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Visitor's fury at 'cruel' treatment of beached whales

By Linda Stewart

Published 09/07/2014

The group of stranded whales on the beach at Falcarragh, Co Donegal
The group of stranded whales on the beach at Falcarragh, Co Donegal

A Northern Ireland woman who tried to help the whales which beached in Donegal says she was horrified by the scenes she witnessed.

Nicola Hinds from Bangor, who was staying in nearby Dunfanaghy, described how hundreds of bystanders gathered round the dying pilot whales, photographing them on their cameraphones.

Meanwhile, parents encouraged their children to lie on the carcasses of the dead whales, despite the danger that the animals could have died of an infectious disease.

Nicola was critical of the decision by the authorities not to have the dying animals put down.

"It was absolutely horrendous. There were six dead whales lying at the end of the estuary where the river comes out into the seas and members of the public were encouraging their children to sit on the carcasses.

"They were allowing them to touch their teeth and encouraging them to write their names on the carcasses and encouraging the children to lie on the carcasses. It was disgusting to watch," she said.

"Further down the beach there were seven beached whales suffering horrifically – they were gasping for air and they were still moving, the tails were moving, the flippers were moving, and there was a crowd of maybe 100 people standing round watching them suffering."

Nicola said she offered to pay for a vet to put the animals down, but the Garda and Coastguard said they didn't have the authority to arrange it.

"They should hang their heads today because I have never seen such an act of total wilful animal cruelty," she said.

"I was just so distraught by what I was watching – there were hundreds of people down there and they all had cameras recording the suffering that was going on."

Lead agency Donegal County Council said: "Putting stranded whales to sleep humanely is not always technically feasible. It is internationally accepted that where a whale re-strands following a refloating attempt then it should be left alone and allowed to die naturally."

Last night four whales remained alive but were unlikely to survive until this morning because of the compression to their internal organs, according to Dave Duggan, regional manager with the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

The carcasses are to be treated with lime and deeply buried under the beach, he said.

Mr Duggan said few vets would be willing to take on the specialist task of either humanely destroying the whales by injection, even if the enough drugs were available, or shooting them with a heavy calibre firearm, which he said is often unsuccessful.

"In our view the best thing to do was to leave them to die naturally over the course of the next couple of days," he said.

Quote

"It is internationally accepted that where a whale re-strands following a refloating attempt then it should be left alone and allowed to die naturally. This may at first appear to be a callous disregard for the suffering of the stranded whale. However, if the whale does not survive the first refloating attempt it is unlikely to survive subsequent attempts."

Irish Whale and Dolphin Group

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