Thursday, May 31, 2007

Whale meet again...

Niall, Simon and I depart for our "summer" holiday to the Faroe Islands tomorrow. Summer is a relative term, as it looks like we can expect temperatures of 10ÂșC and almost certain rain in the rocky Atlantic outpost.

I'm looking forward to the remote, desolate, beauty that I have read about, as well as the long days, puffins (to both see and eat), and international football matches. One of their traditions does, however, present an interesting dilemma.

Whaling has been taking place in the Faroes for over 1000 years. Pilot whales are caught in a non-commercial (but seemingly bloody) way, and the meat is divided amongst the populace. Here's an interesting BBC article that covers the main points: is it cruel? Is it wiping out an endangered species? What does it taste like?

The upshot seems to be that the fishing is sustainable (less than 0.1% of the population caught each year) and whilst bloody, there is not necessarily prolonged pain for the whales. Is it cultural to recoil from the idea of whaling? In Japan they eat whale, but find the idea of eating dog or horse (eaten in many other countries) repellant. Another BBC article focuses on this fascinating point: how do we culturally decide what, and what not, to eat? Is it not hypocritical to refuse to eat cute animals or pets but to happily eat battery-farmed chicken meat? The Faroese could, quite legitimately, criticise us for looking down upon their whale hunting whilst simultaneously wiping out the cod and haddock (as well as many other species) populations in our waters.

So will I eat whale? I honestly don't know, and it may not even be a choice offered to me, but I am having a difficult time coming up with a coherent argument against eating it. It doesn't sound particularly tasty though...

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