By Ric and Helene O’Barry
The Taiji of the North Atlantic – the annual kill of pilot whales in the Faroe Islands – has substantially increased despite a warning from health authorities that the meat is contaminated with toxic mercury.
In 2008, the Faroe Island’s chief physician, Dr. Pál Weihe, and chief medical officer, Dr. Høgni Debes Joensen, strongly recommended that pilot whale meat should no longer be used for human consumption because of the significant threat it poses to health.
Yet, this year the number of pilot whales killed in the bloody drive fisheries exceeds 1,115, and the year is not yet over. This is the largest number of pilot whales killed since 1996, likely spurred by the Faroe islander’s legendary contempt for outsiders who oppose the pilot whale hunts.
Pregnant women and children are particularly susceptible to mercury poisoning, which can result in severe neurological and brain damage. The meat also harbors high levels of organochlorines, which are also toxic.
(These hunts are still dwarfed by the dolphin slaughters in Japan. The Japan Fisheries Agency issues 23,000 permits annually to local communities like Taiji to kill dolphins.)
The Faroe Islands are a semi-autonomous region of Denmark situated 200 miles north of Scotland. They therefore claim to be able to operate outside of European Union norms for health and animal welfare.
Environmental organizations, including the Dolphin Project have opposed these cruel hunts for years.