Quantcast

Annual Whale Slaughter Still a Tradition on the Faroe Islands

The Faroe Islands, a territory of Denmark lie to the north of the United Kingdom.

It’s been an extremely bloody few weeks in the "Ferocious Isles," even by Faroese standards. On Aug. 8, 107 Long-finned Pilot whales were slaughtered in Sandavágur, on Vagar Island, a Denmark territory. On Aug. 11, 21 were butchered in Leynar and on Aug. 13, 135 lost their lives in Húsavík.

The grind, as the Pilot whale drive is called, has a recorded history since 1584. There are 23 whaling bays assigned to six districts in which the meat and blubber are divided among the population. A drive is initiated when fishermen or ferries offshore sight dolphins. The dolphins are driven into a bay with boats and even jet skis and pulled up onto the beach with a hook in the blowhole. Then the spinal cord is cut with a knife.

The Húsavík massacre on Aug. 13 was not the only one that took place that day. In Hvalba, the incredibly high number of 430 Atlantic White-sided dolphins were driven into ‘whale bay’ and brutally murdered. Some people might be surprised to hear that these islanders are targeting species other than Pilot whales, but they have always hunted smaller dolphins, especially in Hvalba. They last killed Atlantic White-sided dolphins in Hvalba in Aug. 2010 and Risso’s dolphins earlier that year in April. Oravik took 100 Atlantic White-sided dolphins in Aug. 2009. That same month, Hvalba killed two Northern Bottlenose whales that were reported as stranded, and a month later Klaksvik took three Risso’s.

While White-sided and Bottlenose dolphins and Harbor porpoises can be driven to slaughter, according the local regulations, it is illegal to kill Risso’s and Orcas. In all of these instances, mistaking them for Pilot whales was cited as the excuse for killing them.

On Aug. 13, 135 long-finned pilot whales were brutally slaughtered in Húsavík.

Photo courtesy www.facebook.com

Soon however, they will have to pass a test before they can participate in the bloodshed. The Minister of Fisheries announced that as of May 2015 all persons taking part in the slaughter must take a course in the laws and correct procedures relating to the grinds, and possess the relevant license to kill. They will get training in the use of the grind tools that will be permitted as of 2015, nostril hooks and spinal lances; the ability to recognize death signals (not suffering, as that is irrelevant to the killers) of the animals; and be familiar with all legislation before they can participate. Use of the grind knife and grinding hook will no longer be allowed except in special circumstances by permit. Some conservation groups have hailed these measures as the beginning of the end of the grind.

Sea Shepherd has led campaigns to oppose the grind in the Faroe Islands since 1985. During the 2011 Operation Ferocious Isles campaign, not a single whale was killed while Sea Shepherd was on patrol during the July-August high season. So far this is the only way that the lives of these magnificent animals have been saved. This work was chronicled in a five-episode series on Animal Planet called Whale Wars: Viking Shores.

The first grind this year took place on July 21 when 125 Pilot whales were killed in Víðvík. This is the village where in Nov. 2010, 62 Pilot whales were driven onto the beach at dusk. All animals were killed, but because it was too dark by then, the flensing had to wait until the next morning. By that time the corpses had already started to rot and most of the whales were discarded, killed for no reason.

The most savage of the recent grinds took place July 30 when 267 Pilot whales were driven into the bay of Fuglafjørður. Reports say that only four men were available to kill the panicking animals. For more than 90 minutes, they were held in the bay with boat-engine-noise and blowhole hooks until they were all slaughtered.

Neither the July 30 mess, nor the Nov. 2010 example were isolated incidents. The butchers regularly screw up without consequences. Animal welfare is a farce in the "Ferocious Isles" and the claims of a fast, two-minute death are more the exception than the rule.

In Hvalba, 430 Atlantic White-sided dolphins were driven into ‘whale bay’ and brutally murdered. Photo courtesy www.facebook.com

In Klaksvík, July 19, 2010, 228 Pilot whales were driven ashore, despite the beach only having the capacity to hold 100 animals. Again it was dusk, and the lack of light combined with far too many animals resulted in a two-hour orgy of blood and suffering.

On Oct. 25, 2012, an attempt to tag 36 Pilot whales by the Faroese National Museum went terribly wrong. After the radio transmitters had been attached, the disoriented whales got stuck in the mud and ended up screaming on the beach. Museum officials could not be reached and the Torshavn government did not allow the villagers to kill the animals, as it is illegal to kill tagged dolphins. Only several hours later in the night, when it was decided that the animals could not be saved, the locals were given permission to slaughter them.

In Nov. 2008, the Faroese Chief Medical Officers Pál Weihe and Høgni Debes Joensen announced that Pilot whale meat and blubber contains too much mercury, PCBs and DDT derivatives to be safe for human consumption. Dioxin has now been added to the list and the latest dietary recommendation on the consumption of Pilot whale meat and blubber are:

  • Adults should eat, at most, one meal of pilot whale meat and blubber per month.
  • Girls and women should refrain entirely from eating blubber as long as they are still planning to have children.
  • Women who are planning pregnancy within the next three months, who are pregnant or who are breastfeeding should refrain from eating whale meat.
  • The kidneys and liver of pilot whales should not be eaten.

As a result of the health issues, much of the meat is now discarded into the ocean, as the underwater graveyards discovered by Sea Shepherd in 2010 and 2011 have shown. The grind is not a source of food. It is a despicable ritual blood sport.

On July 31, the EU brought economic sanctions against the Faroese. Not for killing dolphins, but because the Faroese government unilaterally tripled the existing quota for herring earlier this year. That quota had been agreed with the EU and Norway. A committee of member state representatives voted to back the European Commission's proposal to impose sanctions on the Faroe Islands for overfishing of Atlanto-Scandian herring.

These fishery criminals of Europe might still have to face litigation for the bloody grind as well. Denmark, of which the Faroe Islands are a protectorate, is in violation of three conventions it has signed whereby it vowed to do everything within its capacity to protect Pilot whales—the Bern Convention, Bonn Convention and ASCOBANS. As a result, Sea Shepherd France is bringing the matter to the European Commission in order to compel Denmark to enforce the obligations contained in these conventions and act to uphold the principles outlined therein.

The Faeroes economy depends in large part on fish exports. If you are upset by the grinds, consider not buying their products and urging your supermarkets and governments not to import them.

To contact the Danish Foreign Ministry directly with your complaints, call overseas at 011 45 33 92 0000 or send an e-mail to um@um.dk

Visit EcoWatch’s BIODIVERSITY page for more related news on this topic.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Animals
An adult bush dog, part of a captive breeding program. Hudson Garcia

A Rescue Dog Is Now Helping to Save Other (Much Wilder) Dogs

By Jason Bittel

Formidable predators stalk the forests between Panama and northern Argentina. They are sometimes heard but never seen. They are small but feisty and have even been documented trying to take down a tapir, which can top out at nearly 400 pounds. Chupacabras? No.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
RoNeDya / iStock / Getty Images

What Is Mead, and Is It Good for You?

By Ansley Hill, RD, LD

Mead is a fermented beverage traditionally made from honey, water and a yeast or bacterial culture.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
U.S. Army member helps clear debris from Tyndall Air Force Base following Hurricane Michael. U.S. Army

Pentagon: Climate Change Is Real and a 'National Security Issue'

The Pentagon released a Congressionally mandated report (pdf) that warns flooding, drought and wildfires and other effects of climate change puts U.S. military bases at risk.

The 22-page analysis states plainly: "The effects of a changing climate are a national security issue with potential impacts to Department of Defense (DoD or the Department) missions, operational plans, and installations."

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Protesters interrupt the confirmation hearing for Andrew Wheeler on Capitol Hill Jan. 16 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

5 People Calling Out EPA Acting Head Wheeler for Putting Polluters First

This week, people across the country are joining environmental leaders to speak out against the nomination of former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler to lead the the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). As Scott Pruitt's hand-picked successor, Wheeler has continued to put polluters over people, most recently by using the last of his agency's funding before it expired in the government shutdown to announce plans to allow power plants to spew toxic mercury and other hazardous pollution into the air.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
Great white shark. Elias Levy / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Marine Biologists Raise Flags About Viral Great White Shark Encounter

By now you might have seen Ocean Ramsey's rare and jaw-dropping encounter with a great white shark in waters near Oahu, Hawaii.

Ramsey, a marine biologist, said on the TODAY Show that it was "absolutely breathtaking and heart-melting" to be approached by the massive marine mammal.

Keep reading... Show less
A tree found severed in half in an act of vandalism in Joshua Tree National Park. Gina Ferazzi / Los AngelesTimes / Getty Images

Wall Before Country Takes Mounting Toll on Americans Everywhere

By Rhea Suh

One month on, the longest and most senseless U.S. government shutdown in history is taking a grave and growing toll on the environment and public health.

Food inspectors have been idled or are working without pay, increasing the risk we'll get sick from eating produce, meat and poultry that isn't properly checked. National parks and public wilderness lands are overrun by vandals, overtaken by off-road joyriders, and overflowing with trash. Federal testing of air and water quality, as well as monitoring of pollution levels from factories, incinerators and other sources, is on hold or sharply curtailed. Citizen input on critical environmental issues is being hindered. Vital research and data collection are being sidelined.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Energy
The W. A. Parish Power Plant, owned by NRG Energy, is one of the largest coal-fired power plants in the U.S. Roy Luck / CC BY 2.0

All Coal-Fired Power Plants in Texas Found Leaking Toxins Into Groundwater

Power plants across Texas are leaching toxins into groundwater, according to new research. A report released this week from the Environmental Integrity Project found that all of the state's 16 coal-fired power plants are leaching contaminants from coal ash into the ground, and almost none of the plants are properly lining their pits to prevent leakage.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site. NPS

MLK National Park to Re-Open Despite Shutdown, Thanks to Delta

Hats off to Delta Air Lines. The company's charitable arm awarded the National Park Service an $83,500 grant to help reopen the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park in Atlanta from Jan. 19 through Feb. 3 in honor of Dr. King's legacy.

The Atlanta-based airline was inspired to act after learning that some of the park's sites, including Dr. King's birth home, Ebenezer Baptist Church, Fire Station No. 6 and the visitor center, were closed due to the partial government shutdown, now on its 28th day, according to LinkedIn post from Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!