|The West Nordic Council is a joint parliamentary organisation of Greenland, Iceland and the Faroe Islands. Its proclaimed theme for 2001 is West Nordic Hunting Culture. In connection with this, the following statement was issued in English on Apr. 27, 2001.
How Can Anyone Kill a Seal? How Can Anyone Possibly Kill a Whale?
How can anyone kill a seal? How can anyone possibly kill a whale? These are natural questions from people who have spent their lives in populous western cities. To the peoples from northern regions, these questions provoke no more concern than the question, "How can anyone ever kill a pig or a cow?"
In the west Nordic areas, i.e., Greenland, Iceland and the Faroe Islands, we have a tradition of hunting, for example, birds and sea mammals.
Eating meat from whales or seals is as natural to us as eating pork, beef or poultry is to others. Wearing a beautiful coat made of seal pelt comes as naturally as wearing clothes made from cow hide.
Hunting is part of our cultural heritage. It has contributed to forming our traditional diet, our history and our identity. Through the ages, hunting has been part of the very basis of our existence. Whenever hunting failed, the pots remained empty. To many of us, even today, hunting constitutes a vital proportion of our livelihood and well-being.
Hunting is a special event for us, connecting our past with the present. We fondly recall how our fathers and their fathers returned home with birds from the cliffs, with seals from the fjord or some other catch. We remember the first time we were allowed to take part in the hunt. With great pride we think back on the moment when we brought down our first animal and, in this way, contributed to providing for the family back home.
At the same time, hunting ties together the inhabitants of the small west Nordic communities into a unique cultural fellowship. Through the centuries, whale meat has been evenly divided between the members of the community free of charge. Even today, young and old folks get a special look in their eyes when news of whales arrives by word of mouth.
To the peoples of the west Nordic and arctic areas, hunting is a question of survival as well as an ancient cultural heritage. We want to keep and preserve this tradition. However, a number of dangers are threatening the west Nordic hunting traditions:
We acknowledge that hunting must be conducted in a sustainable manner to avoid the ever-present danger of extinction. The loss of even one species will mean that hunting traditions will be forever lost for future generations.
The west Nordic hunting tradition is identified with a collective, solemn respect for nature. The west Nordic area inhabitants have always depended on nature. Short-sighted exploitation remains a temptation that the west Nordic peoples simply cannot afford.
The danger of exploiting stocks to extinction through uncontrolled hunting is therefore not the most imminent danger to the west Nordic hunting traditions. The stocks are closely monitored by west Nordic and international biologists and scientists. Hunting quotas and seasonal protection schemes, etc., are implemented on the basis of expert advice in order to ensure sustainable utilisation of the stocks.
Without doubt, pollution poses the greatest danger to the west Nordic hunting culture. Heavy metals and other toxic substances accumulate in the animals, threatening their fitness for human consumption. Also, the animal's fertility and survivability are affected by pollution. Such threats are extremely difficult for the west Nordic countries to deter or counteract. Pollution knows no borders. We can but appeal to the industrialised nations to act in a conscientious and responsible manner and work continuously towards reducing the emissions of environmentally hazardous substances into nature.
General misconceptions and insufficient knowledge of the conditions under which hunting in the west Nordic areas is conducted have often posed a threat to the traditional culture of west Nordic hunting. Examples of this can be observed in campaigns against seal hunting in Greenland, the sinking of Icelandic whaling ships and actions against the Faroese's killing of the pilot whale.
These examples emphasise the importance of a constructive dialogue between environmental and animal protection organisations and the west Nordic peoples. We must ensure that discussion will not be premised on myths and erroneous presumptions.
The protection of our stocks and the protection of our marine environment are positive goals for us all not least for the west Nordic countries, where balance and co-existence are important prerequisites for life in the far North. On this point, we regard the environmental organisations as our allies. It is in our common interest that ongoing effort be put into producing the necessary knowledge and information about our stocks and the real dangers involved.
The West Nordic Council has proclaimed 2001 to be the year of traditional hunting in the west Nordic areas. The Council will focus on the traditional west Nordic hunting culture and, in this way, contribute to wider knowledge and understanding of the countries' ancient tradition of sustainable utilisation of our natural resources. This is a tradition that is still alive today and will hopefully continue to be vital for generations to come.
Certainly, we do kill seals, and we do kill whales we live off nature. This is exactly why it is in our interest to preserve and protect our nature.
The West Nordic Council