Cape Town - Animal rights activist Nikki Rossouw of Cape Town stood in the dock in a courtroom in the remote Faroe Islands on Monday where she and five others faced charges of trying to prevent the local islanders from killing 33 pilot whales in an annual hunt.
Rossouw, 40, who was arrested on Saturday by Danish police on Sunday, one the Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic, and released on Sunday, wrote on Facebook on Monday: “All I can say at the moment is that I am okay, I have been arrested for violating the grind law. And I am traumatised because I had to witness the death of those animals.”
With her was fellow South African Monique Rossouw of Mpumalanga. The women were two of 14 arrested by Danish police, whom the islanders had called in for assistance. Eight of the others, who were arrested on their boats, will appear in court later this month. All 14 were volunteers for the activist organisation Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which has been trying to stop the annual Faroese whale hunt known as grindadrap, or grind.
Rossouw’s mother, Anni Theron, said on Monday her daughter had phoned after her arrest.
“She said: ‘I’ve got to speak English, they’re monitoring us.’ She sounded very traumatised. But she’s a very strong girl. Nikki doesn’t cry. They spent time in jail and were released on Sunday and she then messaged me on Facebook to say she was okay.
“She said: ‘Mommy, I tried so hard to save those animals, but I couldn’t.’ She said it was hellish to see the whales struggling in the blood, but she didn’t care that she was arrested. She loves animals,” Theron said.
Sea Shepherd activists used boats to try to divert whales from the islands. A video showed the sea red with the blood of the 33 pilot whales killed on Saturday, and the animals lying in the shallows with deep cuts.
The Faroe Islands were administered as part of Denmark until 1948 when home rule was passed, giving their Lagting, or parliament, some autonomy.
The annual whale hunts go back hundreds of years and the Faroese regard it as their traditional right.
Bent Nielsen, an assistant commissioner in the Danish police, said it was a small community with insufficient police officers to police the clashes between activists and locals.
“On the Faroe Islands there is a law which regulates how to catch whales and a law that forbids other people from preventing them catching whales. The six people arrested on the beach are in court on Tuesday. They were in the water making sounds with equipment to prevent the whales from swimming on to the beach. Others arrived in boats. You are not allowed to be in a boat within one sea mile of the coast. They were told not to, but they continued,” Nielsen said.
Nielsen said the Danish police had arrested the activists, not the navy, as had been reported. The Sea Shepherd’s three boats would remain in custody until the next court case on September 25.
The protesters face fines of about R1 800 each.