The best documentaries inform you about something you know very little about, and in some cases that information can be shocking and off-putting. Director Vincent Kelner’s debut film, A Taste of Whale is a little bit of both.
Every year, on the Faroe Islands of Denmark a ritual takes place. It’s a ritual that has been going on since the 16th Century. This ritual sees several hundred pilot whales (a member of the dolphin family) slaughtered for their meat and blubber. For those who live on the island the ritual is traditional, and provides food for their families. But for activist outsiders it is barbaric and cruel, and something they plan on doing everything they can to stop.
For the feint of heart, A Taste of Whale should be avoided. It doesn’t gloss over what happens on the island or how the islanders hunt their whales. It’s very graphic at times, and one cannot help but feel sorry for the animals. It’s very easy to see why animal activists have a problem with what the Islanders are doing when you look at it from this perspective either. After all, in most parts of the world, whale killing is an illegal activity.
On the other hand, the Faroe Islanders are doing what they’ve always done. They are protective of their culture, history and language. And they don’t look kindly on those who are trying to change their way of life. Over the years they’ve improved their hunting techniques so they are less cruel than they used to be. And their hooks and weapons attempt to put the creatures out of their misery quickly instead of prolonging it. The Islanders also don’t like how they are being portrayed, especially by people who raise livestock and slaughter them for food. To them it is hypocritical for others to call them out for feeding their people.
Kelner does a great job of showing both sides of the coin in his documentary, and if you keep an open mind it will be hard to decide which group you agree with more. As the film goes on however, you start to see more reasons, including for their own health, why those who eat the whale meat need to reassess what it is they are doing. I also need to warn you that there are scenes you will want to turn away from due how it shows extreme animal cruelty. This is especially true near the end of the film. Even the most hardened of meat eater will have a hard time watching it. It’s because of this that A Taste of Whale isn’t for everyone.