The Shocking Facts About Faroe Island's Whale Hunt

Taiji’s dolphin hunt is perhaps the most famous in the world, thanks to the awareness spread by the documentary, “The Cove.”

Unfortunately, many other marine animal abuses still live on in the shadows, with less attention dedicated to them, like the pilot whale slaughter off the coast of the Danish Faroe Islands, an archipelago in the North Atlantic between Iceland and Norway.

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The slaughter, known as “grind” or locally, grindadráp, kills 800 whales on average every year for their meat and blubber, reports Business Insider.

The hunt dates back 1,000 years ago to the time of the first Norse settlements. Many island residents consider the hunt a tradition and look forward to celebrating it every summer.

Yet, as writer and environmentalist Sasha Abdolmajid points out in his latest Digital Journal article, the hunt is increasingly becoming less “traditional,” chipping away at the already flimsy argument in favor of it.

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… the fight in contrast to earlier, is completely different and does not have much in common with the old tradition of whaling; locals drive the cetaceans with high-horsepower boats, speed boats and jet skis. Although the whalers have developed methods to kill their prey quickly with a type of lance which simultaneously severs their necks and the main artery – if done properly. Either way, the exhaustive agitation for up to ten nautical miles and the subsequent systematic killing in the bloody water is an unimaginably cruel ordeal for these highly intelligent, self-aware, sensitive animals.

Anyone can see from hunt video footage or photos that it is indeed unimaginably cruel, turning the coastal waters red with lifeless whale bodies lining beaches.

This year has been particularly bloody. According to Abdolmaijd, 1,534 pilot whales and dolphins have been slaughtered, with Aug. 13 cited as the deadliest hunt day in the last 19 years.

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There were 565 cetaceans who lost their lives on Aug. 13 – 135 of which were pilot whales and 430 of which were Atlantic white sided dolphins, a species not typically targeted.

Yet, the slaughter seems to be slowly losing its prestige, says Abdolmaijd, citing that “Dr. Dr. Pál Weihe, head of the department of public health in the Faroe Islands since the 1980s, has warned against the consumption of pilot whale and dolphin meat,” because of the health risks associated with mercury and pollutant exposure.

What’s more, the overall consumption of pilot whale meat seems to have gone down.

Only 17 percent [of 200 Faroese adults questioned about their eating habits] said they consume whale products more than once a month. Nearly half – 47 percent – said that they eat little or no whale meat at all. Not a single woman under 40 years indicated to eat pilot whale meat and blubber often.

Perhaps we will see the end of the hunt in the next few decades if this trend continues. Let’s keep this hope alive and push the Faroese government to end the pilot whale slaughter and to adopt more sustainable economic practices that involve no hunting or captivity of these highly intelligent beings.

Read Abdolmajid’s entire article here, and find out how to take action to end the hunt here.

Image source: Barney Moss / Wikipedia Commons