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Mass Whale Hunting in Faroe Islands Leave Sea Blood Red


The sea of Faroe Islands in north of Europe turned red with the blood of hundreds of whales killed by the inhabitants on November 22, as a part of their annual whale hunting culture. Every year the islanders catch and slaughter pilot whales (Globicephala melaena) during the traditional whale hunt known as 'Grindadrap'. The mass hunting is non-commercial - the whale meat cannot be sold but is divided evenly between members of the local community. The hunters crowd the whales into a bay and then cut their spines leaving the animals bleed to death slowly, while the surrounding sea turns bloody red. These images of a blood-red sea can often have a shocking effect on bystanders.



Being an autonomous province of Denmark, where whaling is banned, the Faroe Islands’ laws allow the mass slaughter of pilot whales, beaked whales and dolphins to observe the annual tradition. Whaling in the Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic has been practiced since about the time of the first Norse settlements on the islands. The meat and blubber of pilot whales have long been a part of the islanders' national diet.

Despite criticism from animal rights groups and International Whaling Commission, the whale hunting custom continues to kill thousands of whales year after year. Around 950 Long-finned Pilot Whales are killed annually, mainly during the summer.

The American Cetacean Society says that pilot whales are not considered to be endangered, but that there has been a noticeable decrease in their numbers around the Faroe Islands.










Whale hunting has been a common phenomenon for a long period of time. It is known to have existed on Iceland, in the Hebrides, and in Shetland and Orkney.

Slaying2.jpgArchaeological evidence from the early Norse settlement of the Faroe Islands c. 1200 years ago, in the form of pilot whale bones found in household remains in indicates that the pilot whale has long had a central place in the everyday life of Faroe Islanders.


The meat and blubber of the pilot whale has been an important part of the islanders staple diet. The blubber, in particular, has been highly valued both as food and for processing into oil, which was used for lighting fuel and other purposes. Parts of the skin of pilot whales were also used for ropes and lines, while stomachs were used as floats.

Rights to whales have been regulated by law since medieval times. References are found in early Norwegian legal documents, while the oldest existing legal document with specific reference to the Faroes, the so-called Sheep Letter from 1298, includes rules for rights to, and shares of both stranded whales as well as whales driven ashore.



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