Sunday, December 2, 2007

Grindadráp - Whale Hunt


I understand that this is a controversial topic but this is one of my earliest and best memories as a child. I was five years old and would have been one of these small kids you see in this picture.

I didn't think anything of it at the time. It was just a part of being Faroese. My mother even took a picture of me standing on one of the whales. (I wish I had that picture today) It was also the day I got my first knife. The funny thing about this was that it was a regular fishing knife with a red handle and a black plastic sleeve and my mother was afraid that I would hurt myself. Now she didn't what to upset me or my uncle who gave it to me so she made a swap. She took the fishing knife and saved it for me and gave me a folding knife under the condition that I did not open the knife. I still have the knife today and is one of the best knifes I own. Now I carried this on to both of my boys a gave them a knife when they were 5 years old.

There is a Faroese proverb:
Knívleysur maður er lívleysur - The knifeless man is a lifeless man.
Knifes are an essential part of Faroese life. It is used in every facet of everyday living.

Now I understand that images of whales being rounded up to shore and being killed can be hard to stomach for some people but for most Americans we believe that all the meat just shows up at the supermarket. We never think of the process it takes to get that a steak, chicken or pork chop to that supermarket. Slaughter houses are not pretty and are no more humane then what the Faroese do in a whale hunt. It is probably more humane. A whale is unconscious within seconds of the first cut being made, and dead usually in well under a minute. The image that seems to stick in peoples minds is the bays being full of blood but let me remind you that slaughter houses have the same situation and they just wash it down the drain. We never see the amount of blood that is being washed away. I think for people to get over these images it might do them well to take a look at images of a slaughter house.

Now I looking at these images how can anyone say that this is better for the animals then the Grindadráp.

Now I understand that a lot of people believe that the pilot whales are endangered but this is just not true. The amount of pilot whales in the North Atlantic is almost 800,000. The Faroese have also been keeping records of their catch as far back as 1584 and unbroken records that started in 1709. The average annual catch by the Faroese for the past 300 years has been around 850 pilot whales. This catch is a sustainable amount and in no way endangers these whales. The Faroese government keeps a close watch on all of the catches.

Check out their website for information. Whales and Whaling in the Faroe Islands

Another aspect of the whaling is that the whales are only hunted if the if they come close to the islands. They never go out of the inlets of the islands to hunt the pilot whales. They are also never sold. The whales are divided amongst everyone of the village that catches them.

Now I understand that many may think why do the Faroese need to do this. That they can get their meat from other sources. Well the pilot whale is a staple of meat for the Faroe Islands. The islands are not suited for most grazing animals. Now sheep are plenty but as far as cattle it can not be done. So most all of the beef on the islands are imported. The Faroe Islands' main source of food for over a thousand years has come from the sea and the pilot whale is just a part of it.

Now there have been many that have tried to stop the Grindadráp but this is ingrained into the Faroese culture as fishing. It is a part of their tradition and their lives. It is time that everyone in the village participates. It is a part of their identity. It is something that will not change.

The last thing I would like to share is what many people will ask and that is how does it taste? Well a whale is a mammal. It would be similar to many different mammals. It is not like beef or deer but it has a gaming taste and is dark in color. Now I have never liked the taste of the blubber but this is main part of the whale that is also eaten. There is not much of the whale that is wasted.

The first and last image I would like to give credit to Jan Egil Kristiansen. Check out some of his photos. He has a lot of GREAT photos of the Faroe Islands.

I would also like for you to also do some of your own reading on this topic. The more you know the more you understand.

Whales and Whaling in the Faroe Islands
Kate Sandersen General Secretary of NAMMCO
High North Alliance


I am a lover of children's literature said...

Thanks for this post and the links to the great photos. Very enjoyable.

Unknown said...

its amazing how people can turn a nightmare into a nice little children story

wake up ,whales are in exctinction as many other species

i hope your children will just be able to see one of those whales before they got all killed

Anonymous said...

Everyone in the village participates?
They all are just a bunch of coward puppies who follow this tradition because their parents follow this tradition, who are also a coward puppies who follow this tradition because their parents too was following this tradition and so on...

Anonymous said...

And to add something more: To kill whales you must be a weak monkey with no sence of beaty

Anonymous said...

Unbelievable! You really call this fishing? It's not even being evil or senseless. It's being an idiot. The poor animals can't even protect themselves and you just slay them? Don't you see the whole bay was covered with blood? It's a gruesome sight and you are proud of it? What kind of people are you? Sorry my mistake. What kind of creature are you?

Anonymous said...

Well as far i as know,in the slaughter houses they kill all these animals ie. (chicken, cow's beef, pig's meat) because they use them as food and that they sell it to the market for eating purposes, for consumption of the general public and not just for some tradition that was passed along centuries by your ancestors,not for fun,even if you have a reason that those whales shall never go to extinction because there are a lot of them out in the sea such as what is stated in the research of about 800,00 of them,its not even a good reason to kill them for traditionl purposes. Thats why its not even a good idea to compare the sight of a slaughter house to the seashore covered in blood of those helpless whales,as what ive said,slaughter houses do hang meats for consumption purposes,even though you consume a part of your catch but to slaughter this much in one killing makes all these whales lives to waste.
I know youre an intelligent person,it would benefit the world if you would try to make your fellow Faroese understand the importance of these living creatures such as you are.

Janus said...

karim: Pilot Whales are not in danger of extinction.

Dennis: No they participate in this, in the same way that you participate in buying your food.
Dennis: Are you saying that ugly animals should be killed, and beautiful animals should not?

Anonymous: Are you saying that food should have a chance to fight back, before being eaten, like fish, chicken, potatoes?
All the meat and blubber (fat) is eaten. It doesn't go to waste.
Yes it is a gruesome sight. A lot of things are - even those which are part of natural processes.

Less than 1.000 whales are killed each year in the Faroes. 100.000 cattle are killed each day in the US. There is no natural law, which says that cattle is proper food, and whales is not. Until you stop killing all those millions of cattle, you should stop making demands.

Amalia said...

I don't understand why this "tradition" is compared with the chicken or cattle farms all over the world. Is the same thing...animals are being foolishly killed(either for proving that you are a man, either for money, either for accessorizing)...Let's face it: a lot of the food that you find today on market is made to impress and to gain as much money as possible. I may say that nowadays a lot of food types are a fashion, not a primal need, as it was on our grandparents times.
And this is not going to change...until all animals will be extincted...Then, I will be so curios to learn what will people's mind will be up to for surviving...

Anonymous said...

Yes, it looks gruesome, but animals have been killing other animals for food for a very long time. Which would you choose, to personally slaughter all the animals that you partake in eating, or going vegan? If we are not prepared to become vegan, then it is hypocritical to condemn the slaughter of animals for food, and naive to think that meat from your supermarket is any cleaner.
And yes, the world is suffering from the activities of man. Species are going extinct from over-fishing, destruction of their natural habitat, fossil fuel consumption, pollution, and global warming. The biggest part of the problem is that humans are in plague proportions! It's time to prepare for the crash.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the article. I've found it very interesting and instructive, unfortunately Traditions are no longer a la mode nowadays. People always prefer to fight the weak ones instead that face the real enemy... the uncontrolled industrialisation and increasing pollution of the planet... probably the manufacturing of the tools we everyday use kills more animal then the Faroer's whale hunting in 10 years. It's just a matter of hypocrisy.

Just yesterday I've found a Facebook group to support the Faroer's people and their traditional Grindadrap. So far the page it's only in Italian but if you or your friends would like to join us would be great.

"Defend the Faroer traditional Grindadrap - Facebook group"

Anonymous said...

Sorry... that's the right link to the Face book group.

"Defend the Faroer traditional Grindadrap - Facebook group"

Anonymous said...

it made me sick to read this "story" - how can you be so convinced that what you are doing is right?
Whales and dolphins are probably the most innocent creatures on earth...!
and if you shouldn´t know it yet: as a result of pollution there is quite a lot of mercury in whale meat causing Parkinson´s disease...
and someone should prohibit this facebook group!!!! gosh... how... i just don´t get it...

Anonymous said...

You can't justify this slaughter by saying the whales only suffer for the first minute.

That's justification and bulls**t! These creatures actually feel terrible pain at the hands of you conscience-less Faroe-Islanders who are more concerned about their pride and traditions than they are the suffering of peaceful (and yes endangered) whales.

So the US agriculture industry is engaged in atrocities even worse, you say? I agree. It's disgusting

But since when do two wrongs make a right?

And yes, I am vegetarian, healthy and outraged at the wickedness of my fellow human beings.

Anonymous said...

"Whales and dolphins are probably the most innocent creatures on earth...!"
These sort of arguments crack me up. That claim implies that all other creatures are less innocent - or put it another way - more guilty. Guilty, or innocent, of what I'm not sure. And I'm pretty sure that the person who wrote that hasn't got a clue either.

Elindomiel said...

This is an amazing post.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

wake up and see what humans have done to this planet! and we are all guilty! living in the city/town its almost impossible not to cause harm to the natural ecosystem... but to try and promote endangered animal killing is just ridicules! surely deep inside you understand that????

Anonymous said...

its true that SOME whales are about to go extinct. But the pilot whales are not! If you think this is horrible then you all should become vegetarians and live in harmony with carrots!

BTW. Very nice article.

Joh said...

Terrible that people can do this. whales are almost extinct or something, really, u guys are sick.

1 word, cant believe this sickness of a dumb village

Joh said...

Terrible that people can do this. whales are almost extinct or something, really, u guys are sick.

1 word, cant believe this sickness of a dumb village

Hebus said...

u guys are sick, and that all in de name of tradition?
Because eating this whales is bad, they are full of pcb btw.
How can turn a nightmare into a nice little children story btw ?

Anonymous said...

If you wanted to get across a point, why show a picture filled with blood? clearly you are an attention seeker who is as thick as the whale sandwhiches you and your island chums eat, and sadly it seems that most are are obliging your bizare blog. enough said.

Unknown said...

Very nice article Allen:-)
Sera áhugavert:-)

Haldi tað virkar sum um fólk úti í verini ikki vita hvussu tingini henga saman.

Hav tað so gott :-)
Bestu heilsur úr Tyskland:-)

Anonymous said...

Everyone admires fishermen, they go to sea in all weathers and courageously do their tough job. But this whale slaughter! You can't justify it because it is a tradition because you did it in 1584, we used to burn people at the stake because their religious views were not the same as the high priests. Should we still be doing that? Stop it immediately, and welcome to the 21st century. Killing animals for food should be done humanely, and cruelty or causing of unnecessary suffering should be heavily punished, whatever religion or tradition is behind it.

Anonymous said...

I think that anyone who kills whales just for their tradition is just pure stupid and is not a human. Whales can't fight back for their lives. Now as for the pigs, we eat them, they help keep the human species alive. Whales are very beautiful creatures and do not deserve what you are doing to them. I am 17 and I'm not even that stupid. You should think about what you are doing. Then realize that it is wrong. Jesus didn't make whales for that.

tertel said...

amm.... even though there are about 800,000 pilot whales still freely swiming across the sea. it still okay for you to kill them should we wait for that 800,000 go 800 or to none! tradition HMPH! "we used to burn people at the stake because their religious views were not the same as the high priests." (one poster said) yeah maybe we should do that beacause thare are still about 6,793,986,482 people living in the world today!! and killing 10,000 a day would not make any damn difference!!!! come on WAKE UP! -from an angry passerby-

Anonymous said...

I'm vegetarian and not for hunting or eating whales for any reason; however, to those calling the Faroese stupid or idiots for whaling, your arguments would go a long towards being effective if you focused your energies on counter arguments and solutions, rather than ad hominem attacks. In other words, you're attacking the person rather than the idea or activity you disagree with. Emotion is better left to those that can handle it. Be logical. If the life of a whale is more precious than other animals, have a compelling argument. Beautiful and noble are not compelling arguments. Those are subjective terms. Be consistent. If you respect the life of a whale because it is alive, then you must respect all life. Just remember, eating vegetarian is still taking a life. Life feeds on life to survive. No matter what is eaten, that will always be true. I'm not condoning or condemning hunting whales; I would just like to see an argument, not emotional ping pong.

Anonymous said...

I think most of the posters would change their point of view if they actually lived in the Faroe Islands. The hunt does not have any effect on the population of the whales and the meat and blubber are eaten. Its no different than any other type of fishing or farming. Most people are so far removed from the actual supply of their food that they become indignant of other cultures choices. The Faroe islanders are not selling meat and they have strict rules governing the hunt. Its no different than killing a chicken, pig or a cow. Personally I find cattle to be far nobler than any whale and pigs to be much smarter but then as a farmer for my entire life I dont know any whales.

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Max said...

honestly i think your faroese is very nice and really cool to read, i liked it. most the comments though about pore animals and other stuff really made me angry. does anyone really believe that there is a nice way to kill an animal? death is death. mother rabbits eat there own babies sometimes. and other animals in the natural world leave runts to starve to death. really? animals kill more gruesome then us. would you rather let someone else kill your own food or kill it yourself. i don't agree with some of the chemicals they put it our food but come on people. poor animals? really? im not for or with anyone on this. but some of those comment were just ridicules.

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Anonymous said...

i'm french, sorry for poor english,
anyway, I got a mailling spam talking about that grindadrap and wanted to go a little bit further to know what's it's like.
I'm quite upset about all that people that think it is inhuman or whatever.
I mean, Human Race have been killing gaming for centuries, it's a natural and necessary process to get food, and sometimes for traditions as well. I'm not telling that's the best thing we do, but please, keep in mind that there is so much more pointless slaughter and vanity in human kind that a tradition.
Wake up, is it a valuable reason that we judge to banish a tradition in another culture, just because it's un-matching with our own precept ?? I think that's sad.

I'm thinking as well that killing 1 to 2% a year of a local specie is not really a slaughter leading to extinction. I'm not aware of the rate of reproduction of those creatures. but if you consider that about 1 to 2%, you're a foul to think the specie could manage to survive on its own (i'm not sure my point is quite understandable ). That's not extinction.
As well, that's kind of wild hunting, for sure. But they call it "poor innocent and defendless whale" (in fact, in the mail I got it becomes a dolphin. that's Magiiiiic !). Tell me now who is the one the most able to defend itself between a whale living in the sea, and a chiken (or a bovin) in a 3x3 meter square surronded by barbed wire... 'cause that chicken or that bovin is what WE eat, and we do practise that production for centuries.
So I don't quite understand the point of view of people who think it's a shame to kill inhabitant of the sea, as they confortably eat produce of earth. In that kind of island, they just don't get enough place to do that kind of production (elevage?? don't know the english for that word sorry).
So, anyway, my point is just to say that even if i'm not a faroese-native, I can understand and think this is a respectable tradition, lead in a respectful and clever way (meaning control from goverment, the way villagers do kill the beast)

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Anonymous said...

I came across your blog, as I think most of us did, while searching for evidence and facts about the tradition on the Faroese Island which you have participated in and support. Of course you are entitled to your own opinion (as do we all) and the people of Faroese Island are only obligated to follow laws and rules they have established. However, there are some laws and rules that are not written down and are not voted on in Parliaments or any other form of law-administering body. These are called social and cultural norms. These norms, in some cases, are specific to a certain region, culture and/or demographic. I can accept that this traditional way of slaughtering (and I have to use this word rather than culling, since the process of culling is done for different reasons and in a more humane manner), is the cultural norm of the Island. However, there are other norms that have been established around the world and exist today that I am certain most educated people would demonstrate against. So not too monopolize this blog, here are my thoughts and comments on some of the things that you and others have already said (apologies in advance if I referenced someone else’s thought or idea). 1.) “Killing pilot whales is no different that slaughtering cattle we use for consumption.” – I agree. However, I can only agree to this if the people of Faroese Island have established special farms to raise these animals for consumption. In essence, if you would consider this animal as part of your diet, then you should create special farms to raise a batch of these animals in captivity specifically for slaughter. Yes, to some of you this will still sound insane, disgusting and inhumane. However, the originator of this blog and some of those commenting in support have a point. We should not denounce them just because they slaughter and eat these animals. (Just to be clear, in no way is this indication of my support!) 2.) “When you kill cattle it is done in no better manner” – I have to agree and disagree. Yes they have been incidents and evidence of slaughterhouses violating established rules and regulations when it comes to slaughtering cattle. However, the key point here is “violating established rules and regulations” when slaughtering cattle! Hence, considered a crime and is punishable by LAW! The slaughter of pilot whales by the Faroese Islanders does NOT appear to follow any established rules or regulations (other than a traditional way of doing it). If you are slaughtering these animals for consumption, then you need to create slaughterhouses and establish specific rules and laws to govern a humane way to slaughter these animals. What you are doing is no more than a sport. If this was a staple of your diet, then this practice would occur more often than once every two years! (correct me if I am wrong). This further reinforces the idea that this is nothing more than a type of sport! 3.)”Pilot whales are not endangered species” – Yes, that is correct based on my research. However, I don’t understand how that is a justification for what the people for Faroese Island are doing. We have a very large dog and cat population around the world. Why is it then a crime to randomly kill these animals for sport? Why do most Westerners denounce Koreans for consuming dogs!? And in their defense, it is part of their diet. They don’t kill and eat dogs once in a while!

Anonymous said...

My final thoughts: Please don’t try to justify to others your practices by drawing parallels, I would much rather hear (read) you say “This is just the way things are over here”. As I said in the beginning, there are cultural and social norms that will separate us from each other and we have to respect that. I want to believe that the majority of people in the world are educated and can make informed decisions and have intelligent discussions even when it comes to such a sensitive topic. If there is one thing I would like you to take away from my post (if you are reading this), take a step back and look at the practice from a perspective of someone that does not live on the Island and is learning of this practice for the first time and write something that explains what the practice is about and not try to justify it. In my opinion, there is no way you can justify this! Thanks for reading! D. M. New York, NY

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just FYI - fopund this in Wikipedia while trying to educate myself on this subject...

Health concerns

In both Japan and the Faroe Islands, the meat is contaminated with mercury and cadmium, causing a health risk for those frequently eating it, especially children and pregnant women.[45] In November 2008, an article in New Scientist reported that research done on the Faroe Islands resulted in two chief medical officers recommending against the consumption of pilot whale meat, considering it to be too toxic.[46] In 2008 the local authorities recommended that pilot whale meat should no longer be eaten due to the contamination. This has resulted in reduced consumption, according to a senior Faroese health official.[47]

Anonymous said...

It's their food! Since when did killing animals for consumption become wrong?? Since the day they were brought to a slaughter house?? These fellows had the oppertunity to escape - and they were wild and free untill the day of they're death.. Not living in miserable conditions from day one - and transported for hours to a slaughterhouse to end their miserably lives.. Since when did cuteness of whales overcome cuteness of pigs, cows e.g.? Some of you simply make it sound like these animals don't have any other rights, than to be in a overcrowded farm till the day they die - never allowed to see sunlight. These whales have been wild and free - and are killed for consumption - its not just a tradition!! Think about that!

Anonymous said...

Your tradition makes me sick. You can tell a lot about a culture by the traditions that they celebrate. Peaceful cultures and people pass down beautiful traditions to their children, teaching them to respect their land and the environment, honor life, and be kind to others. Your tradition is violent (You believe that all people should have knives- a weapon to kill with). But more gruesome is that you kill these magnificent, endangered, intelligent, and harmless creatures. Did you know that whales have an incredibly high amount of mercury? You are poisoning your bodies by eating whale meat. In all ways, this tradition is harmful. Please do your people a favour and stand up against this tradition.

viagra said...

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Anonymous said...

A bunch of savage people that care more about maintaining a meaningless and brutal tradition. It in now way helps the towns' own survival, if anything this practice is detrimental to their own health and future generations. The pilot whale meat has severely high levels of toxins and has caused over 5,000 cases of mercury poison and death to the islanders. The consumption of the pilot whale meat contributes to the islands' alarmingly high numbers of mentally retarded children. The Faroe Island medical chiefs even declared that Pilot Whale meat is "not fit for human consumption", yet this ignorant tradition persists.

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Anonymous said...

Everyone has there own a opinion in this matter and that's all it is. Everything we consume now days Is NOT naturally processed. Cows are fed corn to make them fatter at a faster rate, to feed "America". Cows are not ment to eat corn. Chickens are kept in coupes and never see sunlight BUT these processes for chickens and cows are fine and not inhumane to "America." vegetables now have less than half the nutrients they use to have compared to when they were farmed by a REAL FARMER, back in the day when it was called farming and not processing. And yes they are slowly killing themselves because of all the pollution the whales swim through because of humans. But that's there matter to deal with(faroes) everyone who does not respect a long time tradition has never grown up with tradition and has never grown up in there REAL HOMELAND. And remember American is not an ethnicity!