Brutal Death and Suffering; Business as Usual in The Faroe Islands


Brutal Death and Suffering; Business as Usual in The Faroe Islands

Commentary by Erwin Vermeulen

On August 13th, 135 long-finned pilot whales were brutally slaughtered in Húsavík.
Photo courtesy

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

The grind(adrap), 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 the 13th 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 August 2010 and Risso’s dolphins earlier that year in April. Oravik took 100 Atlantic White-sided dolphins in August 2009. That same month, Hvalba killed two Northern Bottlenose whales that were reported as stranded, and a month later Klaksvik took three Risso’s. In June 1978 that town even butchered 31 Orcas.

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. ‘Cetaceans for dummies’ has obviously not been translated into Faroese.

Soon however, wannabe dolphin killers 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. These are usually the same groups that believe in winning the hearts and minds of the Faroese people to encourage them to stop killing.

Sea Shepherd has led campaigns to oppose the grind in the Faroe Islands since 1985. During the 2011Operation 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” (2012).

The first grind this year took place on July 21 when 125 Pilot whales were killed in Víðvík. This is the village where in November 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.

In Hvalba, the incredibly high number of 430 Atlantic White-sided dolphins were driven into ‘whale bay’ and brutally murdered.
Photo courtesy

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. This was a particular disgraceful day in the Ferocious Isles.

Neither the July 30 mess, nor the November 2010 example were isolated incidents. The butchers regularly screw up without consequences to them. 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 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 October 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. This is just another example of needless torment and suffering that cetaceans have to endure in these islands before they are brutally killed.

In November 2008, the Faroese Chief Medical Officers Pál Weihe and Høgni Debes Joensen announced thatPilot 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 latestdietary 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.

Please contact the Danish embassy nearest you today and let them know that you strongly oppose the senseless and barbaric killing of precious marine wildlife.

Source: Sea Shepherd

The Faroes Islands: cruel whale and dolphin slaughter!

 An average of 700  pilot whales and dolphins or more are brutally slaughtered in the Faroe Islands every year.  Entire family groups of whales, known as pods, are driven ashore and killed with knives.  The whale hunt, or grind as it is known, has been conducted for centuries.  It once provided important food for the Faroese population, but today it is little more than a cruel tradition that produces meat and blubber that Faroese health leaders have warned is no longer safe to eat because of the toxic pollutants that concentrate in the whales.

Pic 10 - cropped compressed

In 2012, over 700 terrified pilot whales were driven ashore,  gaffed with steel hooks and dragged into the shallows, their necks cut with knives so they bled to death.  Entire pods of whales were killed: pregnant whales, mothers and their calves, none were spared a terrifying and agonising death.

The meat and blubber was distributed for public consumption, and is even on sale in bars, even though Medical Officers have warned it is unsafe to eat because of the toxic pollutants it contains,  such as mercury.

Although the Islands are a dependency of Denmark the Faroes has its own Government and regulations governing the pilot whale hunt

WARNING: The film below shows news footage containing graphic images of whales slaughtered in a grind at Klaksvik, the Faroe Islands, in June 2010. Although the commentary is not in English the footage reveals the horrific reality and cruelty of whaling in the Faroes that continues to this day!


The pilot whale hunt has origins dating back  centuries when the meat and blubber provided a valuable source of animal protein in the Faroese diet and whale oil became a significant export as well as being used for cooking and lighting. Even the offal and skeleton was utilised for animal feed and fertiliser.  However, the hunt no longer provides essential protein for the Islanders, who enjoy a high standard of living derived from fisheries exports to Europe and the USA.  In fact, the Faroese economy is over 90% dependent on fisheries.

The Faroes  have said they want to kill whales commercially and it is no coincidence that Denmark, which also defends the ‘subsistence hunting of endangered whales in its other dependency of Greenland, is backing the resumption of commercial whaling at the International Whaling Commission (IWC).  Denmark’s position is held in open defiance of the rest of the European Union which is opposed to the commercial hunting of whales.

Pilot whales

Pilot whales are toothed whales around 20-25 feet in length and can weigh up to five tons. They are highly vocal, social animals swimming in groups called schools or pods, that can number in the hundreds. Pilot whales use echolocation to navigate and hunt for squid their principal prey. Often, entire schools of pilot whales will beach themselves and eventually die. It is not known whether such mass-stranding events are navigational errors by the whales or deliberate acts to help sick or injured group members at risk from drowning. Although still considered common pilot whales are at risk from marine pollution, over-fishing of squid and fish-stocks, entanglement in fishnets, and whaling.

Whale meat and public health

On 26 November 2008, the Chief Medical Officer in the Faroes, Dr Høgni Debes Joensen, together with Dr Pál Weihe of the Department of Public and Occupational Health, issued a joint press statement with a recommendation that the meat and blubber of pilot whales was no longer fit for human consumption because of the  high levels of mercury and other toxins that accumulate in the meat and organs of the whales and a comparatively high incidence of Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and other serious health issues in the Faroes linked to these contaminants.

The Faroes Food and Veterinary Agency has recently recommended that consumption of whale meat be limited to no more than once a month, with women advised to avoid it altogether if they plan to have children or are pregnant or breast-feeding.  These toxins are also known to harm the nervous and imune system development of children.

This is because of the toxic contaminants that accumulate in the whales bodies through the food chain. These contaminants include mercury in the flesh, liver and kidneys and polychlorinated-biphenyls (PCB’s) in the blubber. PCB’s are highly toxic industrial compounds linked to damage to the immune system and reproductive failure. Although subject to a voluntary manufacturing ban since 1977, some countries still produce them (see our environmental briefing section for further in information).

Campaign Whale has called upon the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to collaborate with the UN World Health Organisation (WHO) to investigate the serious health threats to people that eat whale products that are increasingly contaminated with dangerous levels of  toxic pollutants that accumulate in the whales through the food chain.

Campaign Whale’s objectives:

Campaign Whale is opposed to the slaughter of pilot whales and dolphins in the Faroe Islands because this whaling is unacceptably cruel, the whale meat is no longer an essential food source and is dangerously polluted with toxic pollutants hazardous to human health.

The whale hunts are also a threat to the whale and dolphin populations targeted whose size and status is uncertain and already under mounting threat from climate change, toxic pollution, over-fishing, entanglement in fishing gears, hunting, ship-strikes and disturbance from oil and gas extraction, seismic surveys, boat traffic and lethal military sonar.  The combined impact of these threats is quite simply unknown, but potentially catastrophic.

What Campaign Whale is doing:

Campaign Whale has visited the Faroe Islands on four occasions over the last year, meeting with government officials, public health leaders, local people and the whalers themselves. We were also able to attend the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Panama City in  June 2012  where we helped pass a resolution called on member governments to responsibly inform the public about the health risks from eating contaminated whale meat and blubber.

Our campaign has helped maintain a public debate over the future of whaling in the Faroes and in September 2012,  Campaign Director Andy Ottaway returned to the Islands to meet with Faroese nationals that have spoken out against the grind for the first time. We are working with our Faroese contacts to keep the whaling debate going and we are pleased to report that, as a result, opposition to whaling is growing while consumption of whale meat has fallen significantly.  A situation where the future of whaling is even questioned is quite unprecedented. It provides us with a truly unique opportunity to turn the tide in favour of the whales, as well as averting an unfolding public health disaster in the Faroes caused from the traditional consumption of increasingly polluted whale meat and blubber.

An important part of our strategy is to inform the debate over whaling and to change public attitudes toward the whales. Most of all, we want to educate the public about what wonderful, intelligent and sentient creatures these animals are, and most importantly, their capacity to suffer.  Please help our campaign!

Source: Campaing Whale

You are here: Home / Activism / Denmark’s Faroe Islands Continue Dolphin Slaughter

Denmark’s Faroe Islands Continue Dolphin Slaughter


The Cove won a well-deserved Oscar (and several other awards) this year for uncovering the slaughter of dolphins in Japan.  While it was being made, another discovery put the Japanese people on notice: the flesh of the dolphins is toxic, highly poisonous due to mercury content from them ingesting mercury-tainted fish.  Similar levels of mercury poisoning have caused horrible birth defects in the past, right there in Japan.  The Cove demonstrates how doing the right thing by other animals on the planet is the right thing for humans as well.

Apparently that message was lost on the people of the Faroe Islands, a holding of Denmark.  Their dolphin and whale slaughter continues.  The consumption of the flesh also continues.  What will it take for an otherwise civilized Western European nation to grow up?

Slaughter.  That’s a strong word… but not strong enough.  How else could one describe these images?

This is a rite of passage?

And a spectator sport

This is the Calderon dolphin's repayment for trusting men and coming near them to interact with fellow sentient beings.

Gaffing Hook in Pilot

Thousands of people have signed petitions.  The government of Denmark / Faroe Islands ignores them; petitions go unheeded.  It is time that we, citizens of this planet, called upon our own governments to tell Denmark / Faroe Islands that the whales and dolphins they slaughter are not theirs to kill.  It is time that we fought back for the sake of those who cannot speak at our courts.  We must demand that our government put Denmark and the Faroe Islands on notice: We will NOT passively permit you to continue this vulgar practice!  We will place sanctions against you until it stops.  We will not buy or sell with you.  You are shunned, unwelcome, until you stop slaughtering these fellow residents of the earth.

This is our planet, the earth is our mother, and all of the creatures who share it with us are our fellows, brother and sister inhabitants.  It is not ours to do with as we please.  We’re only here borrowing it for a while.  The Calderon dolphins may very well be led to extinction by this killing, and extinct is forever.  They are just one of the species of cetaceans killed by these people.  NO intelligent creature should be treated this way.  Despite claims to the contrary, the Faroese do NOT need to do this to survive.   Please, do all you can to make it stop.

P.S. Apologies to any Danes who feel they are being unjustly singled out, but the fact remains that the Faroe Islands are a territory of Denmark.  If Denmark wants to sever all ties to that territory, we will be glad to change the title of the article.   Until then, the title remains accurate.

PPS: It has been nearly 2 years since this article was written.  We have invited the Faroese into a discussion, and they participated.  When it got circular and there was nothing more to be gained, I ended the discussion.  There have been many comments submitted EVERY DAY about these ongoing horrors.  Many of them are emotional, reactionary, and have at least some of the facts wrong.  But the facts that they’re mistaken about are not foundational; their position isn’t any less right, for example, that they thought Pilot “whales” are endangered, or if they’re called Calderon or something else.    For the past year or so, I’ve censored out many posts that called for violence to the Faroese.   I have just release them all, editing out only the most offensive of them, allowing people’s own words to “speak” for them, for better or worse.

Thanks to all of you for your passion and involvement.  Though the Faroese have turned down offers to supplement their income in lieu of continuing the Grind, it remains our most fervent hope that they will do so of their own will.

Children of the Faroe Islnds, showing no respect for the slaughtered pilot whales.

Children of the Faroe Islands, showing no respect for the slaughtered pilot whales.

Faroese Boys In Bloody Waters

Source: ProtectThe Ocean

Editorial: SELVA-Vida Sin Fronteras

Editorial Committee

David Dunham

Arno Ambrosius

Gustavo López Ospina

Mariana Almeida

Frank Brouwer

Pieter Jan Brouwer

Assistant: Emilia Romero

The Amazon Pink Dolphin’s Voice is associated with the International Environmental Mission, a grass roots citizens movement created by Chilean Senator Juan Pablo Letelier.

SELVA Vida Sin Fronteras acknowledges Kevin Schafer’s important contribution towards protecting the highly endangered Amazon pink fresh water dolphin. Title photographs of our “The Amazon Pink Dolphin’s Voice” were taken by Mr. Schafer. 

~ by FSVSF Admin on 28 August, 2013.

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