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 2011 Operation 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.
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At the end of the report, the authors ask the reader to write to their nearest Danish ambassy and complain. This is what I wrote:
Slaughter of dolphins on August 25th, 2013
Dear Mister Ambassador,
I was utterly appalled to read the report of Danes slaughtering these wonderful animals(http://earthfirstjournal.org/newswire/2013/08/25/pilot-whale-and-dolphin-slaughter-in-the-faroe-islands/), who have by now received personhood status in India. I strongly oppose the senseless and barbaric killing of precious marine wildlife, period. As your department of health has advised against the human consumption of their meat, this constitutes murder for sport of creatures that are deemed by many to be equally as intelligent as us humans. Could you please adivse your Prime Minister and parliament of my dismay and that of hundreds of thousands of other concerned world citizens. I strongly suggest that the Danes cease and desist with this barbarous behaviour.
Ralphie A Burcke.
Note from Ralphie: I sincerely hope that my readers will join me in this.