On the eve of Saturday, 7 September 2013, during a strong storm, about 70 long-finned pilot whales (Globicehala melas) began stranding in the small harbour of Rif and along the northern coast of the Snæfellsness peninsula in the west of Iceland.
About 20 of these whales unfortunately died naturally or were killed by the local community. Some of the throats were obviously slit, however there is some debate whether this was to stop their suffering or so that they could start butchering the animals for their meat or maybe both.
It is Icelandic law that beached whales need to be reported to the police and they alert the relevant authorities. This did not happen and thus an investigation has begun. Most likely, the locals simply did not know they had to do this. Still, they wasted no time in cutting their share of the meat.
There was a time for most countries that a beached whale was considered a gift from god when food was scarce. Nowadays, most attitudes about consuming whale meat have changed and even become a taboo, yet Iceland still practices traditional ways no matter who and how many protest it.
On the Sunday a few friends and I decided to drive up there from Reykjavík to check out the situation. For me, it was a very sad sight for many reasons. Sad that the whales had a very stressful and traumatic end to their life, but mostly because I felt that a lot of the locals seemed to have no respect for the animals that lost their life. If the animals had died naturally and the locals wanted to eat the meat, if they don't mind feeding their children meat that could have high levels of PCB's and methyl mercury in, then why not but it was this total disrespect that really shocked me.
Children were jumping on the whale’s heads and tails, prodding them with sticks as the parents stood by laughing, one van even ran over a whale, maybe by accident but it looked to be on purpose with a group of onlookers in hysterics and even one very young calf was butchered with blood running down its smiley face.
This is not an Iceland you should be proud off. The earth provides us all with air to breathe, shelter to keep us dry and warm, water to drink and food to eat and we should respect and protect it and this should be also taught to future generations.