Politics

Britain won’t halt Faroes trade deal despite whale and dolphin slaughter


The government has refused to suspend a free-trade deal with the Faroe Islands over whale and dolphin massacres, in defiance of calls from conservationists.

Hunters caused widespread outrage when last week they wiped out a super-pod of 1,428 dolphins, thought to be the worst bloodbath of the mammals in the islands’ history.

Just 10 days later, they responded to the global revulsion by slaughtering 53 pilot whales just a few miles from the first massacre.

Wildlife campaigner Dominic Dyer has called for ministers to suspend the £580m post-Brexit free-trade agreement that the government agreed with the Faroe Islands in 2019 “until the slaughter ends for good”.

More than 21,000 people in three days have signed a petition on the government website backing the idea.

The government told The Independent it is “extremely concerned about the sustainability and welfare implications for the animals involved in these hunts” but that it would not review the trade deal.

Instead, it says it will “continue to engage in a frank and respectful dialogue” with the government of the Faroes.

Animal-welfare minister Zac Goldsmith tweeted of the dolphin killings: “This is one of the most sickening spectacles I’ve ever seen. It shames our species.”

Known as the grindadrap, the annual hunt involves herding whales and dolphins onto a beach, where they are knifed to death, their blood turning the seas red.

The practice has been branded “barbaric”, “sick” and “sadistic” but defenders say it’s a tradition that does not risk driving the animals extinct.

Mr Dyer said: “We are currently granting the Faroe Islands a preferential trade agreement worth over £500m a year: it’s time for sanctions to stop this barbarism.”

The deal accounts for more than 25 per cent of the Faroes’ global trade, he said, with exports from the islands – mostly fish sold in British supermarkets – worth £582m in a year.

UK exports to the islands amounted to £34m, he said.

The deal gave the UK leverage, he said. “If the UK is to be considered a world leader in the protection of marine mammals, it must use this leverage now,” his petition says.

When asked by The Independent whether it would agree to suspend or review the deal, the Department for International Trade said it had no plans to do so.

A Defra spokesperson said: “The UK is strongly opposed to the hunting of any cetaceans and continues to call on all whaling nations, including the Faroe Islands, at every appropriate opportunity to cease their whaling activities in favour of well-managed, responsible tourism, such as whale-watching.

“We recognise there is a long tradition in the Faroe Islands of killing pilot whales and dolphins for meat and other products, and we wish to continue our frank conversations relating to cetacean conservation, to encourage them to stop these hunts.”

Government policy is to “maintain diplomatic pressure” on the islands to end the hunts and re-engage with the International Whaling Commission.

Boris Johnson’s wife, Carrie, and his father, Stanley, have previously joined campaigns against whaling outside the Japanese embassy in London.

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