A HIGHLANDS town has severed its links with the Faroes in protest at the islanders’ annual “bloodbath” of whales and dolphins.
Wick, in Caithness, has been twinned with Klaksvik – the second largest town on the Faroe Islands – for 20 years and there have been regular visits.
But in a letter on Wednesday, Wick councillors wrote to the mayor of Klaksvik saying they would be severing all contact as a result of the “cruel”, “barbaric” and “unnecessary” tradition.
Civic Leader Gail Ross told her counterpart Jogvan Skorhein: “This is not a decision that has been taken lightly but we feel that the disgusting spectacle of the slaughter of whales on the beaches in the past few weeks is not something that our town should be associated with.
“We do not agree that these events and the apparent joy it gave the townspeople is in any way or should in any way be linked to tradition. There may have been reasons of culling for food in the past but in 2015 it is unnecessary and cruel.”
Cllr Ross said whales were sentient beings with feelings and emotions and their own communication system and social groups.
She added: “To drive them on to a beach and slaughter them in front of their family members is nothing short of barbaric.
“We do not subscribe to animal cruelty in any way and it saddens me to have to sever links with your beautiful town until such times as we get a full assurance that this atrocity has ceased.”
Whale hunts on the Faroe Islands date back to 1584.
Every year the islands supervise the harvest of hundreds of pilot whales, bottlenose dolphins and Atlantic white-sided dolphins.
When the sea-mammals stray near Faroese bays, ships herd them into bays, where hunters use lances to sever the spinal cord.
Protesters in a boat attempted to disrupt July’s slaughter of whales by the Faroese and were arrested by the Danish navy. It is though these events led to Wick’s decision to sever its ties.
Speaking later, Cllr Ross added: “The whole procedure is in my eyes cruel and unnecessary, especially because it’s 2015.
“The problem is the way in which it’s done. These animals are herded from the sea where they are free, and taken into a beach and hacked to death in a bloodbath.
“We as townspeople don’t want to be associated with that.”
She went on to explain that other twin towns were currently being considered for Wick.
“There is a town in Germany called Bad Waldsee where we have had links through the town pipe band for nearly 20 years.
“It would be great for tourism and when they come over here they absolutely love it.”
The mayor of Klaksvik penned a furious response to Cllr Ross, writing: “We understand your letter as an ultimatum – if you’re asking us to choose between being twinned with Wick and our Faroese right to conduct sustainable whaling, you should know that this choice is not hard for us to make.”
He added: “It now disappoints me to hear that you don’t support us in our right to conduct whaling, seeing as it is indeed a part of the Faroese culture. We don’t understand the alliance of friendship as if it gives you the right to dictate what we should and should not do in our country.
“Whaling has been a sustainable resource of food to the Faroese population for centuries. It is still perfectly sustainable and it is a natural part of life in the Faroe Islands, Klaksvik included.”
The twinning of the towns was initially made to recognise the ferry links between the coast of Scotland and the North Atlantic islands.
PETA UK Director, Mimi Bekhechi, said: “Well done to Wick for disassociating itself from the annual massacre that takes place on those shores.
“It is 2015, and while Wick has its feet in the 21st century, the Faroese still revel in their annual whale hunt and slaughter of dolphins.
“Perhaps only the Faroese and the Japanese remain unmoved by the fact that they are slaughtering highly intelligent beings who feel pain and fear every bit as much as any Islander does.”