The shores of the Faroe Islands ran a bloody red over the weekend after some 1,428 dolphins were slaughtered as a part of the annual Grindadráp hunt. The shocking scenes have been widely shared on social media, sparking outrage among conservationists, animal lovers, and even some Faroese people.
Sea Shepherd, a marine conservation NGO, reports that the hundreds of Atlantic white-sided dolphins were driven from open waters into the shallow water at Skálabotnur beach in Skálafjørður using speed boats and jet-skis on Sunday, September 12. Once brought into the shallow bay, their spinal cords were severed using traditional knives.
The NGO claims Sunday’s slaughter was the largest single drive hunt of dolphins or pilot whales in the recorded history of the Faroe Islands and is possibly the largest single hunt of cetaceans ever recorded worldwide.
The Faroe Islands are a self-governed Danish archipelago of volcanic islands found between Iceland and Norway in the North Atlantic Ocean. Each year, if weather conditions are right, the locals take part in the Grindadráp, a traditional type of dolphin drive hunting. The history of the bloody whaling event has been documented as far back as the 16th century, although some believe it can be traced back to when the Norsemen first arrived on the islands 1,200 years ago.
Long-finned pilot whales are often targeted during the hunts, although many species of cetacean found in the North Atlantic have been slaughtered over the years. On Sunday's hunt, a large pod of Atlantic white-sided dolphins was targeted.
The cetaceans are driven from the North Atlantic Ocean towards the coast of the Faroe Islands using boats. Eventually, they are pushed towards a beach or fjord, where the cetaceans beach themselves. Hooks and ropes are used to drag the marine animals onto land, where they are killed using a mønustingari, a Faroese knife used to cut their spine. The body is butchered and their meat is distributed throughout the local community to eat. If there’s a surplus, the meat can be sold to supermarkets and local restaurants.
The event is significant for some Faroese people and is justified in the name of tradition and a community’s right to practice their culture's traditions, but attitudes are starting to change in the Faroe Islands. Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet reports that two out of three Faroese disagree with the massive dolphin slaughter event.
Grindadráp has become more regulated in recent times, with hunters requiring licenses and certain regulations specifying how the whales are pulled ashore, killed, etc. However, Sea Shepherd reports that this year’s hunters appear to have broken numerous regulations, such as foremen authorizing the hunt without the proper authority and people hunting without the appropriate license.
Heri Petersen, the foreman of one of the local associations responsible for the Grindadráp on Sunday, personally condemned this weekend's hunt, saying he was "horrified" by the poorly organized hunt that he was not properly informed about. He told news site in.fo the hunt included too many dolphins and too few people on the beach to slaughter them, resulting in a needlessly prolonged death.
Photos of the aftermath — piles of slashed dolphins, bays turning red with blood — are widely shared by the international media each year, attracting vast amounts of criticism and condemnation.
“Considering the times we are in, with a global pandemic and the world coming to a halt, it’s absolutely appalling to see an attack on nature of this scale in the Faroe Islands,” Captain Alex Cornelissen, Sea Shepherd Global CEO, said in a statement. “If we have learned anything from this pandemic is that we have to live in harmony with nature instead of wiping it out.”