Warning: This article contains photographs some people may find distressing
Once again, the coast of the Danish Faroe Islands ran a bloody red during their annual whale and dolphin hunt this summer.
Sea Shepherd Global covertly documented the traditional “grindadrap” hunt between July and September this year and has just released a series of personal accounts and photographs from the event. By their counts, at least 1,203 pilot whales and 488 dolphins were killed during 24 individual hunts in the summer of 2017, making it one of the bloodiest years since the mid-1990s.
Each year, the local community of the Faroe Islands heads out on small boats to approach pods of whales and dolphins that have been sighted close to land. Using hooks, ropes, and knives, they begin to drive the cetaceans to the shores and shallows bays. They then sever the animals' spinal cords using traditional whaling knives.
"The hunters then began to load some of the dolphins onto flatbed lorries, lifted by the fluke [a whale tail] while intestines were spilling out," said one witness in their account. "The remaining dolphins started to be butchered; one hunter remarked how lucky we were to witness this as a foreigner."
The Faroe Islands are a Danish archipelago of volcanic islands found between Iceland and Norway in the North Atlantic Ocean. The first documentation of a grindadrap here was in 1584. Along with providing the community with food, it’s this air of tradition that allows the grindadrap to continue despite the huge amount of controversy it sparks each year.
The long-finned pilot whale, one of the species hunted, is listed under the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats treaty, meaning that its slaughter is prohibited within the European Union, but this doesn't apply to the Faroe Islands. The species is also not currently regulated by the International Whaling Commission.
Sea Shepherd Global covertly documented the hunt this year and noted that the hunts “go completely undetected by the Faroese government.”
The Faroese government has since attempted to defend the hunt. In a statement to Fox News, the local government said: “Catches are shared largely without the exchange of money among the participants in a whale drive and residents of the local district where they are landed. Each whale provides the communities with several hundred kilos of meat and blubber – meat that otherwise had to be imported from abroad."