Hunters kill 1,428 dolphins in Faroe Islands' biggest ever massacre

The Faroe Islands’ biggest ever dolphin massacre: Fishermen kill 1,428 animals after herding them into harbour for annual Grindadrap hunt

  • The tradition which dates back to the 9th century sees boats driving the animals towards the shore 
  • There hunters await in the shallows with hooks, knives and spears to kill the Atlantic White Sided Dolphins
  • Activists have condemned the practice as ‘barbaric’ but locals say it is an important part of their culture 
  • WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT 

Hunters in the Faroe Islands have slaughtered 1,428 dolphins in one of the largest ever recorded massacres, turning the sea red with blood as the beaches were lined with their corpses.

Boats drove the Atlantic White Sided Dolphins towards the shore of Skálafjørður where men waited in the shallows with hooks, knives and spears as part of the local tradition.

The latest mass killing is the biggest ever documented in the Faroe Islands where locals take part in the carnage, known as the Grindadrap or Grind in Faroese.

Faroese are divided on the Grind but many urge foreign media and NGOs to respect their traditional island culture where fishing retains a central place and the meat is kept for food.

Animal rights activists have condemned the ‘barbaric’ practice but others say it is an important part of their local tradition.

The Grindadrap dates back to the 9th century when Norsemen first settled on the North Atlantic islands.

Hunters in the Faroe Islands have slaughtered 1,428 dolphins in one of the largest ever recorded massacres, turning the sea red with blood as the beaches were lined with their corpses

Boats drove the animals towards the shore of Skálafjørður where men waited in the shallows with hooks, knives and spears as part of the local tradition

The latest mass killing is the biggest ever documented in the Faroe Islands where locals take part in the carnage, known as the Grindadrap or Grind in Faroese

Faroese are divided on the Grind but many urge foreign media and NGOs to respect their traditional island culture where fishing retains a central place and the meat is kept for food

It remains the only form of aboriginal whaling still in existence in Western Europe.

According to Faroese law, pilot whales, bottlenose dolphins, white-beaked dolphins and harbour porpoises can also be hunted. 

The meat and blubber from the animals is used for food and dates back to a time when locals were reliant on whale and dolphin meet to survive. 

But a recent study found the meat contains mercury and is not recommended for regular consumption. 

Whaling is governed by Faroese authorities and is not regulated by the International Whaling Commission because of disagreements over the body’s power to control the cetacean hunts.

In 1982, the IWC established zero catch limits for all whaling but made an exception for aboriginal whaling because of its cultural importance and how the food is used exclusively by locals rather than being a commercial hunt. 

Faroese law states the animals must die quickly and without suffering but that is not often the case. 

Following mounting concerns over the practice, in 2015 the law was updated and hunters now have to attend a course where they learn how to properly slaughter animals with the spinal-cord lance.

Environmental charity Sea Shepherd regularly documents the killings which have resulted in the deaths of more than 8,000 whales and dolphins over the last decade.

The animal rights activists have been operating in the Faroes since the early 1980s, taking direct action against the Grind with their own boats. 

Animal rights activists have condemned the ‘barbaric’ practice but others say it is an important part of their local tradition

The Grindadrap dates back to the 9th century when Norsemen first settled on the North Atlantic islands

The organisation’s chief operating officer Rob Read, 47, said: ‘This killing is of a whole other scale entirely – it is mind-blowingly unprecedented.

‘There is no need for the meat in Faroe Islands nowadays and it shouldn’t be happening, never mind in these numbers.

‘There were too many to kill humanely, if that’s even possible. These days it is little more than sport, using tradition as justification, and that’s why we campaign against it.’

Part of the kingdom of Denmark, the Faroe Islands are an archipelago which are situated 230 miles north-west of mainland Scotland. 

Similar hunts are known to take place in Peru, Japan and the Soloman Islands. 

Over the past three centuries, the Faroese have taken an average of 838 pilot whales each year, according to a 2012 study. 

Rob said: ‘Many people aren’t even aware of this practice – it is such a cruel thing to do. In these killings, no animal is spared – adults, calves, and even pregnant mothers.

‘But this particular hunt is completely unprecedented on a scale never seen before in recent hunting history all over the world.’

‘It may well be the largest hunt ever, which is awful.

‘This is why we will never give up opposing it and we’re determined to raise awareness to make change.’

Environmental charity Sea Shepherd regularly documents the killings which have resulted in the deaths of more than 8,000 whales and dolphins over the last decade

The animal rights activists have been operating in the Faroes since the early 1980s, taking direct action against the Grind with their own boats

In 2015, changes to legislation prevented any Sea Shepherd boats from interrupting the hunt and so it launched a land-based crew to tackle the Grind by documenting it with photographers stationed on the shore and drones in the air.

Robert Read, chief operating officer at Sea Shepherd, said: ‘The grindadrap is a barbaric relic of a bygone age. A needless hunt of hundreds of pilot whales and dolphins which should have ended a century ago which is not needed to feed anyone on the islands.’

After a pod is located, the Faroese drive the animals often for many hours with recreational boats, fishing boats and sometimes even jet-skis together creating a ‘wall of sound’ from their boat engines to force the pod towards the nearest designated killing bay.

Men waiting in shallow waters rush into the sea, dragging the whales alive with ropes attached to gaff-hooks which they ram through the whale’s blowhole.

In 2015, changes to legislation prevented any Sea Shepherd boats from interrupting the hunt and so it launched a land-based crew to tackle the Grind

After a pod is located, the Faroese drive the animals often for many hours with recreational boats, fishing boats and sometimes even jet-skis

Men waiting in shallow waters rush into the sea, dragging the whales alive with ropes attached to gaff-hooks which they ram through the whale’s blowhole

Killers closer to shore then attempt to sever the whale’s spinal cord with a lance and then use a knife to cut down through the animal’s neck

It can take a long time before the last of the whales and dolphins are killed, left thrashing around in blood-filled waters while boats block any escape

The Faroe Veterinary Service calculated the average duration of killing during grindadrap hunts at 12.7 minutes, though Sea Shepherd crew often record killing taking well over 20 minutes

Killers closer to shore then attempt to sever the whale’s spinal cord with a lance and then use a knife to cut down through the animal’s neck.

It can take a long time before the last of the whales and dolphins are killed, left thrashing around in blood-filled waters while boats block any escape.

The Faroe Veterinary Service calculated the average duration of killing during grindadrap hunts at 12.7 minutes, though Sea Shepherd crew often record killing taking well over 20 minutes.  

Despite calls for the hunt to end, the Faroese insist that it is sustainable and regulated by law.

In September 2018, Sea Shepherd even offered the islanders one million Euros for 10 consecutive years with no whale hunts.

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