everyone-else/

May 21 2012

If we lose our foods we lose who we are

I was born in the late 50′ies in the Faroe Islands. At that time we pretty much had a subsistence way of life in this remote place on earth with a hostile climate and an environment that humans could never hope to survive in without eating animals.

In winter, our region is stormy and dark for months on end, and the summer is very short. There are no trees except some imported trees in sheltered areas inside the villages and just a few edible plants. And yet, somehow we, the Faroese people, have survived here for more than a thousand years, relying on an intimate knowledge and understanding of our environment for our survival, constantly walking a tightrope between life and death.

In my childhood we still harvested most of our own food, integrating healthy, wild edibles into our diet. Most of our food supply was right outside our front door, and we used time-tested methods for living off the land and the sea.

Our people were unencumbered, only depending on nature’s resources and the skill in our hands. Sudden food cost increases or empty grocery shelves caused by turmoil on the international market were not our biggest concerns. The only uncertainties were the whims of nature.

I remember the foods of my childhood. We ate mostly fish, some sheep meat and quite a lot of whale meat and blubber, served with homegrown potatoes. And afterwards we would have porridge made from homegrown rhubarbs, for instance. Our storage of dry and salted food and our new freezer were filled with fish, sheep meat and whale meat and blubber, my family had provided directly from natures larder. Our dairy products were from local farmers. But the grains, flours and sugar we used for baking bread and cakes were imported. And we only ate vegetables and fruits, if we could afford it. They were very expensive, because they came from far away, so they were luxury foods, we could not have everyday.

Times they are a’changing
But things changed. Our fishing became industrialized. We got money on our hands. And suddenly we were able to import exotic foods from countries far away, like oranges and bananas. When I was a teenager in the 70′ies, we probably already ate fifty-fifty, half traditional Faroese food, half regular European food. Today the division is more like eighty-twenty, at least for people living in the bigger towns, while people in smaller and less affluent villages still try to reduce food costs by holding on to the old traditional diet.

No one, not even indigenous residents of the northernmost arctic villages on Earth, eats an entirely traditional northern diet anymore. Not even the Eskimos—which include the Inupiat and the Yupiks of Alaska, the Canadian Inuit and Inuvialuit, Inuit Greenlanders, and the Siberian Yupiks––or the Sami people in the northern parts of Norway, Sweden and Finland. They have probably seen more changes in their diet in a lifetime than their ancestors did over thousands of years.(1)

But it’s very doubtful whether the modern foods replacing the traditional foods, are any better or healthier. The opposite is more likely. The closer people live to towns and the more access they have to stores and cash-paying jobs, the more likely they are to have westernized their eating. And with westernization comes processed foods and cheap carbohydrates—soda, cookies, chips, pizza, fries and the like. The young and urbanized are increasingly into fast food. So much so that type 2 diabetes, obesity, and other diseases of Western civilization are becoming causes for great concern in our country too.

An inadequate diet?
Up until the 60′ies the Faroese people mostly subsisted on what they hunted and fished. We were island people exploiting the sea and the little land we had in a sustainable way. The main nutritional challenge was avoiding starvation in late winter if primary meat sources became too scarce or lean. But how did people get along eating so much meat and so few vegetables and fruit? How could such a diet possibly be adequate? This diet hardly makes up the “balanced” diet most other people elsewhere have grown up with. It looks nothing like the mix of grains, fruits, vegetables, meat, eggs, and dairy as seen in conventional food pyramid diagrams.

Still, Faroese people have been quite healthy––healthier than they are today now that modern foods have replaced much of their traditional food. Now, when almost everyone in western societies is on some kind of a fancy diet and nobody seems sure of what to eat to stay healthy, it’s surprising to learn how well northern people like the Faroese did on a high-protein, high-fat diet, even though this diet had little in the way of plant food, not many agricultural products and a few dairy products, and it was also relatively low in carbohydrates.

Well, it seems that there are no essential foods—only essential nutrients. (2) And humans can get those nutrients from diverse sources. One might, for instance, imagine gross vitamin deficiencies arising from a diet very scarce on fresh fruits and vegetables. People in southern climes derive much of their Vitamin A from colorful plant foods, constructing it from pigmented plant precursors called carotenoids (as in carrots). But vitamin A, which is oil soluble, is also plentiful in the oils of cold-water fishes and sea mammals, as well as in the animals’ livers, where fat is processed.

These dietary staples also provide vitamin D, another oil-soluble vitamin needed for bones. Those living in temperate and tropical climates, on the other hand, usually make vitamin D indirectly by exposing skin to strong sun—hardly an option in the long and dark winters in the north.

How to overcome vitamin deficiensies
As for vitamin C, the source in northern peoples’ diet was long a mystery. Most animals can synthesize their own vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, in their livers, but humans are among the exceptions, along with other primates like guinea pigs and bats. If we don’t ingest enough of it, we fall apart from scurvy, a gruesome connective-tissue disease.

In southern climes the people can get ample supplies from orange juice, citrus fruits, and fresh vegetables. But vitamin C oxidizes with time. Getting enough from a ship’s provisions was tricky for people living far away out in the ocean, like the Faroese, or in other not easily accessible northern regions. Scurvy—joint pain, rotting gums, leaky blood vessels, physical and mental degeneration—are known to have plagued European and U.S. expeditions in the arctic area even in the 20th century. However, natives in these arctic and subarctic areas living on fresh fish and meat were free of the disease.

If you have some fresh meat in your diet every day and don’t overcook it, there will be enough vitamin C from that source alone to prevent scurvy. In fact, all it takes to ward off scurvy is a daily dose of 10 milligrams (3). Native foods, like in the Faroes for instance, easily supply those 10 milligrams of scurvy prevention, especially when organ meats are on the menu. As you might guess from its antiscorbutic role, vitamin C is crucial for the synthesis of connective tissue, including the matrix of skin. Wherever collagen’s made, you can expect vitamin C (1). Traditional Faroese practices like freezing or drying meat and fish and frequently eating them raw, conserve vitamin C, which is easily cooked off and lost in food processing, so eating dry fish, sheep or whale meat and blubber is as good as drinking orange juice.

Hunter-gatherer diets like those of the Faroese and other northern groups, as well as other traditional diets based on nomadic herding or subsistence farming are among the older approaches to human eating. Some of these eating plans might seem strange to others—diets centered around milk, meat, and blood among the East African pastoralists, enthusiastic tuber eating by the Quechua living in the High Andes, the staple use of the mongongo nut in the southern African !Kung—but all proved resourceful adaptations to particular eco-niches.

Fat is very important
No people, though, may have been forced to push the nutritional envelope further than those living at Earth’s frozen extremes. In general, hunter-gatherers tend to eat more animal protein than people do in their standard Western diet, with its reliance on agriculture and carbohydrates derived from grains and starchy plants. Lowest of all in carbohydrate, and highest in combined fat and protein, are the diets of peoples living in the Far North, where they make up for fewer plant foods with extra fish.

The simplest, fastest way to make energy is to convert carbohydrates into glucose, our body’s primary fuel. But if the body is out of carbs, it can burn fat, or if necessary, break down protein. Arctic and subarctic people had plenty of protein but little carbohydrate, so they often relied on fat. Protein can’t be the sole source of energy for humans. (4) Anyone eating a meaty diet that is low in carbohydrates must have fat as well, or else they will weaken over time and eventually die even though they have lots of food, high in protein, but low in carbohydrates and fat.

No discussion about diet these days can avoid the “Atkins diet”. You can say that the northern way of eating is the “original Atkins”. Just like the diet in the arctic-subarctic area, Atkins is low in carbohydrates and very high in fat. But numerous researchers point out that there are profound differences, though, between the two diets, beginning with the type of meat and fat eaten.

Healthy and unhealthy fats 
Fats have been demonized in modern western cultures. But all fats are not created equal. (5) This lies at the heart of a paradox. In the northern areas, people on a traditional fatty diet don’t die of heart attacks at nearly the same rates as other people in Europe or America. The cardiac death rate is about half as high in the arctic region as it is in the US or in most northern European countries. So what causes that reduced risk? It is intriguing because the arctic-subarctic diet is nothing like the famously heart-healthy Mediterranean diet, with its cornucopia of vegetables, fruits, grains, herbs, spices, olive oil, and red wine.

A key difference is that more than 50 percent of the calories in native foods in the arctic-subarctic areas come from fats. Much more important, the fats come from wild animals or domestic animals living in the wild all year round. Wild-animal fats are different from both farm-animal fats and processed fats. Farm animals, cooped up and stuffed with agricultural grains (carbohydrates) typically have lots of solid, highly saturated fat. Much of the processed food is also riddled with solid fats, or so-called trans fats, such as the reengineered vegetable oils and shortenings cached in baked goods and snacks. A lot of the packaged food on supermarket shelves contains them. So do commercial french fries. (5)

Trans fats are polyunsaturated vegetable oils tricked up to make them more solid at room temperature. Manufacturers do this by hydrogenating the oils—adding extra hydrogen atoms to their molecular structures—which “twists” their shapes. These man-made fats are dangerous, even worse for the heart than saturated fats. They not only lower high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL, the “good” cholesterol) but they also raise low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL, the “bad” cholesterol) and triglycerides. In the process, trans fats set the stage for heart attacks because they lead to the increase of fatty buildup in artery walls.

Wild animals provide healthier fats
Wild animals and / or animals that range freely and eat what nature intended have fat that is far more healthful. Less of their fat is saturated, and more of it is in the monounsaturated form (like olive oil). What’s more, cold-water fishes and sea mammals are particularly rich in polyunsaturated fats called n-3 fatty acids or omega-3 fatty acids. These fats appear to benefit the heart and vascular system. But the polyunsaturated fats in most Europeans and Americans’ diets are the omega-6 fatty acids supplied by vegetable oils. By contrast, whale blubber consists of 70 percent monounsaturated fat and close to 30 percent omega-3s. (5)

Omega-3s evidently help raise HDL cholesterol, lower triglycerides, and are known for anticlotting effects. These fatty acids are believed to protect the heart from life-threatening arrhythmias that can lead to sudden cardiac death. And like a “natural aspirin”, omega-3 polyunsaturated fats help put a damper on runaway inflammatory processes, which play a part in atherosclerosis, arthritis, diabetes, and other so-called diseases of civilization.

Needless to say, the subsistence diets of the north are not “dieting.” Dieting is the price people pay for too little exercise and too much mass-produced food. Northern diets were a way of life in places too cold for agriculture, where food, whether hunted, fished, or foraged, could not be taken for granted. They were about keeping weight on.

This is not to say that the Faroese or other people in the north were fat: Subsistence living requires exercise—hard physical work. Indeed, among the good reasons for native people to maintain their old way of eating, as far as it’s possible today, is that it provides a hedge against obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.

The real threats to the food chain
Unfortunately, no place on Earth has escaped the spreading taint of growth and development. The very well-being of the northern food chain is under threat from global warming, land development, and industrial pollutants in the marine environment.

Global warming we don’t seem to have control over. But we could reduce the amount of plastics and other pollutants, we release into nature, and we could, for example, do cleanups of communication cables leaching lead into fish-spawning areas. And we can help communities make informed choices. A young woman of childbearing age may choose not to eat certain foods that concentrate contaminants. As individuals, we do have options. And eating our fish, our sheep and our whale meat and blubber might still be a much better option than pulling something processed that’s full of additives off a store shelf.

Kinship with our food sources
How often do you hear someone living in an industrial society speak familiarly about “our” food animals? How often do people talk of “our pigs” and “our beef.” Most people in the modern world are taught to think in boxes and have lost that sense of kinship with food sources. But in the Faroese hunting and farming village culture the connectivity between humans, animals, plants, the land we live on, and the air we share has not been lost––not yet, at least. It is still ingrained in most Faroese people from birth.

Many of our young people and people in bigger towns are quite influenced by western urbanized culture and food habits. They are slowly getting alienated to our old traditions. However, it is still not possible, really, to separate the way many of us still get our food from the way we live in this society as a whole. How we get our traditional food is intrinsic to our culture. It’s how we pass on our values and knowledge to the young. When you go out with your father, mother, aunts and uncles to fish in the sea, to heard the sheep, handle the wool, to gather plants, to hunt birds and other animals or catch whales, you learn to smell the air, watch the wind, understand the way the currents move and know the land. You get to know where to pick which plants and what animals to take.

This way of life has been an integrated part of our culture for so long, and it still is to a degree, especially in the smaller villages, where people share their food with the community. They show respect to their elders and the weak in the society by offering them part of the catch. They give thanks to the animals that gave up their life for their sustenance. They get all the physical activity of harvesting their own food, all the social activity of sharing and preparing it, and all the spiritual aspects as well. You certainly don’t get all that when you buy prepackaged food from a store.

That is why some of us here in the Faroe Islands are working hard to protect what is left of our old way of life, so that our people can continue to live and work in our remote villages, as independently as possible from polluting transport systems and a fraud-ful modern economic infrastructure. Because if we don’t take care of our food, it won’t be there for us in the future. And if we lose our foods, we lose who we are.


This blog post is inspired by the statements of Patricia Cochran, an Inupiat from Northwestern Alaska directing the Alaska Native Science Commission, in an article written by Patricia Gadsby for Discover magazine, October 2004, about “The Inuit Paradox: How can people who gorge on fat and rarely see a vegetable be healthier than we are?” (http://discovermagazine.com/2004/oct/inuit-paradox/article_view?b_start:int=0&-C=). 

The scientific facts referred to in this post are based on quotes from the same article from the experts below:

  1. Harriet Kuhnlein, director of the Centre for Indigenous Peoples’ Nutrition and Environment at McGill University in Montreal
  2. Harold Draper, a biochemist and expert in Eskimo nutrition
  3. Karen Fediuk, a consulting dietitian and former graduate student of Harriet Kuhnlein’s who did her master’s thesis on vitamin C (http://members.shaw.ca/karen.fediuk/VitaminCintheInuitdiet.pdf)
  4. Loren Cordain, a professor of evolutionary nutrition at Colorado State University at Fort Collins
  5. Eric Dewailly, a professor of preventive medicine at Laval University in Quebec

Permanent link to this article: http://heinesen.info/wp/blog/2012/05/21/if-we-lose-our-food-we-lose-who-we-are/

May 10 2012

Why most arguments against grindadráp fail

People who are against pilot whaling in the Faroe Islands often refer to the following 12 reasons for why pilot whaling should stop. Here is why 10 of them fail and why 2 are partially right / partially wrong.

1. The Faroese should stop killing pilot whales because the pilot whales are endangered.

The pilot whale is one of the most common whale species in the oceans all over the world, especially the long finned pilot whale. Pilot whales are not endangered according to the authorities in this matter. The NAMMCO (North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission) is the real authority on all matters regarding the North Atlantic pilot whale. The NAMMCO base their estimation on sightings – and they estimate that the number of long finned pilot whales in the North- and East Atlantic is 780.000, and that’s excluding the West Atlantic, so the number might be, even significantly higher. The ACS (American Cetacean Society) agrees with those numbers and the IUCN also agrees that the pilot whale hunt is, as they say: ‘probably sustainable’. The IWC doesn’t consider itself an authority on small cetaceans, of which the long finned pilot whale is one. So the pilot whale is not on the list of endangered animal species. The Sea Shepherd organisation stands alone in its claims that the long finned pilot whale is endangered.

The Faroese have killed pilot whales for at least 1.200 years, so the pilot whales should probably have been extinct by now, if the pilot whaling in the Faroes was a threat to the population as a whole. Since 1584 (that is how long it’s been carefully monitored) the Faroese have killed 850 pilot whales (in later years around 800) on average a year, so that’s a tenth of a percent (0.1%) of the pilot whale population only in the North Atlantic, which is very far from exceeding the pilot whales’  reproduction rate at around 2 %. There is nothing to indicate that the pilot whale population is in decline. As long as the pilot whale is not endangered, this is not a rational argument. So this is a failed argument.

2. The Faroese should stop killing pilot whales because the pilot whale slaughter is cruel.

Most images and videos of pilot whale slaughter on the internet are outdated. It doesn’t happen like that any more. The whales are not being stabbed and hacked to death with spears and hooks. Killing methods have improved a lot, especially since the 1980s. Spears are forbidden, and hooks are now rounded and put into the blowholes of the whales to drag them into a better position for a quick kill. New methods have been developed which have decreased the time to death of each whale to 2-4 seconds. The pilot whale slaughters were without a doubt more violent than necessary years ago, but it’s different today. Besides, it is not possible to hunt and kill wild animals in any ‘pretty’ or non-bloody way. No hunting is pretty and bloodless.

People often claim that comparison to other kinds of animal slaughters is not relevant – it is like comparing oranges and apples, they say. But if you accept all animals as equals when it comes to the right not to be killed in a cruel way – and if there is no reason to believe that pilot whale slaughter, as it is conducted today, is crueler than other accepted ways of slaughtering animals, it IS relevant. Because if the slaughter of pilot whales still is labelled ‘cruel’, then many forms of accepted animal slaughter must also be labelled as ‘cruel’. You can’t demand a ban of the slaughter of pilot whales on these grounds, and then NOT demand a ban of other kinds of animal hunting and slaughter just as ‘cruel’.

Furthermore, it wouldn’t be feasible to ban all animal slaughter and therefore, this is not a rational argument. The banning of all hunting of wild animals would also have incalculable consequences for all the indigenous people in this world, who base their livelihoods on hunting. So this is a failed argument.

3. The Faroese should stop killing pilot whales because the slaughter is bloody and gory.

The killing of animals is bloody. It might look ghastly when the sea turns red during a pilot whale slaughter, but basically it doesn’t make this kind of slaughter much different or worse than the common slaughter of captive animals in slaughter houses. All animals bleed and are emptied of blood when they’re slaughtered. The difference is that slaughter houses have drains that go into underground sewers, but you can’t kill pilot whales in a slaughter house. It must be done in the shallows by a beach, which makes this slaughter seem much bloodier or ‘graphic’ than other kinds of slaughters. Pilot whales are also big animals, so of course there is a lot of blood.

Furthermore, since marine mammals can dive for long periods at a time, there is a lot of oxygen in their blood, which means that their blood is more intensely red than blood in mammals on land. This also contributes to the coloring of the sea. Blood also spreads quickly in water. Just try to put one drop of blood in a glass of water and watch what happens.

It’s not a rational argument to say, the Faroese have to stop killing whales because it is too bloody. This is irrational and a failed argument too.

4. The Faroese should stop killing pilot whales because such a tradition doesn’t belong to the 21st century. They shouldn’t do this just because it is a tradition.

People in the Faroe Islands don’t kill pilot whales because it is a tradition. They do it for food, as they’ve always done. But opponents call this practice of getting food ‘a tradition’, because this way of living off of the natural resources of the ocean has been common on these islands for more than 1,200 years.

Pilot whale meat and blubber is so common and natural for the Faroese to eat that to them this food is no different than beef or bacon is to people in other countries, where they have a tradition for eating cattle or pig meat. It’s just that you can’t breed pilot whales in the same manner as you can breed cattle or pigs. But why would you want to do that, if there is an abundance of pilot whales around the islands living free their whole life? Why would the Faroese deprive the whales of that privilege and somehow cage them or put them in ocean feed lots?

Who’s to decide what belongs to the 21st century or not? Or which traditions are worth keeping for the Faroese or not? It is definitely not for people outside the Faroe Islands to decide. The right word for this is ethnocentrism. That is: judging another culture solely by the values and standards of one’s own culture. The ethnocentric individual will judge other groups relative to his or her own particular ethnic group or culture, especially with concern to language, behavior, customs, and religion. Ethnocentrism is not rational, so again a failed argument.

5. The Faroese should stop killing pilot whales because it’s appalling that the Faroese people are so insensitive to these poor animals.

This is a purely emotional, judgmental and also an irrational argument, which also belongs to the category: Ethnocentrism. The Faroese people are not more ‘insensitive’ to animals than other people. If the Faroese are to be labelled ‘insensitive’, every meat-eater in the world must be labelled just as insensitive to the animal he or she eats.

People outside the Faroe Islands tend to forget that they also have ‘insensitive’ butchers in the livestock industry in their own country, whom they do not question in the same way. If you do not question the butchers’ ‘insensitive behavior’ in your own country just as much, this is not a valid argument. It’s not only a failed argument, it is also hypocritical.

6. The Faroese should stop killing pilot whales because it is not necessary for them to kill pilot whales. They have plenty of other foods they can eat.

It is not up to others to decide, what is necessary for the Faroese and what is not. This is – again: ethnocentrism and shows a lack of understanding or knowledge of the circumstances in the Faroe Islands.

It is also logically inconsistent. With this logic one could just as well claim that it is not ‘necessary’ to breed cattle or pigs for food. Live stock industry depletes and pollutes the earth to a great extent, and the utilization rate of available land for pasture for the breeding of cattle or pigs, for instance, is much lower compared to the utilization rate by growing vegetables directly for human consumption on the same area. But people still feel they have ‘the right’ to have meat for dinner, even if that – from a rational, holistic perspective – is not beneficial nor very sensible, because it means that there is much less food available for the human population as a whole. Therefore, one could just as well say, it is ‘unnecessary’ or even irrational to eat meat from livestock animals in a world on a fast track towards overpopulation.

The fact that the Faroese have access – and the economical opportunity (to a degree) at the moment – to buy (very expensive) imported foods, is not a valid argument against the Faroese utilizing locally available resources. Unlike people living in warmer climates with lots of flatland and space they can use for breeding and feeding livestock, the Faroe Islands is a very limited, quite mountainous area in the middle of the ocean in one of the stormiest areas in the world with almost no flatland or fertile soil, where you only can grow grass for the sheep to eat, a few potatoes and some rhubarb, as well as farm some salmon in the fjords. It’s still not enough food for the inhabitants, though. Summer season is also very short. (We’re in the beginning of May right now and it has been snowing for a couple of days).

Regardless, it’s still not for others to decide, what the Faroese need or don’t need. So a failed argument again.

7. The Faroese should stop killing pilot whales because the whales are intelligent.

Measuring intelligence is highly complex, and scientists do not agree on how to precisely measure intelligence, even when it comes to people.

Sea Shepherd founder Capt. Watson claims that it is a sign of highly developed intelligence that the whales have figured out how to live in harmony with nature, unlike us humans, so therefore they are more intelligent than people. Okay, if that is his logic, he could just as well claim a squirrel is more intelligent than humans. A squirrel also lives in harmony with nature, and nobody would say that a squirrel is more intelligent than a human being for that reason. Capt. Watson is just being manipulative.

There is no doubt that bottle-nosed dolphins are some of the most intelligent creatures in the animal kingdom. Dolphins are good at learning tricks, especially in captivity – also pilot whales to a degree. Dolphins are proven more intelligent than most other animals, but they are still very far from being as intelligent as people. And not all whales rank that high. The pilot whale is in the dolphin family, but pilot whales are not the most intelligent of the dolphins. Pilot whales are not especially intelligent in comparison to many other mammals either. Other animal species that humans kill for food are also proven highly ‘intelligent’. So this argument is inconsistent, if those who claim it is wrong to kill pilot whales because of their intelligence do not also oppose the killing of other intelligent animals for food.

Whether humans should refrain from killing “intelligent” animals or not is a matter of opinion. And there is no rational reason for claiming that one opinion is morally more right than the other. Also: How intelligent should an animal be to obtain a rank between the untouchables? How would you measure that to be able to set a border between highly intelligent and “stupid” animals? So again a failed argument.

8. The Faroese should stop killing pilot whales because the whales are sentient and sociable.

Yes, pilot whales are sentient and sociable, that is true. And so are all other animals too, more or less. Animals, most people in the world eat – like cows and pigs, even chickens – are also sentient and sociable. So you can’t on the one hand say that the Faroese shouldn’t kill whales on these grounds, and at the same time accept the killing of other sentient and sociable animals.

If you are against the killing of animals because they are sentient and sociable, you are inconsistent if you don’t include all animals in the equation – that is: you must also oppose the killing of cattle, pigs and chickens, yes, any animal in fact. That is unrealistic. So… failed argument.

9. The Faroese should stop killing pilot whales because they kill entire pods. Whales have strong ties to their group and killing entire pods is the same as wiping out a whole culture.

If that is so, then it would have been even more cruel to kill half of the pod and let the other half go free. The whales have strong ties to their group, yes, but to claim that the whales have a culture – and by killing an entire pod, you wipe out a whole culture – is quite far-fetched, and just another one of Capt. Watson’s manipulative claims, manufactured to affect people emotionally who have a tendency to romanticize these “gentle giants” – as if they are some kind of ‘human beings of the sea’. But this is belief – not a fact.

There is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that pilot whales develop any kind of advanced cultures like human beings. They are sociable animals and they communicate with each other, yes, and they might act friendly to people, but so do dogs and pigs for the most part as well. On these grounds you could just as well say these animals have some kind of ‘culture’ too. It doesn’t make the whale any more special than dogs or pigs, for instance, or many other animals.

Whales are wild animals and there are examples of whales attacking people unprovoked, also pilot whales, even though they mostly let humans in peace, probably because humans are not interesting as prey for them. Whales are carnivores. They kill and eat other animal species. In other words, they are nothing special. They are not good, they are not bad. They are just animals, even though they might be fascinating in some ways, because they’re so big and relatively intelligent too – as far as animals are concerned.

Some people, who feel saddened by the alarming development in our ailing world as a whole, just seem to have a strong need for turning the whales into something special: A symbol of something more innocent and more pure than us humans. These people seem to project their hopes for a better world into these animals and thus, they elevate them into something they’re not. Consequently, everyone who kills these animals must therefore ‘commit an evil act’ destroying the best things in this world, and therefore should be strongly opposed. This is romantic, but not rational. So this is also a failed argument.

10. The Faroese should stop killing pilot whales because, despite of what the Faroese claim, the whaling is commercial. There is evidence that shows that you can buy whale meat in supermarkets and in restaurants.

It is true that one sometimes can buy pilot whale meat and blubber in a supermarket or in a restaurant – in small amounts, but this is not evidence that the pilot whaling is done for commercial purposes. It’s not – and it won’t be in the future either. The pilot whale catch is distributed for free among those assisting in catching the whales and the local village communities in the area, as well as to hospitals, elderly homes and orphanages in the nearby areas.

Sometimes, in small villages with not many inhabitants, there might be a surplus which might end up on the shelfs in a supermarket or in a restaurant in Tórshavn, the capital, but this could never become big business, because – as already stated – the vast majority of the people who want whale meat and blubber can get it for free, so there is no reason for them to go into the supermarket and buy it.

A few restaurants and hotels offer pilot whale meat and blubber to tourists during the summer season, because, of course, there are tourists curious enough to taste the Faroese national dish, but this is done on a very small scale, and could never become a big business. So again, pilot whaling is not done for commercial purposes. It doesn’t and wouldn’t pay in any way. So this argument fails.

11. The Faroese should stop killing pilot whales because this tradition damages the image of their country in the outside world.

This is partially right. At least it might very well hurt the image some people have of the Faroe Islands and the Faroese people (if they have any image of the islands and their people, that is). It depends, though, on their worldview – and especially their view on whales. It seems that many people, who consider whales to be very special creatures, find it very disturbing and even ‘sick’ that the Faroese kill pilot whales. Based on the thousands of protesting letters the Faroese authorities receive every year, it is obvious that the majority of the protesters are city-dwellers and/or children – not people living directly in nature and off of nature’s larder.

The fact is that the Faroese also get significant support from many people around the world, mainly people who live in parts of the world where they also hunt animals for food. These people have a worldview similar to the Faroese and understand the circumstances in the Faroe Islands. It is also a fact that tourists visiting the islands are curious to taste pilot whale meat and blubber, which is why it is offered usually as a starter on the menu in the summer season in a few restaurants in the Faroe Islands. It wouldn’t seem that these tourists are opposed to pilot whaling.

Though the anti-whaling activists would want everyone to believe that “the whole world” is against pilot whaling in the Faroe Islands, there is reason to believe that the majority is quite indifferent and hasn’t taken a stand on this question. Anti-whaling activists have for many years endorsed that the Faroe Islands should be boycotted by the international community as long as they kill pilot whales. But they have never succeeded in getting any real support for these efforts.

It seems that the series “Whale Wars – Viking Shores” aired in the USA for the time being, which deals with the Sea Shepherd Organization’s interference with the pilot whaling in the Faroe Islands, has divided the viewers. It’s likely that many take the anti-whaling activists side, but judging from all the comments, for instance, on YouTube and Facebook, it seems that just as many take the Faroese side.

Among other things the series has revealed natures stunning beauty in the Faroe Islands, and also that the Faroese have a very strong culture. Many of the commentators declare that now that they have had an impression of how it is in the Faroe Islands, these beautiful islands have become one of those places they feel they must visit at least once before they die. So after all, this series might turn out to be an effective advertisement for the Faroe Islands for a lot of people around the world, who never knew this place existed before they saw the series.

12. The Faroese should stop killing pilot whales because pilot whale meat and blubber are contaminated and it is dangerous for the Faroese people’s health to eat it.

Of all the allegations mentioned above, only this last one is truly a valid point seen from a rational point of view, even though the health dangers are kind of exaggerated. But it does not change the fact that it is still up to the Faroese to decide for themselves, whether they want to eat contaminated food or not.

The Faroese will likely stop the pilot whaling gradually over the coming years, because pilot whale meat and blubber does contain mercury/methyl mercury at levels considered too high. Pilot whales also contain other toxins coming from man-made pollution, like PCB and DTD. And there are indications that exposure to some of these contaminants may affect human fetuses and their development. This fact is absolutely relevant and the majority of the Faroese people recognize this. But the anti-whaling activists often exaggerate the effects of this contamination, which are more subtle than they let people believe. There has, for instance, not been one single reported fatality due to eating pilot whale meat and blubber, not ever.

As was first demonstrated with lead, and then with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and methyl mercury, exposures in early life to neurotoxic chemicals can interfere with brain development and produce long-lasting detrimental effects on cognition and behavior. A new generation of chemicals termed endocrine disruptors – among them phthalates, bisphenol A, and certain pesticides – which can alter the availability and actions of endogenous hormones, is suspected of being capable of interfering with early brain development. It is hypothesized that certain chemical exposures in early life, perhaps acting in concert with genetic and social factors, may impact the prevalence of developmental disabilities across the population, and account in part for the apparent population-wide increases in neurodevelopmental abnormalities observed over recent years.

As stated, these are indications – not finally proven conclusions, but it is, of course, still very important to study this further, and take precautions.

The long-term intakes of total mercury, methyl mercury and cadmium from eating pilot whale in the Faroe Islands have been estimated. The long-term intakes of both total and methyl mercury exceed the Provisional Tolerable Weekly Intakes (PTWI) recommended by WHO. For the general population the PTWI’s are 300 and 200 μg mercury per person per week for total and methyl mercury, respectively. The calculated intake of methyl mercury approaches the lower value (1200 μg/person/week) of the recognized critical level of methyl mercury intoxication in the general population.

It is therefore concluded in several studies that the general Faroe Islands population should significantly restrict the consumption of pilot whale foods. One study (Dr. Pál Weihe’s) concludes the Faroese should totally refrain from it. The Faroese health authorities have looked into this study and also looked at other studies, and what they have come to is not as radical. They recommend that pregnant women, or women who plan on being pregnant, should not eat pilot whale foods at all, as the critical levels for methyl mercury intoxication of pregnant women and fetuses are lower by a factor of 2–5 than for the general population. They do not recommend that pilot whale meat and blubber should be served to younger children, while it seems to be within safe limits for the rest of the population to eat pilot whale meat and blubber once to twice a month.

The Faroese people are not indifferent to this unfortunate development. People are taking action personally – many do not serve pilot whale meat and blubber to their children any longer, and most younger women as well as child-bearing women choose not to eat pilot whale meat and blubber at all. The local authorities in the different whaling districts are making efforts to restrict pilot whaling even more than it was before, making sure that those involved don’t kill more whales than people can eat. The local village whaling associations who manage the catching of the whales agree with these restrictions, because they accept what science has shown.

But as long as the health authorities haven’t recommended that the Faroese population as a whole completely refrain from eating pilot whale meat and blubber (which, by the way, is the Faroese national dish), and, as long as pilot whaling is done in a responsible, sustainable, care-taking manner, the Faroese see no reason for stopping pilot whaling altogether. And they think that there is absolutely no valid reason for others to interfere in Faroese matters, trying to force the Faroese not to utilize this natural resource in their own country.


Permanent link to this article: http://heinesen.info/wp/blog/2012/05/10/12-arguments-against-pilot-whaling-and-why-they-fail/

May 09 2012

Media Whale Warfare

A comment by Elin Brimheim Heinesen to the discussion triggered by the TV series on Animal Planet “Whale Wars – Viking Shores”.

I wish this issue was simpler, but it’s not. I’m Faroese and I do not condone pilot whale killing in the Faroe Islands unconditionally. I’m absolutely opposed to unnecessary cruelty and the killing of animals just ‘for fun’ or as part of a ‘ritual’. If this really was the case in regard to pilot whaling in the Faroes, I would be against it. I know for a fact it’s not. Regardless of what some might claim.

For various unknown reasons some people perceive pilot whale killing as a sport, a celebration or a ritualistic event for the locals in the Faroe Islands. I do not. The purpose of pilot whaling is to put food on the table. People who believe anything else have not really understood or have twisted what Faroe Islanders or others have tried to say about pilot whaling – or they have been misled by people, interested in discrediting this practice.

Pilot whaling in the Faroes is no different – that is: no better, nor worse – than so many other accepted ways of providing meat. I’ve spoken to many foreigners who have witnessed a pilot whale slaughter. After they’ve seen it in real life, they aren’t opposed to it any more in the same way because they saw with their own eyes, that – in spite of the fact that it wasn’t pleasant – it was far from as cruel and dramatic as they had seen it portrayed by biased anti-whaling activists.

Usually a whole pod is killed in a few minutes and each whale is killed within seconds. Of course, it’s unpleasant to watch a pilot whale slaughter – just as it would be to visit a common slaughter house for anyone, not used to see such things. Most of us aren’t used to see what is going on, when animals are being slaughtered, and react naturally with shock. Watching someone taking the lives of living beings is a harsh reality, we very rarely experience.

Humans are predators
The way we have established ourselves and our communities in the modern world, has led us almost to forget the fact that all meat-eating people are predators. Whether we like it or not, it is the truth. I don’t like that fact either. But humans are, and have always been meat-eaters, the vast majority of them. This means that, basically, we’re no different than other predators who kill other animal species to have them for food. And that is not pretty.

I’m always shocked when I, for instance, watch a nature program on TV and see a lion catch a zebra and tear it apart – or an orca catch a seal and throw it up in the air before it bites the seal’s head of with its sharp teeth. It’s brutal and bloody, but I know the lion and the orca don’t do this because they’re evil. They do it to survive. That’s nature, and nature can be gruesome.

Some might say that you can’t compare what humans do to animals to what happens in nature, because most humans have ‘evolved’ (as they call it) and they kill animals more ‘humanely’ than a lion or an orca does, but to me that’s clearly a delusion.

Killing always brutal
No sound and healthy being wishes to die – neither animals nor humans, neither in the wild nor in farm factories. A zebra doesn’t want to be eaten by a lion. A seal doesn’t want to be eaten by an orca. A whale doesn’t want to be killed and eaten by people, neither does a pig. Nobody wants to be killed by anyone else. All living beings want to live and thrive. We might sophisticate our killing methods. But nevertheless, it’s still killing. Saying that it is more ‘humane’ to kill animals in a farm factory slaughter house, corresponds to saying that it was more ‘humane’ to kill people in gas chambers during the holocaust, rather then, for instance, to hang them or stone them to death.

No matter how we try to bend or twist it – we cannot run away and pretend it is not what it is: It IS brutal to kill animals – any animal, any human – one way or another, regardless of who does the killing – animals or humans – and regardless of how ‘humanely’ we try to do it. It’s still taking another beings life. And ALL animals, including humans, resist to being killed by others.

So I feel sorry for the zebra. I feel sorry for the seal. I also feel sorry for the cows and the pigs. I feel sorry for the chickens and the turkeys. I feel sorry for the sheep, the reindeers, the buffalos. And I feel sorry for the whales. I feel sorry for every single animal on earth that has to sacrifice it’s life in order to feed another animal, including us humans. In my fantasies I wish that nobody had to kill any other being and that we all could live just in peace together and love each other. At the same time I know that this is an utterly impossible utopian dream.

A delusional world
The fact is that most people in the world eat meat, which means that people have to kill animals. If humans want to have meat for dinner there must be shed blood. I don’t like this fact anymore than most other people who have a heart. I just have to realize that this will be reality as long as people want to enjoy their steaks. Some people also live in barren areas on earth were they have no other choice than to eat meat. And I’m pretty sure this will continue to be reality for a long time to come.

Many people – especially city dwellers who don’t live in and directly off nature – seem to have a need to displace these facts, as if they have nothing to do with it, even though they gladly munch burgers themselves. They see themselves as animal lovers and get emotional and sentimental, when they see animals being killed. And they accuse animal killers of being underdeveloped people, who don’t live in the 21st century. It’s a bad, bad thing they wish would go away. As if they’d like the whole world to turn into some kind of Disney World, where everyone is cute and kind to each other, where animals become almost like humans, and some are even superior to humans.

Even though they love a good steak, most people have likely never been responsible for or been involved in the animal killing process, needed to provide the steak. They probably couldn’t stand to kill an animal. Yak! So they must have others do the ‘dirty work’ for them. And then they can go on pretending the killing doesn’t really happen, and that they’re really good, innocent ‘evolved’ people, who never would harm anyone. But no matter what they think or do – deep down they’re still predators, responsible for causing pain and death to other earthlings.

These people defend themselves vigorously if anyone tries to tell them that they are in fact kidding themselves if they don’t realize that as meat-eaters, basically, they are no better nor worse than, for instance, the Faroese, who kill and eat pilot whales! No, no, no – there’s a big difference, they claim. Can’t be compared at all. But they can’t really explain what the difference is, based on facts, and that’s frustrating, so they get angry, point their fingers away from themselves and proclaim the animal killers – or those who defend them – as the only bad guys. But you can’t make an unpleasant reality go away by shooting the messenger.

Alienated to the natural
The Faroese fishermen, farmers and hunters don’t displace the fact that we as humans prey on other animal species, and they take the full responsibility for that. They do the dirty work. And they are honest about it. They don’t – and they have never – hidden from the world what they do. Not even when the world condemns them.

People can claim from now on and forever that the Faroese do what they do for all kinds of unacceptable reasons, but it does not change the fact that the Faroese kill whales for one reason only: to provide food for themselves and the community, just as they’ve done on these islands for more than a thousand years. The Faroese don’t understand why they should stop doing what they do, only because some other people in the world are alienated to something that has been perfectly natural for human beings to do for ever: namely kill animals for food.

Every country on earth kills animals. It’s just not common elsewhere to kill exactly this kind of animals. But the Faroese kill pilot whales, because there is an abundance of them around the islands (the pilot whale is not on the endangered animal species list) – and the Faroes are an island nation, dependent on ocean resources.

Deciding who’s fit for killing
Can anyone make a list of animals, fit for killing, and explain why some animals aren’t fit for killing and others are? Where exactly do – or can – you draw the line? Why is it OK to exploit some animals and not others?  Is it because it is a ‘tradition’ to kill cows, pigs, chickens and so on? And why is it that this ‘tradition’ is more legitimate than the Faroese ‘tradition’ of killing pilot whales? What’s the actual difference between these animals and a whale?

If the degree of intelligence is the criteria, why is it okay to kill ‘stupid’ animals? If sociability or sentience is the criteria, well…  mammals in general are very sociable animals, aren’t they? And aren’t all animals more or less sentient? So shouldn’t we stop killing all animals then? Is it even possible to stop the killing of ALL kinds of animals? What about people living in arctic areas where you can’t grow vegetables? Why should they have to import all their food from far away, when there are animals, quite fit for eating, walking or swimming right outside their door?

Why is it ‘unnecessary’ to kill pilot whales, and not ‘unnecessary’ to kill other animals for food? Who’s to decide what people ‘need’ and what they don’t ‘need’ to eat? Do the Faroese ‘need’ to buy meat in the store from enormous polluting farm factory slaughter houses, who don’t treat animals any less crueler than the Faroese treat the pilot whales? In fact much crueler, because most livestock animals live a miserable life their whole life and have no chance what so ever to escape being killed for food. Why would the Faroese want to buy more expensive food that has to be transported from far away in polluting freight vessels and not want to use the available food resources they get for free in their own environment?

Disproportionate priority
Shouldn’t anyone, who thinks it’s their business to demand of the Faroese that they should stay away from the meat they are accustomed to eat, not refrain themselves from buying and eating their own traditional meat, unless they can explain the basic difference between the animals they eat and the animals the Faroese eat – and legitimize why it is more okay to kill these animals rather then the animals the Faroese kill? If they can explain that there really is a significant difference, then they might even succeed in convincing the Faroese…!

But if they have no answer to these questions, shouldn’t they take a good look in the mirror first – and then try to put their effort and their money first and foremost into some much bigger problems animals face in this world? They could, for instance, try to improve the lives of some of the billions and billions of unfortunate cows, pigs or chickens, living and dying under gruesome and cruel conditions in farm factories all over the world, before they blow the Faroese pilot whaling way out of proportions and spend millions of dollars on trying to save a few hundred pilot whales that only might be killed by the Faroese during the course of a year. Remember, some years the Faroese do not kill a single whale, because the whales don’t always migrate right past the islands.

In my opinion it’s a waste of the donators’ money, because instead of spending so much money on expensive equipment with highly questionable beneficial effects, couldn’t all of this money have been used much more effectively and have helped many more animals which are much worse off, if these people really wanted the money to make any real difference?

Just asking…

Permanent link to this article: http://heinesen.info/wp/blog/2012/05/09/media-whale-warfare/

Mar 15 2012

European Podcast of the Year!

Tollakkur Hansen, producer, and Matthew Workman, host, in Gásadalur

Tollakkur Hansen, producer, and Matthew Workman, host, in Gásadalur

The Faroe Islands Podcast has been named “European Podcast of the Year” in the non-profit category by the European Podcast Awards. We were also named the best non-profit podcast in Denmark (for reasons of judging, that was considered our country of origin… long story).

More than 2,000 podcasts were nominated, so the team is very honored to have won this award. You can watch the announcement here:

Permanent link to this article: http://heinesen.info/wp/blog/2012/03/15/european-podcast-of-the-year/

Nov 24 2011

The sound of Hurricane Berit

Stormy night, 24. nov. 2011:

This is the sound in my living room (down in the basement!) while the hurricane Berit roared outside.

The rattling noise comes from the hood in my kitchen. Luckily there was no damage to my house (as far as I know… haven’t checked my roof properly yet).

My thoughts are with those who have suffered severe damage to their houses and property.

Ódnarnátt, 24. nov. 2011:

Soleiðis ljóðaði tað í mínari stovu (niðri í kjallaranum!), tá ódnin Berit leikaði í uttanfyri. Tað er eimhettan, sum hoyrist klapra alla tíðina. Tíbetur hendi eingin skaði hjá mær (haldi eg… havi ikki tjekkað takið ordiliga enn.)

Mínir tankar eru hjá øllum teimum, sum hava fingið álvarsligan skaða á hús og ognir sínar.


Permanent link to this article: http://heinesen.info/wp/blog/2011/11/24/the-sound-of-hurricane-berit/

Mar 22 2011

Why I’m not condemning pilot whaling

I’m not insensitive to animal suffering. I do understand why outsiders are concerned about pilot whaling in the Faroes. But in spite of this, I do not condemn pilot whaling completely. This might seem contradictory to people, who think pilot whaling is absolutely appalling and should be banned right away. But I have some compelling reasons for looking at pilot whaling the way I do, which I’ll explain further in this blog post.

I’m NOT for pilot whaling unconditionally. I do acknowledge that environmental pollutants in pilot whale meat – and the fact that some researchers recommend not to use it for human consumption any more – is a major problem, which probably will put an end to pilot whaling eventually. But aside from this, of course, very serious issue - I could accept the continuation of pilot whaling – but just under certain circumstances, which I’ll get further into later in this post – but only as long as the Faroese people only kill pilot whales for food (and not as a recreational activity) and do not eat more than what is within safe limits as issued by health authorities – and as long as they are willing to improve their killing methods as much as possible to minimize the animals’ suffering – and as long as pilot whaling doesn’t endanger the pilot whale as a species.

Sustainable At Least For Half a Millenium
Endangered species must of course be protected, but is the pilot whale endangered? The Faroese have always known that they depended very much on this natural resource, so they’ve been – and still are – very conscious and aware of that they can’t exploit the pilot whale population beyond it’s capacity, if they want to keep the ‘grinds’ coming.

To keep track they’ve kept a full public record of all whale killings since the 16th century. You won’t find such scientific recordings many places in the world, conducted in such a thorough way for such a long time. The Faroese are still making continuous studies of the pilot whale population to prevent over-extraction – and they’re very keen on administering their resources as best possible. According to several independent studies made around the world, the pilot whale is not an endangered species, so the Faroese still allow themselves to kill up to around 800 per year on average, which is less than 0,1 % of the whole – estimated – population of 1.000.000. Others claim the number is around 600.000 – but 800 a year is still not a big amount in comparison, even though some would only regard zero killings as satisfactory.

I know this does not convince people in the whale protection movement of which many tend to think that all pro-whaling arguments are just bad excuses for unacceptable human behavior. But this is not true in the Faroese case, in my view.

Like Burgers to Americans
It might seem ‘easier’ for the Faroese just to stop the pilot whaling. Why not just abandon this practice and thus spare the whales and get the pressure from the outside world off their shoulders? It is hard for outsiders to understand that this long lasting food providing tradition – unbroken in more than a thousand years – was one of the main sources of nutritional food for the Faroese up until only a generation ago. That is why pilot whale meat still is just as ‘natural’ for most Faroese to eat, just as burgers are for Americans – and just as difficult to abandon.

I do not want to get into an argument here whether the practice of pilot whale killing is any better or worse than the practice of mass breeding domestic animals for food, but people in the Faroes fail to see that meat from the farm industry in other countries could be any better than the meat they are used to eat. The pilot whale meat is – or was – perfectly organic, if it wasn’t for the fact that the industrialized world has poisoned our oceans – the living habitat of the whales.

Still More Organic Than Imported Meat
Most of the world – even arctic areas far away from the densely populated industry areas – is polluted. And food production everywhere is “artificialized” or modified to such an extent, that it makes almost any food unhealthy and even dangerous for humans to eat, more or less. The Faroese often also take into consideration that the pilot whales after all do live a free life until just before they die, which can’t be said about the domestic animals, from which most of the meat comes, that most people in the world eat.

Bottom line is that people still need food to survive. Hunting and killing not endangered animal species, living in and around the local environment – as untouched by human hands as can be in the world today – still seems to be a better way to provide food for the Faroese in a sustainable way, much less polluting in itself than industrial agriculture or transportation of imported food from far away, is. So I do understand why people in the Faroes want to continue to kill these animals for food, in spite of pollution – rather than keeping a completely unhealthy, unnatural and unsustainable food providing system alive, which only contributes to further destruction of our world.

New Reality Might Make Whaling a Necessity Again
Killing any living creature is no easy task, especially not wild animals – and even more so if we’re talking about killing very large wild animals almost with your bare hands in an environment alien to humans: namely seawater. In fact, it is remarkable that this is even feasible and that it can be done as quickly and efficient as it happens, after all. Unfortunately, it is not always possible to avoid animal suffering completely under these circumstances. The blood loss is also very visible in seawater, which makes the killing seem even more dramatic.

But for people living in arctic regions where local resources are scarce, this is considered one of the harsh, but necessary fact of life. They simply do not feel they have many other options, if they want to survive on what’s available on site. This is perhaps very hard to imagine for city dwellers living in more hospitable climates, who never have had to face such a reality. But this way of getting enough nutritional food was an absolute necessity for the Faroese until not very long ago – in fact in my life time – and not unlikely, it might become a probable reality again in a future, not so far from now, when scarcity might become much more common again, and the Faroe Islands might become much more cut off and isolated from the outside world than they are now.

This is a serious problem, whish also must be considered. I know that the Faroese have been living a quite modern life for the last 30-40 years or so and are considered to be “rich”, where the old way of providing food suddenly didn’t seem as necessary or appropriate any more – at least to the outside world. I’ts difficult to imagine that this might change again. Perhaps rapidly. What the outside world doesn’t seem to understand is, that the Faroese have almost just entered the modern age – much later than most other people in western societies. (They didn’t have TV before the early 80′ies for crying out loud). They’ve just gotten used to living a modern life – right before this new form of life seems to crumble and fall apart again!

The World After Peak Oil
It’s been confirmed by many, that the world might very well have passed peak oil – with dire consequences for everyone living on this planet awaiting just around the corner. The most severe global financial crisis, the world has ever seen, takes place right now. An increasing number of people realize that this is not just a ‘normal’ recession, but much severer than that. It’s a clear consequence of the lasting fact, that oil is no longer as abundant as it was. This will inevitably lead to a scenario where many countries will not have easy access to cheap oil any more. The world might – perhaps much sooner than expected – face a reality, where cheap oil simply is no longer available for everyone.

This situation seems to approach us much faster now than we could imagine just a couple of year ago. The world population passes 7 billion this year and the demand for oil increases faster than we can produce it. Oil producing countries will of course firstly keep the oil, they have left in the ground to themselves, which soon might leave nothing to the oil-importing countries. This is a very frightening outlook for the future – especially for remote lying countries like the Faroe Islands with arctic climate, and thus more dependent on liquid energy than most other countries.

To grasp the seriousness of this issue – as I see it, you might find this interesting:

The Faroes Extremely Oil Dependent
Oil depletion – heavy pollution and climate change – financial crunch… you name it… hits the Faroe Islands hard right now. The Faroe Islands is totally dependent on imported oil, which drives their whole fishing fleet (which is their primary food source and provides more than 95 % of their whole export). The fishing industry hasn’t had any surplus for several years and the biggest Faroese fish export company faced bankruptcy a few months ago, as well as one of the two biggest banks on the islands. Unemployment is rapidly rising – it’s almost 9 % at the moment. All transportation of people and goods to and from the islands by air or by sea is also a 100 % dependent on oil. It’s extremely expensive to travel to and from the islands in comparison (you can fly halfway the world for the same amount from other countries) – and ferry connections to two out of four surrounding countries have already been closed down.

If this alarming development continues, this might soon leave the Faroese with no other option than to return to former ways of survival – or something that resembles. The older generation is, fortunately for the Faroese, still alive. They have kept the inherited knowledge intact and they are able to teach the younger generation, how they managed to survive in the old days, where the Faroese had to rely almost entirely on what was accessible in the surrounding nature.

The Faroes In The Future
I wonder what will become of the Faroese people in the future, if they were prevented by outsiders from getting their food from their local environment. What alternative food provisions are available for the Faroese when oil has become too expensive to afford any more – and they cannot afford to import food in sufficient quantities any longer either? They will have no other options than to use everything they have … eat the sheep, the fish and the whale meat, which is the only food within reach that they – only just – might be able to provide in sufficient quantities.

They will have to reduce or diminish their living standards quite substantially again, but they have plenty of water, wind, waves and currents, which they can use to produce electricity (right now already around 50 % of Faroese electricity production comes from renewable energy resources) and they can still have sheep grassing in the mountains, run their fish farms close to shore, and pilot whale drivings can be conducted without modern fuel driven boats, using sail- and rowing boats, just as it was done before. It will be a life very different from what the young generation has grown used to right now, but there might probably be no other choice than to accept the new conditions.

Food Sovereignty
You might also google the words “food sovereignty”, to understand better, where I’m at.
According to this site: http://www.whyhunger.org/news-and-alerts/why-speaks/553.html – food sovereignty:

- is the right of peoples to define their own food and agriculture
- is the right to protect and regulate domestic agricultural production and trade in order to achieve sustainable development objectives
- is the right to determine the extent to which they want to be self reliant; to restrict the dumping of products in their markets
- is the right of local fisheries-based communities to have priority in managing the use of and the rights to aquatic resources.
- does not negate trade, but rather, it promotes the formulation of trade policies and practices that serve the rights of peoples to safe, healthy and ecologically sustainable production.

Well, let this be my end remarks for now. I hope you understand my viewpoint, even though you might not agree with me.

Visit: http://www.faroeislandsreview.com

Permanent link to this article: http://heinesen.info/wp/blog/2011/03/22/why-im-not-condemning-pilot-whaling/

Dec 19 2010

The Global Disney-World

Paul Watson and his Sea Shepherd activists, as well as others have declared war against the Faroese whalers and announced that they will be present in the Faroes in the summer 2011 to stop any attempt to drive or kill pilot whales.

The Oscar-winning documentary “The Cove” about dolphin slaughter in Taiji in Japan, has also brought attention to the pilot whale slaughter in the Faroe Islands. Many accuse the Faroese of being sick barbaric psychopaths for killing the whales. But the Faroese believe that their practice is perfectly environmentally sound and that it is the world out there, which has gone mad. In their opinion the world needs to learn from the Faroese much more than the other way round, if it wants to save itself from catastrophe.

By © Elin Brimheim Heinesen

Denmark’s little brother in the North Atlantic, Faroe Islands, has now for a long time been at odds with a number of environmental and animal protection organizations, which fight against whaling – including the killing of pilot whales. But when the Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen visited the Faroes this summer, he said that, personally, he had nothing against pilot whaling. Lars Løkke Rasmussen believes that the Danish Kingdom should support the Faroese, despite the many international protests, because, as far as he can see, pilot whales are killed in an appropriate way. As husband to a Faroese wife, Lars Løkke Rasmussen knows the Faroese position from the inside better than most. But there were many around the world, who were outraged by the Prime Minister expressing such an opinion.

Why does the Faroese pilot whale killings incite so much anger around the world? And what on earth makes the Danish Prime Minister support the pilot whale catch? Faroese people say that an important part of their identity is lost if they were forced to abandon the pilot whaling. But why is pilot whaling so important for the Faroese identity? Why do the Faroese stubbornly stick to this practice, although it obviously damages their reputation, not least their most important exports, which is the export of fish?

Faroese In Conflict With The Outside World
It is a fact that Faroese actions are no longer visible only to themselves. What they do is not only their own business any more. Just think of the current situation where fishing nations around the North Atlantic have been unable to agree on the distribution of mackerel quotas why the Faroese Fisheries Ministry has awarded the Faroese fishing vessels with quotas, which the others consider too big. It has made Scottish and Norwegian fishermen furious. At the moment they try to prevent the Faroese fishing vessels from landing mackerel in their ports.

In a world where resources are getting scarce, the Faroese can no longer be completely indifferent to what others think about their actions – no matter whether they themselves believe that they have the right on their side and the others are wrong.

Identity Evident In Cultural Divide
A controversy on mackerel quotas is perhaps not so much about identity and identity differences. But opposing attitudes to pilot whaling are an example of a conflict between the Faroese and others, which illustrates a very interesting issue, where the Faroese – at least the older generation – currently experiences a huge cultural gap between themselves and the outside world. This is something that definitely is about identity and identity differences.

The sense of identity occurs right there – in the breach of surfaces, where it becomes most obvious that we’re not like the others – in the differences between the ways to act and express ourselves. That is where we feel we have an own identity. What is it exactly that makes the Faroese identity distinct from other national identities? What is it, for instance, the Faroese do, which is totally alien to others. The pilot whaling is a very good example.

International Abhorrence Against The Faroe Islands
The Faroese have lived relatively isolated on these North Atlantic islands for one and a half millennium – and have never really been in conflict or have never provoked anyone outside the Faroe Islands (except from the Danes a few times in national community affairs, perhaps).

This was largely how things were until the 80s when the first pictures of the bloody pilot whale slaughter were shown in some major newspapers in England – after which there emerged an angry roar of unprecedented dimensions in the world against the Faroese, who suddenly became known as the worst scum, you could imagine.

All of a sudden it became evident to the Faroese – in a very direct manner, that there are other people in this world who have an entirely different worldview than they have. Suddenly, they were deluged with protests from people throughout the world. Suddenly they had to be accountable to others and explain themselves about something, which to them had been quite natural for at least 1200 years.

There are still thousands of protests pouring in through the mail slots in the Faroese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Tourism Board. Also the Danish Government gets its share. People from all corners of the world express, very passionately, how shocked they are about the killing of pilot whales in the Faroes. In their eyes, this is an outdated, cruel and brutal way of killing wonderful, innocent and intelligent animals, which in no way should be accepted in the modern world today. In return, the Faroese should be punished by boycotts and exclusion from the international community until they have learned to behave.

Incompatible Concepts Of Nature
It is possible that the Faroese were shaken at their foundation – at least initially, but it was not enough for them to stop killing whales. They keep holding on to their practice, despite continuing protests from the outside world. So why do the Faroese whalers not agree with the world out there? Are they just heartless, thick-headed idiots? How can it be that in this modern age, these people still choose to perform so-called “medieval atrocities”?

This conflict is something that has helped to force the Faroese to become more aware of who they are and why they do what they do – or at least what some of them do. The Faroese have, for example, learned that there seems to be a huge gap between – on the one hand those who live directly by and use nature – and then on the other hand, those who want to preserve nature completely untouched, but not always live in this very nature…

For those who protest against whale killing, whales are an almost holy symbol of the unspoiled, promised nature, which the terrible human race is about to eradicate – and what will be the end of us all together when the last whale is killed? While to the Faroese the pilot whaling is a living symbol of an – unspoiled – old hunting culture, which related to nature in a practical and pragmatic – and somewhat less romantic – way and utilized it in a sustainable manner – something, which the new world seems not to understand at all.

Shock Tactics Get Media Attention
If everyone tried to cool down a bit, perhaps they would find out that this conflict is something that everyone can learn something from – not just the Faroese, but also everyone else – about themselves and how to survive in the world on nature’s terms.

But this is not the way the piano plays. It’s hard to get heard in a world where people are heavily bombarded with media stories all the time. The media are competing fiercely and mercilessly with each other on who can tell the most incredible, most sensational, most tearful stories. Many are therefore tempted to use emotionally manipulative shock tactics and excessive, showy rhetoric to get the attention they need. And the media swallow it raw.

This is undoubtedly one reason why, for example, anti-whaling activists use such methods when they want to ‘sell’ their message. But the activist’s eagerness to paint with a cruel brush results too often in stories full of factual errors. They can only appreciate that so few media ever bother to look carefully for the holes in their stories.

The Faroese have at least learned how much nonsense the media bring and how manipulative media can be. They have learned about the incredible power and influence media have in this world; how the most powerful media determine what people think – and how hard it is to do something about it. They have learned that there is a media created reality. They’re just not yet as familiar with the mechanisms of the media world as others because they are novices and rough diamonds in this area vs. others. Just think about the fact that television first made its entry in the Faroe Islands in the early 80s!

Reality Fictionalized
It is therefore not an easy task for the Faroese having to behave in a world where increasing numbers of people form their worldview almost entirely through the media and entertainment industry. Most people are now exposed to a constant, massive flow of media sensations, in which reality is fictionalized and fiction becomes ‘reality’. Many seem gradually to be almost more familiar with the media created ‘reality’ than with the real reality, if I may say so. The reality, as presented in media becomes normal, and it seems increasingly difficult for many to distinguish between reality and fiction. In such an alienated world, dramatic stories – eg. about a “cruel massacre of innocent dolphins “ – resound perfectly in many ears. People ‘buy’ the story right away, so to speak, and ‘forget’ to call into question what it is they see or hear.

Most people never get to hear the other side. Faroe Islands is a very small country, which cannot afford to get its message across. Anti-whaling activists allegations will therefore stand unchallenged.

Activists Need To Point Out Scapegoats
Many people are scared and frustrated with the development in our ailing world. Especially those who live in the western world, who deep down know that their extravagant lifestyle greatly contributes to the destruction of mother earth. But it is something that many probably prefer not to think too much about. It’s part of human nature that we do not like to blame ourselves for problems. People need a vent for frustrations and they need to soothe their guilty conscience. So they like to contribute to “save the world” with a signature to petitions, for example, so they at least have the feeling that they do something to support – apparently – good causes like campaigns against the “cruel slaughter of innocent pilot whales”. This will buy a little indulgence to ease their conscience.

It’s this kind of mechanisms in the human psychology, activists can take advantage of – and the fact that so many people know so little about this small group of people, who live in a remote place in the North Atlantic, and who happen to eat pilot whales. Who does such a thing in the 21st century! It is very easy for activists to make this small group of people into the world’s scapegoats. It also helps a lot that most people in the world aren’t allowed any longer to see what happens to animals in enormous farm factories and slaughter houses where meat is produced in huge masses to satisfy the insatiable market for meat products. There’s a reason to why the industry tries to keep this practice a deep secret. Meanwhile the Faroese – naively perhaps – perform their bloody pilot whale slaughter in the open for everyone to see, who cares to look.

Hollywood-style Media Stories
The activists have been adept at getting attention, and they are much better and more trained than the Faroese in telling captivating media stories. By this they can win supporters and earn money, so they can get even more space in the media and entertainment industry. But in reality they do not make much difference to the cause they supposedly work for … perhaps rather the opposite: There is much to suggest that the intrusive and often rude and disrespectful attitude of the activists, only intensify conflicts, slow the process down and defer solutions.

If the activists really were interested in making a difference and change the Faroese attitude to eating pilot whale meat, they might have more success by trying harder to talk sense to the Faroese – for example, make enlightening films about pilot whales, perhaps in Faroese language, showing respect for Faroese intelligence – rather than making a lot of noise throughout the world, moving people’s attention to their own role and highlight their own so-called ‘heroic deeds’, whereas the Faroese are presented as ‘barbarians’ and dehumanized. How much positive responsiveness from the Faroese can they expect to get out of that? What is the purpose of trying to portray the Faroese, as if they deliberately want to insult the whole world with their actions, while in fact they’re only providing food for themselves the way they’ve always done?

The Faroese have never made a secret of what they do in the Faroes and they certainly do not reject a respectful dialogue with others about how to improve their methods, if it’s possible to further improve it. But some activists just turn out to be more interested in keeping distance than to approach the Faroese. They probably need the Faroese to be their enemies to maintain and strengthen their own hero-image and to keep alive the stories about themselves in the best Hollywood-style, for instance, as “under-cover” agents “revealing the atrocities committed in the Faroe Islands” in imminent danger of being discovered and attacked by the “brutal whalers.”

Such dramatic imaginative stories provide much greater resonance in the media world. Most media do no longer respect the principle of presenting the world as objectively as possible. They will rather worship hero figures fighting against evil, because such stories, based on Hollywood’s narrative principles, sell a lot better.

Balance vs. Exponential Growth
The Faroese themselves see the pilot whaling as one of the few reminiscences left in the world after an old and artless way of life, well-tested through more than a millennium, where survival is based on local self-reliance, shared responsibility and solidarity, natural balance and sustainability. It is possible that this is a hard – and sometimes apparently cynical – life. It has its hardships and victims. But it’s necessary, if you want to live on what is available in your close neighbourhood, the Faroese say. This is indeed some of the principles, which experts all over the world say we need to restore, if humanity wishes to have a future.

Why should the Faroese be forced to let go of this way of life completely and go all the way and implement a modern lifestyle, which implies 100% dependence on an unstable, unsustainable system, which rewards greed and feeds the illusion that an infinite exponential growth in resource expenditure is possible? The catastrophic consequences of such a system are – as we have seen already – that resources become extremely unevenly distributed and are used up, while the ground, the seas and the air become polluted and poisoned with accelerating speed, and sentient animals are tailored into consumer products by the billions and treated no different than exactly that: products among other products. This system is basically life-threatening and exposes us all too serious danger in the long run – not just humans but all living creatures on earth – including whales.

Isn’t this much more horrifying than the pilot whale slaughter as such? Shouldn’t all these activists, who claim that they are so much in favour of environmental and nature conservation, rather spend their energy on reversing this deadly progress and do something serious about the system that creates this development?

Can One Escape The Media Web?
But who cares? How many media bother to concern anyone with such issues and put them on the agenda? Simple and easily digestible stories about heroes, who save poor innocent whales from malicious people, are much more interesting and manageable. That other stuff is too confusing, so let’s close our eyes, so we can lull ourselves into a much more comfortable false sense of security. This is the reality the Faroese – and everyone else is up against …

How should the Faroese relate to this reality created by the entertainment industry, which is so predominant in today’s world? How can they stick to themselves and their identity, when the foreign media waves wash over the islands like tsunamis and threaten to wipe out their identity? How to tackle the fact that activists and the media out there use them to create lucrative sensational stories designating them as the villains? How to tackle the risk they face of sudden exclusion from the global community unless they start to behave like ‘all others’?

What should the Faroese make of the fact that they live in a world where a global financial crisis rages because of an illusory monetary system based on false trust, while oil resources are running out, and where they – most likely – suddenly might find themselves isolated out in the North Atlantic, only able to survive by means of renewable energy, available on site – water, wind, currents, waves, their own muscle power, using skiffs and sailboats and the plants and animals that live there – on land, in the air and in the sea … yes, whales not least …

Admission Ticket To A Good Lifeline
The above scenario is very likely the serious challenges, which the Faroese (and others) will face  in a few decades ahead. But it’s, perhaps, very difficult for many to imagine that such a reality might be waiting around the corner, because we are indeed ‘safe’ here in our lavishly decorated lounges in our lifted end aboard the Titanic. The water has not reached up to our deck yet. The lights flicker maybe a little, but we are sitting in first class and the orchestra continues to play as if nothing is going on. And we cannot see what happens in the darkness out there.

But all probability calculations show us that water is rising faster and faster and may already have reached the point where the ship is floating so heavily that it will tip and then slide straight downward in a sharp curve, pulling the whole ship down with it, fast.

But … maybe the Faroese have just a slight advantage, if or when the world’s oil resources run out or the oil becomes so expensive that the global infrastructure collapses. Instead of having to cling to the sinking ship, the Faroese are fortunate to have access ticket to one of the rescue boards, which might prove one of the safest to sit on after the sinking.

Wisdom From Before The World Went Mad
The Faroese are in the relatively fortunate position that it’s not that long ago that they entered the modern age. At the same time as the Faroese live this modern life – very similar to life in other Nordic countries – on the industrial world’s terms, which also has brought them wealth, they have still managed to preserve parts of their old knowledge of how to live a simple life and survive in solidarity with each other on nature’s terms in a sustainable way. Alongside the modern life the Faroese have kept these old traditions alive. They have passed this old wisdom on generation after generation.

They have not held on to this life style merely because of some kind of nostalgia, but primarily because the Faroese homogenous economy, almost entirely based on fishing, has shown to be very vulnerable. Some years everything goes really well – oil prices are low, fish prices are up – and people get relatively much money on their hands, which they often choose to invest in improving the conditions in the society – for instance the infrastructure, of which they can enjoy the benefits in harder times. At other times a combination of unfortunate factors tip the economic stability with dire consequences for many Faroese, who have lost everything during these periods. The deceitful modern monetary system seems to further increase the severity of these crises.

The Faroese have experienced several of these severe crises in modern times, which have forced many of them to live a very simple life from time to time. This means that many of them have not yet forgotten the old traditional self-sufficient way of life, based on other, more sustainable principles than the fraudulent system, which most of the world is relying on today.

The Faroese might therefore likely be able to “switch” back faster than most others, just because many of them have not forgotten how people survived back then, before the world went mad in an illusory oil adventure, wrapping itself into a pecuniary pyramid-scam carousel that spun the world out of control in a consumption celebration frenzy.

Are The Faroese Lesser “Evolved” Than Other People In The Western World?
Some believe that the Faroese are somewhat untimely backwards or ‘old-fashioned’ in their way of thinking, because they have preserved some old traditions, which others might perceive as conflicting with a more ‘modern’ mindset, but the Faroese don’t see it that way. Is everything ‘old’ dispensable, just because it is old?

It is a myth that the Faroese are lesser “evolved” than most other people in the Western world. Although the Faroese have been able to hold on to some old traditions, they have not at all been reluctant to change as a whole. For the last 150 years the Faroese have been very eager to evolve and to adapt to the industrial world as far as it was possible in this relatively remote area with it’s limited resources. The Faroese have in fact been very successful at this, which today’s high standard of living in the Faroes proves. But this evolvement is not always for the good.

The Faroese have the same obligation as everyone else on earth to take part in the efforts to save this planet from destruction. And they do not do that well if they’re exploiting nature in an unsustainable manner. Unfortunately, when it comes to fishing (not pilot whaling!) some Faroese are getting a little off course for the time being. But this greedy way of dealing with nature is not the way the Faroese used to deal with nature in the past. It seems to be the modern world’s ways of dealing with business, which urges some Faroese to adapt to unsustainable practices, very common elsewhere.

The Faroese had found a very fine balance which they are about to overturn, which is sad. They have evolved, like so many others, by being seduced by the modern life’s luxury and amenities. They are also infected by the western world’s material greed. And it’s true that they in many ways live as people in other Western countries, first class, which demands a high level of consumption.

But by entering into the modern industrial world, the Faroese have made themselves dependent on oil and import, and thus vulnerable, like all others who also depend on the same. We see how the Faroese currently are fighting fiercely with others about ocean resources in order to get enough fish to be able to afford buying i.e. oil for their fishing vessels and maintain the living standards they have achieved.

Identity Strengthening Survival Strategies
But the Faroese have not commercialized the pilot whale catch. In this case they stick to the old tradition of communal sharing, so they have yet, still – unlike the rest of the world – preserved some kind of barter economy to some extent. Many of them get a portion of their food directly from nature’s larder, and they still share food with each other – such as meat and blubber from pilot whales. This practice has proven to be of great advantage for them at a number of occasions when economy crises have hit them hard from time to time.

The Faroese have relatively often experienced periods, not so far apart, where they could not rely on their usual lifelines. The crises set in, in a quicker, more dramatic manner than most people on the European mainland are used to in their countries. The Faroese have grown accustomed to this fluctuating economy and the risks that follow. For instance, during World War II all connections to the ‘mother country’ Denmark were cut. There was a severe bank crisis in the mid 50′ties. Then again we had the oil and fishing crisis in the mid 70′ies. But also in modern times in the 90′ies a bank crisis forced the Faroese to their knees once again. A lot of people were ruined and a fifth of the population was forced to emigrate. But already after eight years the Faroese fought themselves out of the crisis, had paid their debts and re-established their economy – something experts otherwise predicted would take at least 20 years.

And now again we have a world crisis which started in 2008, which of course has affected the Faroese severely too. One of their two main banks just crashed recently – and we haven’t yet seen all the severe consequences, which surely will follow after this crash.

Their old local survival kit, if I may say so, has come in very handy in these periods of hardships. This is the main reason to why the Faroese still partly rely on old ways of surviving – including pilot whale hunting.

When the crisis hit, the above principles and the Faroese supportive culture proved to be very effective. This is one of the main reasons, why everything up until now has turned out so relatively well, because people helped each other through the crisis by sharing available resources as much as possible and by providing each other services – without exchanging money. By this, everyone got an increased opportunity to be able to survive with the skin on their nose. It’s this kind of valuable survival strategy that has strengthened the Faroese common identity, which is the source of their courage and capacity to face challenges – also in the future.

Nature As A Pantry Or Zoo
People could perhaps learn something from this. But instead of thinking about how to save themselves, while the water rises deck by deck, threatening soon to engulf us all, they are much more keen on spending time and effort to put these “primitive savage islanders” in place out there in the middle of the ocean and get them to stop perceiving nature as a pantry.

Instead, the Faroese – and everyone else is forced to accustom themselves to just enjoy the sight of all the beautiful sceneries in nature and the cute, cuddly animals in it as pure pastime and entertainment. Welcome to the Global Disney World. But for how long can the human race afford this luxury? How long will it be able to survive that way?

Permanent link to this article: http://heinesen.info/wp/blog/2010/12/19/the-global-disney-world/

Feb 11 2010

Is Faroese Silence Rude?

Today I said goodbye to Threes Anna – a Dutch writer and film director (view her website here: www.threesanna.com). She leaves tonight with the ferry Norrøna after having done research for three weeks in the Faroe Islands for a future novel.

Threes Anna and I have met four times while she was here – and we have talked a lot about the Faroes and the Faroese people. Yesterday we talked about the fact that she had sent Emails to a lot of Faroese people prior to coming to the islands but she got no answer back from most of them.

She was not complaining about it – only wondering how it could be, because at first glance it seems like a rude way to behave but when she had met some of these people they turned out to be really nice and sweet people. So she asked if this was a special Faroese phenomena.

It got me thinking. I have heard other foreigners say exactly the same thing. So here are my thoughts about Faroese silence – I wrote it in an Email to Threes this afternoon:

It’s true that the Faroese often choose just to say nothing (like not answering Emails!) because that’s (in their opinion) the safest way to behave. They really don’t think that their opinion matters that much to anyone else. So they choose just to say nothing. Then there is nothing to argue about either. Writing is even more dangerous because you can’t see (or foresee) the reaction of the receiver, so people prefer to meet in person before they say anything.

This often proves to function well locally in the Faroes, where nobody expects anything else and people easily bump into each other by chance all the time. Here people also have developed a kind of silent body language between them. They read each other by their body language and thereby know what other people think (or at least they think they know). There is no need for saying that much.

The old men sitting on the bench by the harbour can sit there beside each other all day long saying nothing and still think they communicated very well! :-)

But this does not work in the rest of the world! That is what people here will have to understand – IF they want to make other people feel more welcome, they need to be better at communicating with words!

I think, though, that the young people understand this better. Many younger people are much more outgoing than the older people. If you had met Sunneva from the bar Sirkus you would have met an example of exactly that.

Visit: http://www.faroeislandsreview.com

Permanent link to this article: http://heinesen.info/wp/blog/2010/02/11/is-faroese-silence-rude/

Sep 08 2009

Senseless Terrorizing Murderous Dolphin Killers?

Some people outside the Faroes think that Faroese people are senseless primitive murderous inbred drunken brutal beasts who once a year kill thousands of intelligent dolphins for fun as a ‘coming of age ritual’ just to leave most of the whales to rot on the beach and feeding the rest of the poisonous meat to their innocent children. As if the Faroese were the most ignorant and worst enemies of nature you can find on the face of the earth. Sadly many people believe these fantastic stories.

I understand the disgusted feelings it evokes in people to see the pictures that have been spread around. I admit that pilot whale killing looks like a brutal bloodbath with all those people participating in the kill running around on shore and in the water, seemingly for no purpose – and with all that blood in the sea.

But the graphic pictures don’t reveal the whole truth. Far from it. I understand it looks shocking to people who haven’t seen anything like this before and don’t know what is going on. To them it seems incomprehensible. So they judge it based only on their immediate feelings of disgust. Which one can’t blame them for. They see it from their own angle – and in their view: how can anyone in their right mind kill dolphins that way – such wonderful creatures!?

I must say for myself: I do NOT support pilot whaling unconditionally. I don’t like to see animals being killed – like most people. I hate it. I wish humans could be less dependent on meat consumption. I think that dolphins as well as other whales are fascinating and wonderful creatures. So far I’m not that different from most people in the western world.

What makes me different, though, is that I’m Faroese. I grew up in the Faroe Islands where people have been killing pilot whales for food for at least 1200 years (according to research based on archeological excavations). I do not eat pilot whale meat myself though (I don’t like the taste of it. Actually I almost don’t eat meat at all – just occasionally. But I like the blubber, though, together with dry fish).

What made me write this blog post is, that I don’t recognize the picture at all painted of my people in all these anti-whaling campaigns and petitions flourishing all over where people sign up to express their disgust about the Faroese pilot whaling tradition. It makes me so sad to see all the prejudice and all these wildly exaggerated wrongful rumors about my people that have been spread through out the world by people – either on purpose as part of shock tactics to get their anti-whaling point across, or because they don’t know better – when the truth is that for the Faroese people the pilot whale killing has always been a matter of survival – and still is in a way. It certainly does not help the whales to agitate people. I’ll get back to that point further down in this blog post.

I will try to explain – in an honest, truthful way – what is going on, seen from a Faroese angle. And I will kindly ask you, the reader, to forget – just for a moment – all that you’ve seen and/or heard about pilot whaling in the Faroes, and set all the emotions of disgust and anger it created aside, and just try to read this blog post without any prejudice.

First, let’s correct some misunderstandings
The “dolphins” the Faroese kill are not bottlenose dolphins (like ‘Flipper’) who most people are familiar with, but long-finned pilot whales which is another species, though it is in the same family – only the pilot whale behaves more like a big whale than like a dolphin. But that might be beside the point for many, so I won’t dwell with that. The fact is that the Faroese have always looked upon pilot whales as a source of food in pretty much the same manner as most people in the world look upon cattle or pigs as a source of food (even though pigs, for instance, actually are quite sentient, social and intelligent animals, perhaps just as much as pilot whales).

Almost any foreign article I’ve read about pilot whaling in the Faroe Islands, claims that the pilot whale killings take place “once a year”. I don’t know from where this misunderstanding originates. Perhaps it came about because Faroese officials have used the phrase: “annual kill”, which doesn’t refer to a single event – they actually just refer to the amount of whales killed on average over the course of a year. In fact pilot whale killings can take place several times during a year, and some years no killings take place at all.

It is also claimed that pilot whaling only takes place in the summer. This is also a misunderstanding. Pilot whaling takes place randomly when pods of pilot whales are spotted, for instance from land or from small boats sailing close to shore in the waters between the islands. Since there is more boat traffic in Faroese waters in the summer, the likelihood of a pilot whale kill taking place in the summer is greater than in the winter, but pilot whaling can and does take place in other seasons as well.

Many foreigners refer to the pilot whale slaughter in the Faroes as a ‘ritual’, which the Faroese perform as a ‘celebration’ of the ‘coming of age’ of young men. This is ridiculous. This misunderstanding probably comes from some words and phrases being mixed up. Some people probably get the connotation ‘ritual’ and ‘tribe’ when they hear the word ‘tradition’, and forget that their own habit of eating turkey for Christmas dinner is also a ‘tradition’. Some Faroese might have said at some point, that they think that boys somehow become grown men when they participate in a whale kill the first time, because this reality of life and death somehow toughens them up, but this is far from saying that the kill is done for this purpose only!

It is also often claimed that the pilot whale killing is a ‘celebration’ and a ‘feast’ – almost like a carnival, which outsiders find quite offensive. But this is highly exaggerated. One must understand that in the old days the Faroese, obviously, were very pleased that by killing the pilot whales, they had obtained enough food to ensure their own survival in a long time, which they understandably thought was worth celebrating. Moreover, it was not possible for many who participated in the killing to sail home the same day or evening. Accordingly, they stayed in the village and then everybody gathered to sing and dance together to greet each other, keep warm and talk about their achievement. Today this particular part of the tradition is no more, though some of the whalers sometimes might gather afterwards to drink a few beers at the local pub, if they like, just because they are happy to see each other.

I would think this is quite normal human behavior, but sometimes it seems that people elsewhere way too willingly misunderstand all this, perhaps because they subconsciously search for something to confirm their own prejudice. Their initial reaction to the often very dramatic descriptions and portrayals of the whale killings they come across is, understandably, disgust. Perhaps they just need to justify their own feelings. Since dramatic descriptions by often quite ignorant – or biased – outsiders far outnumber the Faroese viewpoint in global media and / or online, people might have small chances to get acquainted with all the facts, which perhaps could explain the incomprehensible. Which is why I write this blog post.

Pilot whale killing not as brutal as it seems
Even if it might be hard to believe, the pilot whale killing is in fact not as brutal as it seems. It’s not about a lot of insane people just throwing themselves into a killing frenzy making as much harm to the whales as they possibly can – which many people seem to believe, and want others to believe too by spreading these inflammatory messages. But most of these people have never been there themselves and have never spoken to any Faroese people asking them what is going on.

Behind the spectacle is a highly developed killing method – a joint effort – which makes sure that the killing is done as quickly as possible to minimize the whales’ suffering. Killing such big animals is challenging. Suffering can, unfortunately, never be totally eradicated, just as any other animals’ suffering killed for food in the world can’t be eradicated. But of course suffering can be minimized – which the Faroese are eager to do even if it doesn’t seem so to an outsider.

There is a purpose for all those people being there at the kill. Everyone has a task that takes certain skills that have been passed on from generation to generation. The more people participate in the pilot whaling the quicker it’s over with.

Some of them drive the whales to shore with boats to make as many whales as possible swim up unto the beach.

Some of them wade into the water to pull the remaining whales the last bit of the way up onshore with (rounded) hooks in the blowholes – which is the quickest way to do it. The sharp hooks one sometimes can see in pictures of the killings are ONLY used to move whales away that have already been killed.

Some people stand ready on the beach to cut the whales’ spine with a knife in one movement in the second the whale is positioned to make sure that the whale is killed as quickly as possible. Lately a new killing method has been developed – a special tool, which cuts the spine in an instant. This means that every single whale dies within 4-5 seconds (!) on average – not minutes, as one often sees, outsiders claim.

Some take the killed whales away to somewhere where the meat is cut, divided and distributed in the community. Every single bit of meat and blubber is used for food and everyone gets their share for free. There is a law that demands that nothing must go to waste and that any leftovers, like bones, the scull and intestines unfit for consumption, must be taken away within 24 hours.

So some take the bones, the scull and intestines and dump them in the ocean in deep water with strong currents, where they probably would have ended up anyway if the whales had died of natural causes.

And some take their children to see how all this is done from A to Z. Not for entertainment but to teach them the facts of life on these islands and how people survive here. That is how it’s been done for many centuries.

Yes, there is a lot of blood – these are very big animals. They loose a lot of blood instantly when they’re killed properly. The quicker the sea gets red it’s a sign that the killing has been swift and effective.

Usually the number of whales in a pod counts from 50 up to 200 animals. The actual killing of ALL the whales in a pod is over with in approximately 10-15 minutes, perhaps up to 20 minutes if there are many whales in the pod, but very, very rarely more than that. Not more than it takes to kill pigs in a slaughter house.

Traditional diet in danger – not because of the Faroese, but because of the outside world
As I mentioned before, excavations show that pilot whales have been part of the diet on the islands for at least 1200 years. According to scientific study there are presumably 750,000 pilot whales in the North Atlantic, at least  (http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/mammals/cetaceans/pilotwhale_longfinned.htm). The Pilot whales are not on the list of endangered species. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species considers this species “Low Risk Least Concern.”

The Faroe Islanders have monitored their whale killings since 1584, and the numbers show that they have taken an average of 850 pilot whales yearly since then – some years more, some years less, some years none at all. That is approximately 0,1 % of the whole population on average taken every year. (Not 1% as I’ve seen claimed many places. No, it’s ten times less than that: zero point one percent!). This means that the pilot whaling in the Faroes does NOT threat the pilot whale population as a whole. NOAA states that the bycatch to fishing gear is the primary threat to pilot whales. Long-finned pilot whales are entangled, incidentally taken, or interact with a number of fishing gear, that include gillnets, longlines, and trawls. Also threatening this species are heavy metals, pesticides, pollutants, and various contaminants in the marine environment that have been found in this species’ blubber.

According to the Faroese themselves, they haven’t seen the number of pods swimming by the islands decrease – seen over time – all these years they have killed pilot whales. Of course, there has always been some fluctuation of natural causes, for instance, because some years the pilot whales’ own diet – the squids – swim further from the Faroese shores than other years. But the Faroese are convinced that the killing is still sustainable. If the number should decrease it’s pretty certain that the Faroese aren’t to blame. It’s most likely because of changes in the whales’ natural environment caused by pollution.

Note that it is Faroese researchers who have been studying the pilot whale and who have brought the world’s attention to the problem with contamination of the whale population and the dangers of mercury poisoning. Why would the Faroese do that if they didn’t care?

In reality, the Faroese are very conscious of the fact that they must take care of nature – including the whales and the whale stocks. The Faroese are very aware of how important it is to preserve this natural resource, to keep it healthy and keep the killing sustainable because their people have been vitally dependent on whale meat for centuries. So they do not kill more than needed and not enough to endanger the species – just like they’ve always done. There are cases where whale pods have been driven back to sea because authorities have estimated that people have received enough whale meat.

People do not eat more than the researchers recommend – but it is also important to note that even if the researchers have issued a warning they also acknowledge the fact that the whale meat is rich in poly-unsaturated fats, and essential vitamins and minerals, such as selenium, which means that there are still health benefits to be gained by eating whale meat if one just makes sure that the intake is limited.

Crucial for survival in the old days – and perhaps still is
Pilot whale killing was absolutely crucial for survival back in the old days where it was almost impossible to get hold of vegetables (and difficult to get hold of the vitamins that go with them) at this latitude. People shared the meat in solidarity with each other. It was distributed to the local community according to rules made a thousand years ago, where especially elderly and sick people and widows were taken into consideration – a tradition the Faroese have kept intact until this day. They still don’t kill whales for commercial purposes.

It has simply been a question of helping the whole community to survive in a very harsh and inhospitable environment on some isolated islands in the middle of the North Atlantic. The pilot whale is therefore still highly valued by the Faroese as a life saving contributor and a symbol of a unique solidarity between the islanders.

But why do the Faroese still kill pilot whales in modern times? Is it necessary? This is a tricky question because it’s a little complicated to explain why people here still find killing pilot whales somehow necessary – even if the meat is polluted. Quite incomprehensible, isn’t it?

People might understand why it was necessary in the old days, but now? Why now? Well… Faroese economy is still heavily reliant on primary production and has only recently begun to make inroads into secondary and tertiary provision. It is, even today, often difficult to run business and make ends meet in this remote area. It is expensive to import and buy vegetables. Economy fluctuates much more here than in other countries in the modern world because the Faroese income is dependent on nature’s fragile balance and often quite irregular cycles.

As late as in the early 90′ies there was a huge economic crisis that consequently had almost a fourth of the people migrate from the islands. Parts of the remaining population survived by helping each other, for instance exchanging goods without having money involved. In these years whale meat was a very important part of the meat consumption. A fourth of the whole meat consumption was pilot whale meat.

It means that in the eyes of the Faroese the pilot whale has up to this day been one of the most important key factors for their survival – especially in times of economic crisis. Crises and recessions occur relatively often in islands like the Faroes with harsh natural environments and fragile homogenous economies. These predicaments usually hit the island people hard.

Faroe Islanders are therefore used to rescue themselves by going back to basics from time to time – even if they on a daily basis seem to live a modern life today. But the Faroese are – from bitter experience – never far from the next crisis in their mind – and thus never far from the basics of life either.

Today the world economic crisis rages and has hit the Faroese people as well. One of the two biggest banks in the Faroes went bankrupt this year and we have still not seen the magnitude of the consequences following this severe bank crisis.

Now that we are all affected by the ongoing world economic crisis, it is, for instance, natural for the Faroese to think that if the crisis gets even worse in the future, killing whales might still be very important for survival. So why give it up and forget all about the skills of killing pilot whales? These skills might come in very handy one day if everything else crumbles. The rest of the world may very well suddenly be on fire and then the Faroese will find themselves cut off and all alone out there, far away in the ocean – totally dependent on what is available on site.

That is part of the reason why the Faroese have been so reluctant to give up on this tradition, even if they regard themselves as a modern civilized people in many ways today and usually, in better times, aren’t as dependent on whale meat as they have been before. But they want to preserve their inherited whale driving and killing skills because they still feel that they live in an environment that demands of them that they trust more in themselves, i.e. in their bare hands together with nature’s mercy, as the best guarantee for survival.

Rather than settling for being entirely dependent on import and the modern worlds complicated and fraud full economic systems, they rely on what ever they’re able to harvest directly from their surrounding natural environment. They feel very strongly about this because they are proud of their old traditions that helped them survive for so long. Of course they choose to hold on to what ever makes them feel the safest, the strongest and the least vulnerable.

Misunderstood by the world outside
Let’s give it an extra thought. Of course it is difficult for people from outside the Faroe Islands to understand the Faroese people’s behavior; especially if they haven’t ever experienced that their life was dependent on what they could harvest directly from wild nature. It’s only natural that they find it disturbing, if they focus solely on the unfortunate animals and not on the livelihood of the people who live in places where you can’t grow vegetables and where people for so long had to survive with whatever means they had available.

Most people would probably feel quite helpless if they had to kill an animal with their bare hands in order to get a meal on their table. But they don’t have to do anything disgusting like that because they live a modern civilised life with all necessities within close reach. With those living conditions it’s very easy to forget that they’re actually themselves dependent on the killing of animals too.

Of course they know it, but they probably prefer not to think too much about it. I guess they don’t like to think of themselves as some kind of predators. But the fact is, that most people eat animals without giving it a single thought that somebody had to kill the animal, for them to be able to eat it. The modern world has created a whole industry out of people’s need to displace these facts. We do whatever we can to distance ourselves from the fact that we – humans – exploit animals by making it as invisible and painless (for ourselves) as possible that we breed animals to kill them so we can eat their meat. We don’t want to know about it so we hide it away so we don’t have to look at it.

Considering this, I’m not surprised why people get so angry with the Faroese. How can people who never see animals being slaughtered and don’t have any direct contact with animals (other than pets of course) feel otherwise than they do? How can people that almost only see wild animals in zoo – or as they are portrayed on TV or films made for entertainment – be any other than sentimental about these animals. How can they NOT get shocked by the bloody images of whale slaughter. It’s very understandable.

But can they be sure that their own life style is a better alternative? Can they be sure that it is right to judge so harshly so quickly just based on the feelings some seemingly brutal pictures evoke in them? Can they be sure that they’re not blinded themselves by their own self-righteousness? Are they themselves in a position to point at others?

What they don’t know (or perhaps don’t want to know) is, that they might themselves, very likely, be a much bigger threat to nature and the whale populations of the world than the Faroese will ever be. Their modern way of living is based on a heavily polluting mass industry which has much more unfortunate consequences on nature in the long run – including the whales. Their food consumption is dependent on an often extremely polluting agriculture, or on all the poor animals that have become domesticated living their whole life in captivity, often under horrible circumstances, totally on the mercy of humans, bread only for one purpose – to be meat for humans. The Faroese old way of living has, on the other hand, proved to be a much more life-sustaining way with much less impact on nature – allowing the animals to live a free life until the moment they are killed.

What can we all learn?
What to do about it? I don’t know…. Is it possible to learn from each other and make the gap smaller between the old Faroese traditional – and actually more eco friendly – way of living and the modern life….? That’s the big question….

Are pilot whales more special creatures than so many other – also sentient creatures humans kill for food? Should they get special treatment for that reason? (As I’ve stated before, the pilot whales are not on the list of endangered species.) I really don’t know. I’m just asking the question. Who’s to decide where the limit should be to which animals should be allowed to kill for food and which not? If the degree of animals social skills should be the criteria that determines which animals are fit for killing for food or not, why do we kill pigs or hens? They are highly sociable animals. If intellligence should be the criteria, pigs should definitely not be on the list. Latest research shows that squids are highly intelligent creatures, but we eat them anyway – yes, even pilot whales eat squids! What do we make of that? Define it as inhumane, unacceptable behavior?

And if the suffering of the whales is the big concern, well, is there someone who can come up with a better way to do the killing, to make it more “humane” (whatever that means)? I am absolutely sure that the Faroese will be open to reason and very happy to take some friendly advice. They have proved that they have done so in the past – they have listened to criticism, if it’s been fair, and have changed their ways.

To ask the Faroese to stop this practice and just become vegetarians would seem a little unrealistic considering how expensive it is to buy vegetables in the Faroes because all vegetables must be imported from far away. And it would seem a little hypocritical to ask the Faroese to start importing more meat from other animals – maybe treated less humanely than the whales. This meat would also have to be imported and transported over long distances in heavily polluting freight vessels that seriously damage the habitat of the whales – the ocean – and cause the contamination of whales… No, there is no simple solution.

So… if you are really interested in doing the best for the whales (and not just blindly following some inflammatory out-roar pleasing your own need to burst your aggression out) then try to get the facts right and act as respectfully as you would want the Faroese to act. Get into a constructive dialog, please.

This is an important topic to discuss! If you’re interested in knowing more about this topic, read also the page about pilot whaling on my other website: http://www.heinesen.fo/faroeislandsreview/pilotwhaling.htm - especially the last 3-4 sections about why all the anti-whaling campaigns have failed – and perhaps just endanger the pilot whales even more….!

The point I’m trying to make is this: The more people outside the Faroes condemn the Faroese, and the more they punish the Faroese by not buying their export goods or by not travelling to the islands, the more isolated will the Faroese be from the rest of the world, and the more they will tend to stick to their old traditions – which in the end means that more pilot whales will be killed!

And here – if you have managed to read this far – I want to tell you about a very good source, if you want to get the facts right. There is a website where you can find all the facts about pilot whaling – about the tradition, research, international whaling treaties, as well as the scientific, the political and the legal and judicial facts, down to the last detail: http://whaling.fo – check it out!

Elin Brimheim Heinesen
8. September 2009

Permanent link to this article: http://heinesen.info/wp/blog/2009/09/08/senseless-terrorizing-murderous-dolphin-killers/

Aug 19 2009

The most curious place left on earth

Before I made the video “Where Nature Rules” (which won 3rd prize at the international Film Award Ceremony Golden City Gate at ITB in Berlin 12. march 2009) I sketched up some thoughts on what it was I wanted the little film to express. In the film I narrowed the text down quite a lot – but here are the thoughts in full length.

Watch the video “Where Nature Rules” here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nd-vBF2-mIo

When your brain is overloaded. When you’re tired of noisy traffic. When you’re sick of heavily polluted air. When you’ve had enough of stressed out people everywhere around you. When you’re plagued by mosquitoes and a merciless sun. When you can’t stand being constantly sweaty and uncomfortable all the time. When you really need to breathe freely. When your only wish is to come to your senses and feel alive and grounded again.

Think of the Faroe Islands as the Land of Space… with an abundance of invigorating fresh air. Like coming home to a cool paradise with space to stretch your mind and body. To the Shangri-La of the north. To freedom.

Imagine a Land of Secrets. A little country hidden away from the rest of the world, where people have been living a simple life for centuries, almost in secrecy. But now – while technology makes the world smaller – the secret is about to be discovered. Imagine a group of magical mystical islands out there in the cool misty ocean, rising steeply, almost a thousand meters from the sea and up above the clouds.

Imagine that behind the steep dramatic cliffs you’ll find narrow fjords, sounds and green valleys with small, colorful cozy villages. Imagine this place never too hot – and never freezing cold. Always fresh. A mild and gentle country with mild and gentle people living in it.

Imagine this tranquil, peaceful, safe place to be – while on the other hand dramatic and challenging. One moment the weather is wild and roaring and the next beautiful and kind – colouring the landscape in a palette of colours you didn’t know even existed.

Imagine this place where the air is constantly changing between misty or rainy and crystal clear –– one minute boisterous and violent and the next dead calm. One moment nature barks fiercely at you – the next it hugs you gently and lovingly.

Imagine winds that at times in winter can reach velocities up to 60-80 meters per second creating huge waves that plunge into the cliffs sending explosions of foam sometimes hundreds of meters up in the air. Imaging riding these huge waves on a surf board.

Imagine a place where water is everywhere in some form or another. The sea is almost always in sight – when not hidden in fog – and on land endless rows of waterfalls flow pretty much everywhere down the mountainsides. Sometimes even upwards, depending on wind speed and wind direction.

Imagine one of the wettest and wildest countries on earth – the very place the weather gods chose to be their playground. A place where you can experience all seasons in one day. A challenging place where you’re never allowed to forget that nature is in control.

Imagine a place where you have to let go of control. Anticipate nothing but surprises. Imagine the thrill never really to know when to do what because it’s more up to nature’s mood than up to you. Storms or fog might always come in the way – sometimes for days – and you will simply not survive if you don’t adjust to nature.

Imagine how it trains your ability to be patient and to be fully aware of the instant – whatever it might bring. Just being present in this world here and now because you need to be prepared for the unpredictable – always.

Imagine this Land of Brooks and Waterfalls – a place where nature rules – not people. You can do nothing else but surrender. But if you’re patient nature will reward you with magnificent gifts and pleasant surprises when you least expect it – like beautiful sunny days.

Imagine standing on the highest point on these islands when the air is crystal clear and the valleys and the fjords under you are filled with milky, fluffy mist. Imagine the vastness above, under and around you – like standing on top of the whole world. Imagine being able to see the longest anywhere in the whole world…. endless rows of mountaintops to one side and to the other the never-ending ocean… and there – far, far away 500 km to the northwest – the top of a glacier rise just above the horizon – Vatnajøkull in Iceland which under certain circumstances according to Guinness Book of Records can be seen from the top of the highest mountain in the Faroes – Slættaratindur. Imagine how small and humble and thankful for being alive this view would make you feel.

Imagine a Land of Contradictions – a group of islands which in themselves are a contradiction. They shouldn’t even be there – it’s a miracle that they’re still standing. The mere presence of these wind-swept rocky cliffs is like an insisting vertical protest against the vast horizontal flatness of the ocean that surrounds them.

Imagine how fiercely these islands must have fought for millions of years with the forces of the mighty ocean. Imagine this everlasting battle that created the highest vertical sea cliffs in the whole world.

Imagine this archipelago – so tiny, and yet so strong and breathtakingly majestic. Vastness and closeness in one. So far away and yet just round the corner thanks to modern transportation. In the middle of nowhere in a huge ocean, and yet in the middle of everything right in the busy sea lane between two of the wealthiest continents in the world.

Imagine going to this Land of Nowhere – on the one hand perfect for stillness and meditation, and on the other hand, when you’re tired of sitting still, you can go surfing, boat racing, porbeagle shark fishing, rappelling, exploring caves, hiking pilgrimage trails, driving Harleys or go sightseeing from boats or helicopters to some of the most dramatic cliffs in the world.

Imagine finding a safe haven – a hideaway where you can escape from a stressed and overcrowded world and find that Land of Comfort you long for, far from a civilization gone

mad, but not too far away. Just 1-2 hours’ flight from some of the big cities in Northern Europe – like Copenhagen and London. Imagine finding peace and tranquility like nowhere else in the world in this place where people still trust each other – actually the most crime-free place on earth according to statistics.

Imagine being able to combine all the comforts of civilization with the sense of being back in the past when the air was not polluted and the water still fresh. Imagine being able to feel what pure wild nature is all about – and at the same time be able to enjoy all the qualities of modern life.

Imagine a cozy colorful town where you can stroll in a shopping centre in the morning. Go hiking, sailing or fishing in the vicinity of the town in the afternoon. Sit in a café or a restaurant enjoying a good meal or a drink in the evening. And stroll by the sea in the light summer night, go to a rock concert or go dancing in a night club with fun people all night long. Doing pretty much the same as most people enjoy doing everywhere else – but in a unique Faroese way. Imagine one of the most modern countries in the world – yet ancient and pristine at the same time. Convivial and familiar – and yet so peculiar and mysterious.

Imagine a Land of Inspiration – a little country with only around 50.000 inhabitants, but still a whole country – a micro cosmos with everything a modern society requires. Now you can – more easily than ever – go to these fairy islands and experience how life unfolds here – the sea, the air, the birds, the sheep, the people, the music, the language, only spoken by about 70.000 people in the whole wide world… and so much more to discover. Imagine finding a whole world of surprises here. A rich culture with an amazing variety to offer.

Imagine a place that sings. A little fairyland riddled with all kinds of music where almost every single village has its own choir. Where the main town even has its own symphony orchestra of high quality which most people would consider impossible for a town with only 20.000 people. Imagine skilful locals playing, singing and dancing traditional folk ballads, jazz, classical, punk, rock, electronica…. you name it. The diversity is astonishing.

Imagine a certain vibrant energy to this place that inspires and boosts creativity – with a light and colours so special and a peace that touches your soul in such a way that many visiting painters, musicians, poets and other artists fall in love with it instantly and feel the urge to come back year after year – or even to live here permanently – just to be inspired.

Imagine a Land of Authenticity – a place where tourism has not become a big industry yet, so people are not yet tired of tourists. They still can afford to welcome each and everyone with heartfelt kindness and openness because the number of foreigners is still relatively small.

But… for how long will it remain so? It might be just a question of time before more and more people in the outside world will be aware of this hidden gem. It’s there now for people to experience. So when you feel overloaded. When the complexity of the modern world overwhelms you…

When you want to be safe from the restlessness in the rest of the world. When you dream of a simpler life in close contact with nature – but in a comfortable modern way. When you want it all – just in a much smaller scale. Remember then this almost secret place out there in the ocean, not too far away, that not many other people visit – nor have even heard of. Here you will find the simplicity and the safety you’re searching for.
It’s not a fairy tale. It exists. And it’s called the Faroe Islands – maybe the most curious place left on earth.
Elin Brimheim Heinesen, 2009
The photographs (by Janus Hansen, Ólavur Frederiksen, Daniele Photography and Yazzy Ouhilal) are the same as the ones I used in the video “Where Nature Rules”.

Permanent link to this article: http://heinesen.info/wp/blog/2009/08/19/the-most-curious-place-left-on-earth/

Jul 04 2009

Humans are like toilets!

I believe that humans are very much like toilets. People have to take so much shit.

Your feelings are like the water in the cistern. You need water to flush the shit out continuously, or else the shit will pile up inside you.

If too much time goes by and you don’t flush, the shit becomes too hard and stays where it is even if you try to flush. And then you need help to dig it out and get the flushing to work again…

The moral is: You cannot avoid taking shit but don’t hold it in! Remember to flush it right away!

In other words: Do not hold your feelings inside. You need to cry. You need to laugh. Or else you’ll end up full of shit!


Permanent link to this article: http://heinesen.info/wp/blog/2009/07/04/humans-are-like-toilets/

Jul 01 2009

The Faroes: An Adventurous Hideaway

Do you want to step aside from your usual routines, slow down and get away from a world that spins faster and faster? Do you want to trigger your imagination and creativity? Do you want to travel to the perfect place for coming to your senses and feeling alive? Then – go to the Faroe Islands!

By Elin Brimheim Heinesen, Former Managing Director of SamVit, the Faroese Tourist Board and Trade Council

According to National Geographic Traveler, the Faroe Islands are the most unspoilt islands in the world. Elin Heinesen, the managing director of the Faroese Tourist Board and Trade Council, reflects on future tourism development in the Faroe Islands.

What others say about us
When one of the worlds leading experts in nation branding, Simon Anholt, was asked by an editor from Bradt Travel Guides to contribute to a Travel Guide to Shangri La, a place of fiction, he said:

“I consider the Faroe Islands to be the Shangri La of the 21st century!”

It is not unusual to hear statements like this and like the one journalist Eric Campbell from the Australian TV-show ‘Foreign Correspondent’ said:

“Remote and intriguing, they look like something out of a Norse fairy tale.”

He also said:

“The Faroe Islands could very well be the world’s next country!”.

In a New York Times article in 2007 with the headline: “Into the Mystical Unreal Reality of the Faroe Islands”, the Faroe Islands were described as:

“the most curious place left on earth”

… and the journalist Stephen Metcalf described his impression such:

“The Faroes are easily the most moodily beautiful place I have ever been”.

Other expressions often heard are: “otherworldly” or “the Lord of the Rings Country” or even “the Grand Canyon of the North Atlantic”.

Rated best islands in the world
Although the Faroe Islands obviously are astonishingly beautiful to many, we still do not see our country included in too many travel catalogues. This is probably all about to change now that the Faroe Islands were rated in the National Geographic Traveler as the best and most appealing island destination out of a shortlist of 111 island communities in the world – ahead of the Azores, Bahamas, Hawaii, Iceland and a lot of other fantastic islands – something that has given the Faroe Islands priceless publicity. The result was reached by a panel of 522 travel experts in November 2007. Another survey will not take place for many years to come so we still hold the position. (See http://www.nationalgeographic.com/traveler/features/islandsrated0711/islands.html)

Our goal: an eco-friendly sustainable tourism industry
At the Faroese Tourist Board we are definitely not interested in mass-tourism, though. We would rather attract appropriate amounts of money-spending people that want the perfect hideaway. It is our hope that our tourism industry will develop into a profitable, and at the same time sustainable, eco-friendly industry that does not destroy the wonderful nature and culture of these islands, but rather helps us preserve what we love the most. This is a very small country with a very small population and very limited economic resources; that is the main reason why we are not very well known yet. We do, however, have very rich natural and cultural resources.

Dangers we might face
Even if we have, you might say, challenging weather, we should not underestimate our attraction potential. I myself – as well as many people outside of the Faroes – think that the Faroe Islands have tremendous tourism potential, but the islands could also be very vulnerable to tourism overkill. We might ruin our chances of realising this great potential if we start to sell out too much too soon. That is why we should try our utmost to avoid mistakes, because the mistakes we make today could very quickly lead us to lose the very qualities that make us so special and attractive right now.

What’s the attraction?
To once again illustrate the attraction of these islands and why I think that the number of tourists here in the Faroes might increase significantly in the future – here is how a group of surfers describe the Faroes:

“Deserted beaches. Stunning scenery. Perfect waves. This is every surfers dream… Two years ago a group of surfers travelled north to the Faroe Islands. What they discovered stunned them: hundreds of miles of pristine, unexplored coastline; eighteen-hour-long surf days; a consistent flow of waves pushing in from the arctic. The stunning photographs Ouhilal returned with showed the Faroes as a kind of Hawaiian paradise in reverse where sand beaches were replaced by verdant grass, resort hotels were replaced by hundred-year-old cottages, and the only crowds were those of grazing sheep.”

Carelessness could destroy us
This is all good – and surfers might not be the worst tourists to attract. However, if influential audiences like surfers have become aware of our unique qualities, I’m sure others will notice us too. The buzz may be starting and we could soon see the beginnings of something resembling an invasion – not only of surfers, but others too. We don’t know for sure, but the present situation could change – even dramatically, like it did in Iceland some years ago.

Tourism is not a very lucrative industry in the Faroes yet. This makes it difficult to convince people in the tourism industry that we must be cautious. I’m afraid some people might be prepared to sell out to attract just anyone to achieve short-term profits. But this could backfire seriously in the long run. People are, of course, ‘hungry’ with the threat of an economic crisis hanging over their heads and this could make them careless.

Long term strategy
While I understand the urge and desire from some sections of the tourism industry, I believe we must take the necessary time to prepare, to make sure that we are doing the right things.
We at SamVit are trying to help the tourism industry in making long term strategies that will help people in the business attract the right tourists, so they can build businesses that are both lucrative and economically and environmentally sustainable. We are trying to spread the word by building strong networks with key persons all over the world – mostly tour operators and people from the media – that could help us as advisers and collaborators and help us appeal to and attract the right tourists. Tourism is, after all, the second largest industry in the Faroes even if it only accounts for 4% of the GDP; so we are also hoping that these people can help us in our efforts to get the public in the Faroes – ordinary people, politicians and the industry – to understand how important it is develop tourism in the wisest and most responsible way possible.

How do we preserve our best qualities?
We need to be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of different kinds of tourism – the sooner the better. And we must do what we can to build up the most appropriate and stable form of tourism, develop the appropriate offers and attract not just any tourists, but the right tourists. By that I mean tourists who really appreciate our special qualities – our beautiful nature, our traditions and our distinctive culture – and are willing to spend their money here which we could invest in preserving our best attractions. We need to make sure that tourism will not take away from us the unique qualities we have right now, but instead add to what we already have in a way that helps us prosper while strengthening our best qualities and our integrity as a people.

Why isn’t tourism in the Faroes big already?
You might ask: But if these islands are so wonderful – why isn’t there a lucrative tourism industry here already? The Faroe Islands are actually one of the least ‘touristy’ destinations left on earth. Although the Faroe Islands are not far from the European mainland (just a 2-hour flight from Copenhagen or London), this destination has until now been considered a little too remote for most people because the islands were not very accessible in the past. It is risky business for the transportation companies to open new or more frequent routes because so few live on the islands (only around 50,000). They cannot afford to wait for customers and so therefore only routes that are able to turn over a profit quickly are likely to be kept open. That has made it difficult to build up a more extensive tourism industry. This has, on the other hand, helped us keep our islands unspoiled – until now at least. And this might just turn out to be our best advantage, as it is.

New opportunities
Most travellers have also, until this day, mostly preferred to travel to places in the south, where they can lounge in the sun – but global travel trends now indicate that adventure travel is becoming increasingly popular. More and more people also want to travel up north to experience the beautiful and unspoiled nature and interesting culture that can be found there. People also travel further than they ever did before. It is also possible for us today, with new communication channels like the internet, to reach audiences we could not reach before. That means that our islands have suddenly become much more visible and interesting as a travel destination. And boy do we have nature and culture here that is worth travelling far for!

The perfect destination for adventurers
Now that the Faroe Islands have been discovered by the National Geographic Traveler and by surfers and others alike – and now that the islands have become more accessible than they ever were before – we can expect to see a lot more interest from travellers, especially if we use the right momentums and are effective in our marketing. There is great potential in attracting adventurous travellers interested in unspoilt authentic destinations right now – and fortunately, that is exactly what the Faroe Islands genuinely are.

Get an impression

Visit: http://www.faroeislandsreview.com

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