Whaling in the Faroe Islands has been taking place for centuries; it is not a recent phenomenon. "Grindadráp," as the hunts are called, are not commercial. Pilot whales are surrounded by hunters in boats and driven slowly into a bay or fjord where they are slaughtered. The hunts, with graphic depictions of whales being slaughtered, brings more outcry to Save The Whales than any subject. Scenes of whales being stabbed and gashed and their blood turning the water red are terrible to view, and young people are especially troubled. Scenes of fetuses being cut out of mothers' stomachs cause revulsion
The slaughter of long-finned pilot whales, known as the grind, takes place every year in the summer. After allegations of animal cruelty because whales were stabbed in the blubber with a sharp hook and pulled ashore, hunters began using blunt gaffs. In addition to pilot whales, other species of cetaceans that may be killed during the hunt, according to Faroese legislation, are: bottlenose dolphin; Atlantic white-beaked dolphin; Atlantic white-sided dolphin; and the harbor porpoise.
Since its invention in 1993, the blunt gaff is only used to pull killed whales ashore and it was considered more humane. However, it is claimed that putting the gaff in their blowhole partially blocks and irritates their airway and hurts and panics the animal. Whales onshore are killed with a whaling knife by cutting the dorsal area through to the spinal cord. It is claimed to be the safest and most effective way to kill the whales.
What will ultimately stop or curtail the hunt are the high levels of contaminants in whale meat. In 2008, the Faroese Chief Medical Officers announced that the high levels of mercury, PCBs and DDT derivatives in pilot whale meat and blubber make it unsafe for human consumption. This is particularly damaging to pregnant women and children.
© 2007 Sally Bartel
Short-Finned Pilot Whales
Ventana Bay Area, Sea of Cortez