Updated: Jul 15, 2022
Although disappointed with the outcome of the debate, Stop the Grind is pleased with the passionate discussion that took place on Monday 11th and the unanimity of politician’s positions against the Grindadrap. We believe that this is not the end of the road for political change in the UK and will continue to advocate for trade policies that require other nations to uphold the same values around animal welfare standards that are applied in the UK. We will not give up in our fight to #stopthegrind and will continue to pursue every avenue available to us in order to ensure that dolphin and whale hunting in the Faroe Islands comes to an end once and for all.
LONDON UK – On Monday 11th July, a parliamentary debate was held to suspend the UK’s free trade agreement with the Faroe Islands until all dolphin and whale hunts have been ended. The debate was attended by the new Minister for Trade, Andrew Griffiths, as well as a number of MPs representing constituencies in England, Scotland and Wales. Members from Stop the Grind, Sea Shepherd and the Born Free Foundation observed the debate.
The debate highlighted the unanimous position of MPs against the slaughter of cetaceans – in any number. Minister John Nicholson passionately led the discussion laying out the numerous economic, social and political arguments in favour of suspending the free trade agreement. He highlighted the inequitable trade balance between the Faroe Islands and the UK – which has resulted in a 157% increase in Faroe Islands’ exports to the UK since the free trade agreement was signed – stating “we have the power to make the Faroe Islands focus and resist.” Ben Lake MP argued that the last assessment on pilot whale populations was conducted in 1997 and therefore that any suggestion that a quota of this number is sustainable is utterly indefensible.
Kerry McCarthy MP also spoke ardently about the need for the UK government to “[use] trade negotiations to set a very clear marker as to what our standards are and what standards we are willing to accept from other nations.” She highlighted the fact that the renewal of the Faroe Islands trade agreement in 2019 would have presented a relevant opportunity to introduce animal welfare standards into trade policy and questioned Minister of Trade, Andrew Griffiths, as to why this had not taken place. Minister Griffith noted that “we all aim to achieve the same end – which is the end of this barbaric practice” and that the UK would use its diplomatic relationship with the Faroe Islands to continue to condemn the Grindadrap and advocate for policy change.
MPs shared Stop the Grind’s concern with the recent announcement of a proposed quota by the Faroe Islands arguing that “even one dolphin is too much for this government”. The quota – released the day before the debate in an apparent attempt to placate policymakers – is above the current average annual catch of dolphins and does not apply to pilot whales (which are killed in far greater numbers).
Although disappointed that the debate did not result in the suspension of the Free Trade Agreement, Stop the Grind was strongly encouraged by the large turnout of MPs for this discussion and compelling arguments made by government ministers and MPs from all sides. After years of intensive campaigning, the Stop the Grind coalition considers it a huge win for this issue to be discussed with such rigor at the highest political level in the UK. The Coalition is optimistic that political change is possible and will continue to pursue every diplomatic avenue available to us to affect these objectives.
The UK parliamentary petition – which received more than 100,000 signatures - demonstrated the significant disapproval of the UK public towards the continuation of these hunts. As revealed by a survey conducted by Stop the Grind and Sea Shepherd, more than 75% of the UK population supports economic sanctions on countries that practice whale hunting, and nearly 70% would consider joining a general boycott of products and services from these nations. We are calling on UK retailers to provide greater transparency over the origin of fish products and to stop the sale of Faroese products that indirectly support the continuation of this practice.
Dominic Dyer, policy advisor at the Born Free Foundation and initiator of the UK Parliamentary petition that required the debate shared his reflections, stating:
"The British Government cannot turn a blind eye to the brutal slaughter of whales and dolphins on the Faroe Islands when it enriches this small Island nation of less than 50,000 people at an unprecedented rate as a result of this unbalanced and unethical Free Trade Agreement. No whales or dolphins should be brutally slaughtered in the Faroe Islands to put cod and farmed salmon on our supermarket shelves. If the UK is to remain a world leader in the protection of marine mammals, the Government must be willing to use trade sanctions to end this barbarism for good."
Robert Read, CEO of Sea Shepherd UK was disappointed by the quota announcement and said:
“It appears that international and domestic opposition to the barbaric grindadrap hunts have been rejected in favour of killing of even dolphins by setting not a restrictive quota, but what some Faroese dolphin hunters will see as a de facto target to be reached. Sea Shepherd will continue our campaign together with the Stop The Grind coalition and our crew and friends across Scandinavia and in the Faroe Islands until we together bring about an end to these cruel grindadrap hunts of dolphins and pilot whales.”
The Stop the Grind campaign will now turn its focus on the upcoming discussions taking place at the International Whaling Commission meeting in Slovenia in October 2022. This meeting represents another important opportunity to demonstrate the extent of international opposition to the Grindadrap and to apply scrutiny to the arbitrary quota that has been put forward by the Faroese government. In addition, Sea Shepherd will continue its multi-decade campaign to document the hunts through its substantial team of photographers, videographers and media experts on the island. We are pleased with the recent developments in our campaign which demonstrate the power of the public to affect change and will continue to use every avenue available to us to assert pressure on the Faroe Islands government until the Grind comes to an end.
For more information and to organise interviews with coalition members please contact:
Heather Stimmler, Sea Shepherd Global – email@example.com
Maz Fletcher, Stop the Grind – firstname.lastname@example.org