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G E N E R A T I O N ( S )     M E R C U R E

During my first stay in the Faroes, at the beginning of 2020, I was able to observe quite unique social and environmental issues in this territory of barely fifty thousand inhabitants. These isolated islands between Iceland and Norway are the cradle of a rapidly changing population.


Sadly famous, for its hunting tradition: the Grindadráp of pilot whales "globicephala melas", I realized that in addition to this practice (dating for the first traces of the XVI th century) still justified but on the contrary doomed to disappear is a bases of the history of this territory. The Faroes have for centuries been dependent on this meat and over time this hunt has become a tradition synonymous with survival. In this extreme territory in winter and food sources being rare, the Faroese made their food reserves during the summer period with pilot whale, dolphin, mutton and fish meat that they make for the majority of the time to ferment in order to keep it longer. Unfortunately, controversies from foreign countries have come to stain their reputation even more following the hunt last year of a group of 1428 white-sided dolphins. Which makes this Grind the biggest dolphin hunt in world history.


Around this subject a food and ecological question arises: this pilot whale meat is the cause of several problems which affect to varying degrees the population of this archipelago. Indeed it is polluted with mercury (Hg) a very toxic heavy metal that is also found in nature frequently but at very low concentration levels. The pollution of this meat comes mainly from human activities via gold panning using mercury as a separator or various industries. From the top of the food chain, this mammal of almost half a ton that is the pilot whale inevitably feeds on already very slightly polluted fish, it then becomes a mercury sponge.


This observation and this link with this meat has been proven by the 1986-87 generation with research by Pál Weihe, a Faroese scientist who has been following and testing for 35 years through the blood and hair of the inhabitants the mercury concentration within their body. Even today, he follows more than 3,000 people in the Faroes (6% of the population). Thanks to his research, he came to the conclusion that this meat is not (or is no longer because we do not know since when it has been) beneficial for humans and above all that it is very dangerous. for pregnant women and children. It can cause both heart and nervous system malformations.


Sociologically, a split in the population is created between rooted tradition and awareness. His research and conclusions were, indeed, poorly received at the time. However, an awareness has already been made that pregnant women no longer consume it, and therefore neither do children. The new generation grows little with this meat and the idea of hunting it seems remote to them. However, in parallel and in a paradoxical way, a new movement appears in this young generation which takes into consideration the fact of eating local with meat that has lived free is ethically better than meat imported by boat and contaminated with antibiotics. On the one hand, the Faroese no longer depend on this meat for their survival, but on the other hand it remains anchored in everyone's customs.



The will of this subject is to inform an audience in a neutral way on the scientific, biological and social aspects of this hunt which appears to us, with the information which reaches us as brutal, violent and putting in danger of extinction the hunted species. . Unfortunately, a lot of things need to be clarified. On the one hand, the Faroese are not transparent about their hunting practice, but on the other, activists do not hesitate to show only the violent side, often with misinformation that reaches our media. Establishing a portrait of this practice seems essential, debating it and questioning our perception as well as our eating habits seems current in the period we are going through.

Since 2020 - Faroe Islands

captions by clicking on the images

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