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article imageBloody images of Danish whale hunt angers activists

By Kim I. Hartman     Aug 4, 2010 in World
Hvalba - Residents of the Faroe Islands took part in a bloody hunt for pilot whale this past week. Pictures of the water turned a dark blood red color have activists fuming. Video of the hunt show as many as a hundred boats being used to herd and kill the whale.
The New York Times' Dot Earth blog uncovered the following explanation from Denmark's Ministry of Fisheries:
"The pilot whale hunt in the Faroes is, by its very nature, a dramatic and bloody sight. Entire schools of whales are killed on the shore and in the shallows of bays with knives which are used to sever the major blood supply to the brain. This is the most efficient and humane means of killing these animals under the circumstances, but it naturally results in a lot of blood in the water. It is also understandable that there have been many strong reactions to media reports and pictures of the hunt in other countries, especially in urban communities, where most people have never actually been witness to the slaughtering processes from which their own meat derives."
Denmark's Faroe Islands was the scene for another bloody pilot whale hunting over the past week. The massacre of whales is a popular and welcomed event in the Danish islands where hundreds of villagers join together for these large scale communal "whale drives and kills."
While many dozens of boats herded the pilot whale towards the shore, hundreds of residents with knives, hooks, ropes and poles waited on the beach to begin the massacre as soon as the helpless whales were beached. Islanders then took a gaff hook and pulled the walls onto the sand by their blow-holes.
While this may look and sound cruel to many people of the world whaling in the Faroe Islands has been a tradition since the early Norse settlements existed on the islands. It is regulated by Faroese authorities but not by the International Whaling Commission as there are disagreements about the Commission's competency for small cetaceans.
Approximately a thousand long-finned Pilot Whales are killed annually, mainly during the summer months. The hunts, called "grindadráp" in Faroese, are non-commercial and are organized on a community level; anyone can participate. The hunters first surround the pilot whales with a wide semicircle of boats. The boats then drive the pilot whales slowly into a bay or to the bottom of a fjord.
Most Faroese consider the hunt an important part of their culture and history. Animal-rights groups criticize the hunt as being cruel and unnecessary while the hunters claim in return that most journalists do not exhibit sufficient knowledge of the catch methods or its economic significance
The whaling industry is highly regulated by the government of the Faroe Islands. Rules and laws have been enacted to lessen the suffering of the highly praised pilot whales that are needed for food for the people of this small country consisting of 18 islands.
The residents of the Faroe Islands depend on the whale meat and blubber to carry them through the winter months. When a whale is killed the bounty is equally shared among all people. The pilot whales do not fear the villagers who await them on the shore.
Eighteen islands make up this small country called the Faroe Islands.
Eighteen islands make up this small country called the Faroe Islands.
Wikipedia Map of the Faroe Islands
The Pilot whales are very social creatures that travel in large groups of up to 200 called pods. Whalers benefit from these large numbers by driving and herding them together into tight groups. Once the whale have been beached a special knife is used to cut the spinal cord and it also severs the major arteries resulting in the whales bleeding out along the waters edge causing the sea to turn blood red in color for days following an whale hunt.
These pictures of the bloody waters are used by animal activists to stop what some say is a cruel and inhumane way to kill the pilots whales as well as the dolphins and porpoises that are legally fished and captured for food in the Faroe's. Whalers says it takes from 30 seconds to a few minutes for a pilot whale to die and they consider this form of hunting to be the most humane of all methods used by man in the oceans of the world.
Ólavur Sjúrðaberg, the chairman of the Faroese Pilot Whaler’s Association, describes the pilot whale hunt in such a way: "I'm sure that no one who kills his own animals for food is unmoved by what he does. You want it done as quickly and with as little suffering as possible for the animal."
While the popularity of whales, dolphins and porpoise meat in the Faroe Islands runs high the government's Chief medical officer has recommended that pilot whales no longer be considered fit for human consumption, because of the high levels of toxins found in the meat.
According to the American Cetacean Society — a whale protectionist group — pilot whales are not considered endangered. The society cites that there are likely about 1,000,000 long-finned and at least 200 000 short-finned pilot whales worldwide.
The blood-stained beach of Hvalba during a pilot whale grindadrap (hunt) in the Faroe Islands. The w...
The blood-stained beach of Hvalba during a pilot whale grindadrap (hunt) in the Faroe Islands. The water turns blood red and stays that way for days to follow.
Erik Christensen
More about Whale hunt, Whale kill, Beaching whales, Communal danish whale hunt, Faroe island
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