Grindadráp – whaling in the Faroe Islands

Grindadráp, killed pilot whalesGrindadráp, killed pilot whales photo: CC BY-SA 3.0

Grindadráp – whaling in the Faroe Islands

The sea is coloured red by blood after the annual «Grindadráp»


– The animals slowly bleed to death. Whole families are slaughtered, and some whales swim around the blood of their family members for several hours, PETA claims.

Every year several large herds of pilot whales swim past the Faroe Islands.

If the locals are aware of the fact, and the whales are near the coast, it ends with “grindadráp.” Last Friday it was once more time for the traditional whaling to take place.

Photos from the killing site shows how the whales are chased towards land by hordes of small boats before being killed right at the seashore.

Massive critisism

The hunt, which does not take place on a given date, is non-commercial and locally anchored. Anyone who has sufficient training and is licensed to kill a pilot whale with a special spear can participate.

It will also only happen in coves and fjords that are approved for this.

In the past, it was possible for everyone to participate, and there were no requirements for what was used to kill the whales, but this has been changed on several occasions – last time in 2015 after massive criticism from several animal welfare organizations.

Among others, the International Organization for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has an ongoing campaign to end the catch that has been going on for more than 700 years.

– Metal hooks are driven into the breathing holes of the stranded whales before their spine is cut, it is stated in the campaign.

Bleed slowly to death

They further claim that the animals experience intense fear and stress when they are pulled on land before being killed.

– The animals bleed slowly to death. Whole families are slaughtered, and some whales swim around in the blood of their family members for several hours, it is further stated in the campaign.

– Whales and dolphins are intelligent creatures, and they feel both pain and fear as intensely as we do.

It is emphasized that if the hunt is carried out correctly and regulated, the animals will not suffer in this way.

In accordance with the law

By 2015, several animal rights activists have been arrested after attempting to stop the whaling. This according to Sea Sheperds founder, Paul Watson, on Facebook:

– The Faroe Islands claim that children can not participate in Grindadrap despite all the times we have documented children playing with or maltreating (whale) bodies. This video, taken just a few days ago, shows a child who cuts the face off a pilot whale. That is called dehumanization.

The then Prime Minister, Kaj Leo Holm Johansen, defended the traditional hunt in an e-mail to Swedish Aftonbladet.

– The whaling in the Faroe Islands is done in accordance with international law, and pilot whales are found in abundant quantities in the Northeast Atlantic. The catches on the Faroe Islands are durable and fully regulated, focusing on the animal’s well-being, he wrote.

Environmental contaminants

As mentioned, whaling in the Faroe Islands is not of a commercial nature, and most of the pilot whale is shared between locals who have participated in the catch. It’s not everyone who thinks is just so good.

Because the Faroese pilot whale is so high up in the food chain, the whale meat contains high concentrations of mercury and the fat contains PCB.

Several researchers, including Maria Skaalum Petersen, have focused on the relationship between whale meat consumption and the risk of Parkinson’s disease.

– I do not think patients get Parkinson’s disease directly from eating pilot whales. But it may be that the high exposure, along with genetic composition, makes some more vulnerable than others to developing the disease, she told in 2014.


© Dagbladet / Norway Today