A number of environmental groups are calling on the public to boycott cruise ships that make a port of call on the Faroe Islands, a possession of Denmark. Others are extending their efforts to include a call of boycott to all cruise lines that have a ship calling on the islands.
In 2007 the National Geographic Traveler and the National Geographic Center for Sustainable Destinations named the Faroe Islands “the world’s most unspoiled island community and appealing destination to visit.” So what changed? Why a boycott? Nothing has changed. The reasoning behind the boycott is because of The Grind (grindadráp)! The Grind is an annual event held over a few months where long-finned pilot whales (Globicephala melas) are driven into coves and slaughtered. The practice is a long standing tradition of the local people but Environmental organizations such as Sea Shepherd are trying to stop it. There are a number of very graphic articles about the practice, The Grind is now underway.
A number of petitions with variations of the title – Cruise Industry Supports Mass Murder of Whales in Faroe Islands – wants to put pressure on the cruise lines to put pressure on Faroe Islands to stop the slaughter.
While people’s reactions around the slaughter vary, the issues behind the controversy are much more complex than what may first appear. A TED fellow documentary – Tradition or travesty? – takes a look at both sides of the issue. The islands have a population of about 50,000 people and though not everyone participates in the event, local opposition is very, very low. There are 22 bays that may be used to trap the pilot whales and kill them. The number of deaths per event is limited, and last year 1,200 whales were slaughtered. The meat is distributed to the community and there is no commercial sale from the meat gathered. Locals hold steady to the point that this is part of their diet and a part of their way of life. Those opposed point to reports that the whales are unfit for human consumption. The opposition stresses the cruelty used and believe this type of behavior is inhumane. Their view is in this day and age it is totally unacceptable.
So far cruise lines have not weighed in on the issue, nor has there been any independent assessment of what the impact on the local community would be if the cruise ships stopped coming. The cruise lines are being forced into a difficult situation. To many guests, the practice doesn’t sway their desire to visit. For the people of Faroe Islands, part of the issue is outsiders telling them how to act in their own traditions in their own country and cruise lines might find they are not welcome if they add pressure. The environmental groups will continue to push the blame to the cruise lines.
Look at the documentary and get your own view point. If you feel strongly one way or the other, let your favorite cruise line know.