Faroe Whales Action Group is invited to speak at the European Parliament - twice!
By Ann Elphick
During the Autumn of 2015 Matthew, Gina, Ann and Jutta, plus around 9 volunteers emailed all 751 MEPs. Each MEP was sent six emails over a six week period.
Gina Gow authored six indepth emails covering all of the issues involved with Faroese whaling. Rather than call for the EU to do something to stop it, we shared facts and our knowledge, hoping that someone there would be interested in what we were saying.
It turns out some were interested and from this group effort, we were invited to speak to MEPs in the European Parliament.
In February 2016 Ann, Gina and Jutta finally travelled to the European Parliament in Brussels.
We made good connections with a number of MEPs and assistants, and were able to discuss in depth all we have learnt through dialogue and friendship and why we can see that force change tactics do not help the situation of whaling in Faroe.
Following this meeting, a number of MEPs and European Parliament's Intergroup on the Conservation and Welfare of Animals expressed an interest in a conference. Some said they would be interested to hear from Faroese people, from both aspects of the issue.
We were invited to the European Parliament again for a conference and given funding to bring two of our Faroese friends with us; one pro whaling and one anti whaling.
In October, after much organising, Ann, Jutta and Gina again attended the European Paliament to speak about our thoughts on whaling in the Faroe islands.
It was a really great day, where different aspects and opinions on the Pilot whale hunt were discussed.
Contrary to what most NGOs ask of MEPs in the European Paliament, we only asked that MEPs might look on this subject in depth and think beyond the tradition style of activism.
The European Parliament has no governance over whaling in Faroe, despite Denmark being a member state. What we wanted to do was to share our knowledge with MEPs, and to get across the point that 'force change' tactics and supporting petitions for example, only creates more resistance and is counterproductive to the cause.
Good friendships and contacts were made on this day.
As a group, we have never published before our efforts within the European Parliament, nor indeed any of the other actions we are doing in the background.
We feel that often it is better to work quietly out of the spotlight and because we don't ask for donations, we do not need to justify what we do in a public way.
Now this is a historic action, we feel it is time to show a little of what we do in the background away from public scrutiny.
Years ago I was involved in emailing several cruise companies to asked them not to dock in the Faroe Islands and to boycott Faroe. I thought it was a good action to encourage people to not visit the islands, letting the Faroese know they were wrong and that they must stop whaling. During this time I had an email exchange with TUI Travel Company (Germany) which lead on to phone calls with them as well.
As my thinking moved on over recent years, I began to think differently and I started to have dialogue with TUI about their decision to carry on docking in the Faroe Island.
From this dialogue with them, I was invited as daily visitor on 'Mein Schiff 4' while I was visiting faroe July 2017. TUI is being targeted at the moment for being the last German cruise company docking in the Faroe Islands. I was very interested to hear the views of tourists who would be affected if TUI stopped their tours to Faroe.
During my visit, I was able to talk to the crew (including the Environmental Officer) and passengers. The passengers I spoke with were aware about whaling in Faroe and also about the on-going campaign by activists to stop TUI offering trips there.
From some of the conversations, this was what stood out to me:
"I used to always book AIDA trips, but as they bowed to the pressure by activisits, I decided to book a TUI cruise. Trying to help and stop whaling in the Faroe Islands and other whaling nations earns respect, but I will not allow others to tell me where I can make my holidays and with which company. This is my own business.
I do not need others to tell me what is right or wrong in a country. Information is appreciated, but I will make up my own mind - after a visit.
Our last stop was Iceland and this is a whaling nation too. Why just pick on Faroe Islands? What about Norway and Greenland when considering Scandinavia? There are no protests to TUI and other travel agencies offering tours there.
We have just got back back from a tour around the villages in Tórshavn. The tour guide told also about the whaling and answered all questions we asked. TUI (Germany) does not sell tickets to 'Swim with dolphins' or 'elephant rides' - is this not worth mentioning?"
The night before the ship docked, a talk was given to the passengers about Faroe, which included information on whaling. Crew members told me it would be great if I could write an information sheet with more detailed information. I will be writting this information sheet and will deliver it to TUI's CEO of Environmental issues. Further talks on this subject continue between us.
I am against boycotting the Faroe Islands. If a cruise liner will chooses to avoid a destination others will simply fill their space. Spanish cruise liners for example started tours again this year, after stopping due to whaling a few years ago.
You know my favorite Faroese wording: "Gløgt er gestsins eyga", meaning "Wise is the tourists eye" and tourists and also agencies speaking about the whaling and their feelings about it, will be listened to.
There is no overnight solution to whaling in Faroe which many hope for, but when you approach a situation with anger and to hurt a nation, you only embedd the reslove for them to continue what is their leagal right to do. Better to work with people rather than against them.
By Ann Elphick
Dialogue is a year round occurance in our Facebook group, although obviously during the months where hunts take place, conversations come thick and fast.
All admins of our group are vounteers with busy personal lives and we do our best to moderate the group well. It is hard for us to strike a balance at times, and we have often been accused by either side of being too hard on them, or too lenient with the opposing side.
It's not always easy to challenge popular thinking either, but nevertheless we look for truth in matters and streer away from knee jerk emotional responses. For anyone who is anti whaling, their first thoughts should be: 'what could work and what is not working' and to think independently.
While there is no overnight soloution, we can at least work in peaceful ways to allow the people of Faroe to decide for themselves, what is right for them and their future generations, without the year on year of intense media scrutiny.
'Every different situation in the world where people feel change needs to happen, must be considered on an individual basis. It is foolish to
think that one type of activism can work for every situation. When
you have the majority of a nation behind you, force change can
be a useful tool. When the majority is not with you, then trying to
force change will always fall on deaf ears'