The Islands and the Whales

Documentary time! And off we go to the Faroe isles to watch them hunt and eat. This is not one for the squeamish. Birds and whales are stabbed, sliced and torn apart left right and centre by the islanders as they hunt. It’s pretty gruesome in places but it’s not out of cruelty – this is how they get their food. They’re pretty frank about how little grows on the island.

Unfortunately, it’s not just accusations of animal cruelty they have to fend off. It turns out that their choice meat, Pilot Whale, is so high up the food chain that the pollutants of the sea are concentrated in them, leading to dangerously high levels of mercury. It’s a threat that’s causing them to ask serious questions over their identity and traditions. The film sensibly doesn’t really take sides but just listens to the opinions of the islanders. So we hear from the Doctor who’s pushing hardest against whale meat consumption – he makes it clear that he realises how at odds with their tradition it is, but that his conscience won’t let him stay silent – and from the fisherman, with high levels of mercury in his blood, who happily munches whale meat and eats it with his children. Whilst it’s hard not to side with the scientist, both sides are portrayed sensitively and fairly – you really can understand why they’re so resistant to being told that a central part of their food culture should be abandoned.

The only people who really come off poorly in this are the Sea Shepherd crew who arrive to protest the Whale hunt. Having arrived to tell the islanders not to hunt whales they’re well prepared for whizzing about in their snazzy boat but woefully underprepared for the important part of actually convincing people: at a painful press conference they buckle under the islanders questions (“What should we eat instead” “Ideally vegetables” “…Er… Not much grows here. What should we eat?” “…”)

It’s a fascinating view into the islands. An absolute treat of a documentary.

Drinks
Pressure Drop Syd Strong, this is quite a find! One of the best of the festival so far – a rye IPA with a massive punch. Highly recommended.