The University of Arizona

Love-iathan, the meat-whale and hidden people: ordering Faroese pilot whaling

Benedict E. Singleton


A key question in any environmental dispute is the nature of what is under discussion. 'Cosmopolitics' – political battles over the form of reality – are a feature of many environmental clashes. This article focuses on one such clash: during the summer of 2014, grindadráp – the iconic practice of driving pilot whales for meat – was the big news item in the Faroe Islands. More accurately, a conservation campaign by the controversial group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS), Operation Grindstop 2014, garnered most attention. Aiming to stop or at least disrupt the 'barbaric' and 'sadistic' grindadráp, SSCS were involved in several confrontations with Faroese authorities and publicly engaged with Faroese pro-whaling advocates in several discussions that were seemingly fruitless. Based on 3 months fieldwork during the campaign, this article describes a 'political ontology' of Grindstop 2014. What emerged was a 'hybrid' born of a clash between two fundamentally dissonant systems of ordering, which structured and were reinforced by various practices, both discursive and material. Activists on both sides were engaged in a cosmopolitical struggle to decisively enact their orderings, creating alternative stories of whales, Faroese whaling, the ocean environment and modernity. The aim is to understand what happened when these orderings met. This article argues that throughout the summer these two orderings moved apart, consequently hiding the diversity of opinion and discussion within Faroese society around grindadráp. As such, alternative orderings of grindadráp were suppressed, notably those voiced by Faroese activists arguing that the practice should cease because of the high levels of toxins in pilot whale meat.

Key words: Faroe Islands, whaling, political ontology, cosmopolitics

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