Saturday, July 1, 2017

Bucket list item: Visit the Faroe Islands and see the Grindadráp, or whale hunt.

Whaling in the Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic is the harvesting and slaughter of long-finned pilot whales when they are driven to swim near the islands, and has been practiced since about the time of the first Norse settlements on the islands. The whaling is mentioned in the Sheep Letter, a Faroese law from 1298, a supplement to the Norwegian Gulating law.

 It is regulated by the Faroese authorities.  Around 800 long-finned pilot whales and some Atlantic white-sided dolphin are slaughtered annually, mainly during the summer. The hunts, called grindadráp in Faroese, are non-commercial and are organized on a community level. Anyone who has a special training certificate on slaughtering a pilot whale with the spinal-cord lance can participate.  This was not necessary earlier, but because of constant criticism from animal welfare organizations, the Faroese people try to improve the slaughtering methods in order to make them more humane, or end the slaughter altogether.

 The Grind law was updated in 2015, where one of the regulations demanded that the whalers followed a course on how to slaughter a pilot whale with the spinal-cord lance.  The police and Grindaformenn are allowed to remove people from the grind area.  The hunters first surround the pilot whales with a wide semicircle of boats. The boats then drive the pilot whales into a bay or to the bottom of a fjord. Not all bays are certified, and the slaughter will only take place on a certified beach.

Archaeological 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 Gøta, indicates that the pilot whale has long had a central place in the everyday life of Faroe Islanders. Records of drive hunts in the Faroe Islands date back to 1584.  The meat and blubber of the pilot whale have been an important part of the islanders’ staple diet. The islanders have particularly valued blubber: both as food and for processing into oil, which they used for lighting fuel and other purposes like medicine.  In older days, it was used for medicinal purposes. People also used parts of the skin of pilot whales for ropes and lines, while utilising the stomachs as fishing floats.

 The pilot whale population in the eastern North Atlantic is approximately 778,000, of which around 100,000 are around the Faroes. The Faroese catch around 800 whales a year on average, it says. The long-term annual average catch of pilot whales in the Faroe Islands represents less than 1 percent of the total eastern North Atlantic whale population, according to the spokesman for the Faroe Islands government. “It has long since been internationally recognised that pilot whale catches in the Faroe Islands are fully sustainable,” he said.

It's admittedly a bit gruesome, but not really much different than what happens in any slaughterhouse.  If you eat meat, then some version of this occurs to bring that to you, and this event is just another version of the necessary process, albeit in a very traditional, highly cultural manner, and in an exceptionally scenic location.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting post. I've maintained for decades that the push to end hunts like this is less about "animal welfare" and more about ending self sufficiency and the cultures that have built up around it over the course of hundreds and sometimes thousands of years. But that's just my opinion...