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Thread: "Whale Wars: Viking Shores" and the Faroe Islands.

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    Senior Member Friedrich's Avatar
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    "Whale Wars: Viking Shores" and the Faroe Islands.

    Whaling is certainly an emotive issue, as can also be seen by the uncompromising positions in some older threads on whaling in the Skadi archive dating back to 2006 and 2009. Even usually celebrated minority groups like the Native Americans were threatened by activists, when the Makah tribe wanted to resume whale hunting. Whales touched a nerve since the 1970s, although not all are equally endangered, and hunting and slaughter apply to many other sentient species that may lack the "cuteness" factor or "intelligence" narrative pushed by certain activists, who seem to rely on "othering" certain groups of people when it comes to speciesism concerning whales.

    I've been aware for a while of the Whale Wars reality television series, which has run on Discovery Channel's Animal Planet since 2007, and followed the attempts by the Sea Shepherd activists led by Paul Watson to stop Japanese whaling in the Antarctic's Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
    I would watch parts when nothing better was showing, since the tension never seemed to climax after a while, and it was like a cat and mouse soap opera, but I generally supported the Sea Shepherd activists, especially as everything was shown from their point of view, and the Japanese were invading a whale sanctuary far from their own country.
    So the "scientific" Japanese whale hunts got a disinterested thumbs-down, and there were much more gruesome animal rights and resource plundering issues in South Africa, including the unimaginably cruel killing of a bull with the bare hands of Zulu warriors during the revitalized First Fruits Festival (the bull has its eyes gouged out, and its tongue and penis tied in a knot).

    However, tonight I saw a program on the Sea Shepherd activists that left me more undecided.
    It was from a series titled: Whale Wars: Viking Shores.
    The series is about the Sea Shepherd crew (rather interestingly contracted to SS) opposing the traditional hunting of Pilot Whales (actually dolphins) in the Faroe Islands, centered around their ship called the Brigitte Bardot.

    Some general Wikipedia information on the Faroe Islands mentions that they are a group of 18 islands between Norway and Iceland under the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Denmark, with a population of 50 000 inhabitants of mainly Norse and some Gaelic descent. Faroese is one of the least spoken of the Germanic languages, which remained unwritten under Danish rule until the 19th century. Yet, today it is the main language, showing a remarkable reversal of fortunes for an insular Germanic language! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faroese_language

    It's certainly a place with long-standing traditions due to significant isolation, and this aspect immediately made the particular series of great interest from a Germanic point of view.

    The episode I stumbled on tonight showed the holiday of St. Olaf, and unlike previous series the viewer is taken into the "whaling" community: we meet them as people, hear their opinions, see their homes and the cultural value of whale meat.
    What is upsetting is that Watson titled his operation on the Faroe Isands as "Operation Ferocious Islands".
    The islanders don't come across as "ferocious" to me at all.
    Just because people have a custom that may be unpleasant to watch (and most animal butchery is unpleasant) doesn't mean they are "ferocious".

    I think Sea Shepherd and Watson took a serious popularity knock with this episode and series.
    Although I must still watch more of the series on Youtube, the series got a generally low rating on most film blogs.
    The whale hunt apparently doesn't materialize, and neither does any real confrontation, although the activists certainly tried.

    On less politically correct blogs the activists are called a "cult" who rely on non-issues to get funding.
    They've even been called "terrorists" for using coercive and dangerous methods in the past.
    Old footage from Watson's previous campaign in 1986 is used in the series (ostensibly to fill in the missing shock value that failed to materialize in 2011), and at one point Lerwick in the Shetland Islands is falsely shown as Torshavn, the capital of the Faroe Islands.
    http://propaganda-buster.blogspot.co...other-sea.html

    Apparently the consumption of whale meat had already declined after health warnings concerning its mercury content due to pollution, and out of 788 000 pilot whales, the islanders traditionally harvested 900-1000 a year.
    Its use as depicted seems to be largely cultural, with some slivers of whale meat in larger spreads.

    I suppose one argument is that whale-meat is no longer necessary, since the islands now have imported foods. But even imported fish and beef doesn't grow on trees and has an environmental impact, and also has to be killed.
    Perhaps it's a less visible impact, but all foods have some impact, and controlled hunting possibly has less than clearing land for crops or factory farming.

    I'm a bit torn on this issue, but I find the misrepresentation of a people as "ferocious" quite racist, but I'm glad I got to hear of this culture and community, and it looks like a great place to visit, especially during the St. Olaf's Day festivals.

    Incidentally, new series promise to focus on the Blue-fin tuna and the "Seal Wars" on the culling of seals in Namibia, perhaps showing some viewer fatigue concerning whales.
    I suppose that leaves some groups like the Inuit to hunt their share of seals and whales in peace.

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    Senior Member Friedrich's Avatar
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    From the episode I watched tonight.

    Three Sea Shepherd activists from the land-crew invade the festival of St Olaf.

    Since there is no sign of a "grind" or hunt here, the aim of the activism is merely to be disruptive, and to convince the Faroese that the world sees them as "abnormal" and "sociopathic".
    Really?
    Whaling or not, but this seems like harassment.

    Sea Shepherd Activism on Faroe Islands: Justified or harassment?

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    Senior Member Friedrich's Avatar
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    The debate around the series included Faroe Island musician Heri Joensen (from the folk-metal group Tyr):

    Faroe Metal Musicians on Whale Wars


    From a live debate on the reality series in May 2012:

    Are the Faroe Islands Ferocious?


    Wider netizen comments are generally quite nasty, ranging from a disappointment in the "Whale Wars" endeavor since this series, to insults targeted at the Faroese as an embarrassment that waste Danish tax money, to questions on what Paul Watson eats to make him so fat.

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    It is just another attempt to destroy individual cultures. The European cultures are a prime target because they know that the European Culture has the potential to be the strongest.

    I sincerely hope that this show will fail, and judging by the ratings, it is already in the process of doing so. The animals that the Faroese hunt are not endangered, and they are well within their rights to hunt them. If they were endangered, I would mayhap not support the hunting of them, but this is ridiculous.

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    Senior Member Friedrich's Avatar
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    Dissatisfied viewers of the series:

    The Mad Mark Show: Hunting local food is OK.


    "Propagandabuster" has serious issues with the franchise over a number of clips and a blog, but here he points out some obvious mistakes:

    Mistakes or Purposeful?


    It's quite strange because it's one of the few nature programs on these digital channels that's not about nature's peril to man, or about shark and animal attacks that demonize nature.

    On other Discovery programs we see Bushmen shoot poisoned arrows into animals as big as a giraffe, and they will follow that animal for days until it collapses from exhaustion.
    The ethics of this are never questioned, and they also have a local store with modern foods nowadays.
    Yet, it's crueler in many respects than a "grind".

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    Senior Member Friedrich's Avatar
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    @Maxey:
    Thanks for that very to the point message, and I absolutely agree.
    There's a great deal of selective hypocrisy.
    African hunting with dogs is very cruel, and even the San (Bushman) hunting.
    I'm not sure why they chose this target.
    Meanwhile our rhinos in SA are slaughtered for Chinese and Vietnamese medicine.
    We are losing them completely.
    And why?
    Just for a horn, because some are too retrograde to accept modern medicine!

    There's some truly shocking imagery of the plight of our rhinos.
    Yet it seems most of the world doesn't know or care.

    Now a "grind" hunt is over in 20 minutes, and the dolphins are not endangered.
    Here rhinos have their horns chopped off and left to die, and the meat is left to rot.
    And it's pretty much out of control.
    I have footage but actually don't want to post it because it's so shocking.

    Will Paul Watson and his hippie damsels go to Africa and China to call them all "psychopaths"?
    Well, I'll be waiting to see.

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    Senior Member Friedrich's Avatar
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    Although some of what Sea Shepherd claims to do is good and laudable, the cult-like behavior and spectacle-hunting is worrying.

    It's like a bunch of people coming into town and saying: "You people have a slaughterhouse, and it's your dirty secret."
    Erm, no ... it's never been a secret.
    And next thing the locals are harassed with dodgy slogans and racist stereotypes (well, they've gone for the less "politically sensitive" races like the Japanese and Nordics so far, usually in very pristine, well-kept areas).
    This is all done by the minions of course.
    It's a formula with some growth potential that could target any community that's not entirely vegan.

    After The Cove Watson even announced that the Japanese Tsunami was a divine retribution for killing the dolphins in Teiji.
    Well, I've seen pics of some pretty nasty aboriginal turtle hunts where the creatures were dragged from the sea with cars, so perhaps Australia might be in for a natural disaster or so?

    This Japanese site shows a different side of the SS crew as they filmed The Cove: http://www.japanprobe.com/2012/02/10...ish-subtitles/

    It also features former members of SS.

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    Senior Member Friedrich's Avatar
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    Journalist and TV critic Andy Dehnart wrote a good summary of the series on his site devoted to analyzing reality TV called Reality Blurred.

    The Sea Shepherd team's own paranoia drives much of the narrative, and the footage from the 1980s misleadingly showed dated methods of hunting with hooks:
    http://www.realityblurred.com/realit...paranoia-drama

    A deeper question is why traditional hunting is applauded in some cultures on nature programs (like the Man Hunt series, which has had episodes on San Bushman and Forest People hunting) but demonized and interrogated in others.
    It seems that activists go where the funding is most fecund, and that is fore-mostly whales and dolphins (whether endangered or not), especially since often faked wildlife films have endowed such species with human-like narratives and qualities for decades.

    Perhaps this also rests on the assumption that an audience would not regard a white, Germanic group as "indigenous" (and therefore not entitled to indigenous hunting like other aboriginal groups), and a deeper albophobic racism regarding such constructs is exposed. At least in this case it largely backfired.

    I hope the activists set their future sights on wasteful, unsustainable and commercial exploitation, and the collapsing fish stocks are felt at a local level, which makes purely humanitarian spectacles about "cruelty" to select species secondary to real concerns about impending hunger.
    Ultimately, what is the solution?
    Clearing more land for cultivation (which also affects the rivers and oceans)?
    Global vegetarianism?

    Such groups should provide more solutions rather than racial attacks, when similar attacks and labels of "ferociousness" against "darker races" would create a major backlash in the politically correct ranks.

    Indeed, what is it about Nordic people and the Japanese that allows for such targeted language?
    Clearly it feeds into a large body of film and popular culture since World War II that showed Germanic and Japanese people as uniquely ferocious.

    (On Watson's statements on Japan see: http://www.japanprobe.com/2012/01/20...uel-dishonest/
    Not only is it selective morality, but it's an industry that comes across as recycling existing stereotypes not only for convenience, but also to perpetuate them for self-interested culture industries that require a "bogeyman" on many levels.)

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    Senior Member Friedrich's Avatar
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    Industry whistle-blower Chris Palmer on how wildlife films were faked, including documentaries on whales. This often involved captive animals and exploitation.
    Possibly the worst case was hurling lemmings off a cliff to fake the "lemming suicides" (which many still regard as factual), but more recently they involved naming animals to create individual narratives and creating fake scenes, like whale "graveyards".
    Perhaps it was good to create awareness for really endangered species, but a questionable activity nevertheless.
    This is how a narrative turned whales into honorary humans, while "whale-killers". became sub-human by implication.
    From then it had nothing more to do with sustainability, but hunting whales or dolphins became a moral issue.

    Deception in Wildlife Documentaries.

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    Senior Member Friedrich's Avatar
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    A short clip on the Man Hunt programs hosted by Hayden Turner.
    He follows the hunting of the Baka people (pygmies) and San Bushmen.
    There is a degree of exotic "othering" (and possibly some fakery) in the series, however compared to the Foroe Islands the narrative is completely different.
    The traditional hunting skills are praised as exceptional.
    The killing is never shown directly, and the butchered animals are snakes or porcupines which don't have a general history of sentimentality.
    They only kill one animal in a scene, but in a month or year that's probably no different to a mass seasonal hunt.
    I hope they keep their lands and hunting traditions (although considering population pressure from larger African groups, and the tragic bush-meat trade, it may be unlikely).
    While whale meat has declined due to mercury warnings (although an above Japanese site denies any adverse health effects so far), the African trade in primate meat carries a risk of new viruses for the human population, which apparently not only resulted in HIV, but there are fears about Monkey Pox.

    However, it's not right that this tribal hunting is romanticized in film, while the Faroe Islanders are demonized.
    Surely that's a racist double standard.


    Man Hunt in Africa.


    But one only has to look at contemporary films like Pathfinder to see that demonizing Nordic people and a Viking past as "ferocious" is an acceptable cultural practice that blurs the relationship between Hollywood and documentary film.

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