Film Review: The Islands and The Whales

Over the past decade there has been a renewed consciousness around environmental and animal rights issues. However, documentarians are now shining the light on the local issues surrounding controversial topics. Just about everyone in the Western world would agree that whale hunting is abhorrent. However, as Mike Day’s new film The Islands and The Whales demonstrates, it’s easy to pass judgement looking in from the outside without grasping the actual issues on the ‘ground’.

The Faroe Islands is an archipelago two-hundred miles north of Scotland between Norway and Iceland. With a population of only 50,000, they’ve been self-sufficient for centuries. Much of that self-reliance has stemmed from the natural larder they have on their doorstep. Along with sheep farming, they get almost all their meat intake from the sea or the air. Whales have been a staple of their diet from time immemorial. The Islands and The Whales looks at the hunting of pilot whales and the environmental and health issues facing the islanders.

The Islands and The Whales looks at the big issues through the minutiae of the day to day on the Faroes. The beach acts as an open-air slaughterhouse and became easy prey for the Sea Shepherd and other conservationists who look to disrupt the hunting. Then there are issues with the levels of mercury in the catches and plastic in the sea, caused by other industrial nations. Whilst conservationists sneer at the tradition, is killing whales to eat really any worse than buying animals which were killed somewhere else in the world? Day manages to capture all these arguments without passing judgement, making The Islands and The Whales a fascinating and thought-provoking documentary.

The Islands and The Whales is released in UK cinemas on 29th March.

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