Fourteen members of the Sea Shepherd anti-whaling team were arrested by Danish police on Saturday as they tried to stop the killing of a pod of pilot whales.
The volunteers from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society were taken into custody by the Royal Danish Navy off the coast of the Faroe Islands, a protectorate of Denmark in the North Atlantic, while attempting to stop the annual Faroese whale hunt known as grindadráp, or grind.
During the grind, pilot whales and other dolphins are driven into shallow bays by flotillas of small boats, before being butchered with hooks and knives.
TakePart reported that volunteers arrived at the beach before the whalers, and the Royal Danish Navy used a helicopter and high-speed inflatable boats to arrest six volunteers who had entered the water to protect the pilot whales and eight crew members on boats, all participating in the group’s “Operation GrindStop 2014.”
“The 14 have been under arrested since Saturday, and three of our boats have also been seized,” Lamya Essemlali, president of Sea Shepherd France, told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson also said that the group’s camera and video equipment were also confiscated.
“There is a new law in the island that says unauthorized people must stay at least one mile away from the grind,” Watson said in a phone interview with TakePart. “Our attorney advised us to say we were only there as observers, but we said, ‘Absolutely not.’ We aren’t there to observe. We’re there to try and stop the killing.”
After members of the Sea Shepherd team were arrested, the grind took place anyway, and 33 pilot whales were slaughtered.
The 14 activists have been released, but Danish authorities kept the data cards from their camera equipment and three boats as evidence.
One of these boats was donated by actor Charlie Sheen, who said in a statement that the “Faroese whalers brutally slaughtered an entire pod of 33 pilot whales today. I am proud that a vessel bearing my name was there and did all it could to try and stop this atrocity.” He also added that Denmark was “complicit in the killing.”
Watson said that Denmark’s defense of these grinds are a violation of its commitment as a member of the European Union to oppose whaling.
“One good thing is that this gives us concrete evidence of the Danish navy and police supporting the grind,” Watson said. “The Faroes are not part of the EU, but they are a Danish protectorate. They get EU subsidies through Denmark. This now gives us a case to take to the European Parliament for a complaint.”
Watson said that the operation, despite the arrests and grind that took place afterwards, has largely been a success.
“It was inevitable that they’d have a whale kill, but we managed to stop them for the past 85 days,” he said.
According to TakePart, last year whalers killed 1,360 whales, but this season’s “toll has only been the 33 pilot whales, along with five beached beaked whales that were slaughtered by islanders.”
The six team members arrested on land were scheduled to appear in court today, and the eight arrested on boats’ hearing is scheduled for September 25.