Faroe Islands Begin ‘Horrifically Cruel’ Whale Hunts

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The Faroe Islands have begun a “horrifically cruel” whale hunt with dozens of pilot whales already having been killed this season.

More than 60 pilot whales—the largest member of the dolphin family—were killed during two hunts that took place in the Atlantic Ocean off the Danish territory, between May 8 and May 15, Euro News reported.

The whaling season in the Faroe Islands usually kicks off in the summer months but hunts can happen year round. The hunt is a tradition that dates back around 1,200 years, when people would hunt dolphins and whales during times of famine.

Several dolphin species, including pilot whales and white sided dolphins, are still killed each year for their blubber and meat.

A photo shows people gathering in front of the sea during a pilot whale hunt in Torshavn in the Faroe Islands on May 29, 2019. The Faroe Islands have begun a “horrifically cruel” whale hunt with dozens of pilot whales already having been killed this season.
ANDRIJA ILIC / Contributor/Getty

Ocean conservation and welfare groups have long been campaigning for an end to the hunt, called the grindadrap, deeming it cruel and unnecessary.

“There has been some small progress, the Faroe Islands have limited the number of dolphins that can be hunted. This horrifically cruel hunt could be stopped tomorrow with appropriate pressure applied by the EU, Denmark and U.K.,” John Hourston, founder of global pressure group Blue Planet Society told Newsweek.

Pilot whales are a protected species in the EU and U.K.

“I would say lack of sufficient international political pressure is the main reason the archaic grindadrap continues,” Hourston said. “Campaigning by environmental groups is highly effective at bringing awareness to the issue, and this should lead to action by politicians.”

Newsweek has contacted the Faroese government for comment.

More attention has been placed on the controversial hunt in recent years after an especially high number of pilot whales were killed in September 2021. It was found that 1,423 dolphins were killed in just one hunt, prompting the Faroese government to launch a review.

The government then announced an annual catch limit of 500 dolphins. Animal rights campaigners are unimpressed with the decision and believe the hunting should be banned altogether.

“This level of cruelty to highly intelligent mammals, in a climate and biodiversity crisis, is totally unacceptable in this day and age. There’s simply no need for it. The Faroe Islands have an average wage of about $60,000, a dozen well-stocked supermarkets, and globalized supply chains,” Hourston said. “There can be hunts at any time of year, but generally most of the killing takes place in the summer. We can only hope for some bad weather in that region, to keep the slaughter to a minimum.”

The Blue Planet Society has launched an online petition asking for an end to the hunting of dolphins and small whales.

The petition asks Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Aksel V. Johannesen, Prime Minister of the Faroe Islands, to “stop the hunt of EU/U.K. protected dolphins and small whales.” Hunts for dolphins also occur in Japan on a yearly basis.

As of May 24, more than 640,000 people have signed the petition. Its target is 1 million.

Despite outrage from animal rights groups, the Faroese government still deems that the hunt is sustainable.

It said in July 2022 that the hunt continues as an “important supplement to the livelihoods of Faroe Islanders, who have for centuries relied on the sustainable use of marine resources for their economy and local food security.”

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