Faroe Islands Grindadrap – Understanding Faroese Perspective

Faroe Islands Grindadrap – here’s our take on the controversial Faroese pilot whale hunt. After our trip to the North Atlantic archipelago, and after receiving countless hate emails and messages accusing Faroese people of being ‘mercury-intoxicated barbarians’ and us of supporting cruel practices simply by BEING in the Faroe Islands, we’ve decided to put together this article, explaining what the Faroe Island Grindadrap is, highlighting myths and media misinformation about the same, and trying to present the perspective of the Faroese people. 

Around May, we received an invitation to travel to the Faroe Islands. We had long wanted to visit the islands – not only for the luscious green landscapes, dramatic bird cliffs and stunning waterfalls, but also to understand the truth about the Faroe Islands Grindadrap, and how it is perceived by the local population.

Sure enough, as soon as we announced our trip on social media, we started receiving all kinds of hate messages. From a simple ‘please don’t go’, to ‘boycott Faroes, where savages slaughter sentient beings’. This blog is focused on promoting nature and sustainable tourism, and as part of our mission we’ve presented instances of successful ecotourism practices, such as our article from Danjugan Island in the Philippines, as well as highlighted controversial issues, like the environmental implications about palm oil plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia.

We’ve been accused by our readers and followers of betraying ecotourism principles by visiting the Faroe Islands. I must admit that I considered cancelling the trip for some time. Images of the hunt are published every year on media all over the world, and admittedly, they look cruel and shocking.

Fjords turn a bloody red, as the lifeless bodies of hundreds of pilot whales lie on the shore, surrounded by people. Yet, it’s easy to attribute meaning and attach feelings to shocking images. Is the Faroe Island Grindadrap actually a cruel and unnecessary practice? Or is it just that us, city dwellers leading comfortable urban lives, have been alienated from the basic mechanism of meat production?

One perspective seems to be always absent from Grindadrap-related media reports. That of the Faroese people. The media portray them as ‘mindless savages’, ‘mercury-poisoned barbarians’ and so on. Yet, instead of casting judgment and calling for boycotts, has anyone ever thought of visiting the Faroe Islands and trying to understand – albeit briefly – how life is in such a remote environment is, and how locals perceive the Grindadrap?

This is why we found ourselves on an Atlantic Airlines flight out of CPH on July 24th. We landed at the Faroe Islands airport eager to know more – but before telling you about it, let me give you a little background info on the Faroe Islands Grindadrap and about the archipelago in general.

faroe islands weird rocks
I still can’t believe how weird this rock was!

Understanding the Faroe Islands

The Faroe Islands are one of the most isolated places in the whole world. They’re located roughly halfway between the northernmost tip of Scotland and Iceland, 320 km away from the former. Weather is largely windy, rainy and cold year round – lots of pretty green grass grows on the islands, but that’s about it. There’s little agriculture – just potatoes and other root vegetables. No fresh salad, tomatoes, oranges, apples, cherries, grapes. The fruit and veg sold in supermarkets have been shipped over from Denmark – and cost about 10 times more than what you would pay in Europe.

The islands have been isolated for centuries. The first settlers were probably Irish monks in the 7th century, but the first ‘real’ settlers were the Vikings, coming from Norway about one hundred years later and establishing not only the first permanent settlements, but also a political system with their own parliament and local courts.

Over the following centuries, the Faroe Islands have been governed by the Norwegian and Danish crown. Nowadays, they exist as an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark – the Faroe Islands are NOT part of the European Union. They have their own parliament and control over most domestic matters. The Faroese people are largely in favour of total independence – in 1946, during the aftermath of WW2, a referendum for Faroese independence was held, and the independence front won, but the Danish government refused to recognise the result due to only two thirds of the population participating in the vote.

Nowadays, the Faroese are a proud, independent and resilient bunch. Throughout history, they were able to make a living on a bunch of rocky islands in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, withstanding the Black Death and other epidemics, pirate attacks and occupations by foreign powers. They are proud of their history and traditions, celebrated yearly during Ólavsøka, the Faroese national festival that we were lucky to attend at the end of July.

Having saithat, the Faroese are far from being what they’re portrayed by the media – a bunch of red-faced, inbred, mercury-poisoned hillbillies. Most young people have travelled and studied abroad. Our guide Johan first left home at 17, to live and work in an Israeli kibbutz. Since then, he’s lived in half a dozen countries, studied tourism in Barcelona and travels for extended periods of time each year.

‘Somehow, though, I’m always drawn back to the Faroe Islands’ he told us, gazing out to sea from the Mykines bird cliffs.

faroe mykines puffin
One of the puffins of Mykines

Truth and Lies about the Faroe Islands Grindadrap

As I said before, agriculture is pretty much non existent in the Faroe Islands. Nowadays all kinds of goods are shipped over and readily available, but historically the Faroese had to make do with a diet that consisted largely of fish, seabirds – and whale meat.

Enter the Grindadrap, the Faroese whale hunt. Whaling in the Faroe Islands has been recorded since the 13th century. It occurs differently from ‘traditional’ whaling, still practiced by Japan, Norway and Iceland, happening in the open ocean (i.e. out of sight) with the aid of whaling boats.

In the Faroes, pilot whales are hunted and killed on the beach. When a pod is sighted, whales are driven to the shore and beached, before being struck with a spinal lance that severs connection with the brain and kills them in a matter of seconds.

When a whale is struck with the spinal lance, its arteries are also cut, causing massive blood loss – the fjords waters turn deep red. The images you’ve all seen associated to the Faroe Islands on the media, that brought rise to a number of conclusions that – more often than not – are lies. These statements all come from messages we’ve received during our stay in the Faroes.

Whales are slaughtered for fun – meat is not even harvested

That’s a lie. Pilot whale meat harvested during the Grindadrap is distributed for free to the Faroese community, making up for approximately 25 per cent of meat consumption in the archipelago. You will rarely find ‘grind’ (Faroese for pilot whale) on restaurant menus, or in supermarkets.

The Grindadrap is a spectator sport

A reader even went as far as defining the Grindadrap a ‘spectator sport held for tourist entertainment’ – and our guide, who previously worked as in the tourist info office at Vagar airport, told us that often tourists asked him when the next Grindadrap was going to be held. The Grindadrap is, in fact, an opportunistic hunt, occurring only when a pod of whales is sighted from the coast. This only happens a handful of times a year, and some years it doesn’t happen at all – hence, it cannot be predicted.

The Faroese are driving pilot whales to extinction

Pilot whales, the main species killed during the Grindadrap, are not actually endangered. They are listed as ‘Data Deficient’ by the IUCN Red List due to the fact that it’s not clear whether there is only one pilot whale species or several. However, the IUCN Red List also states that ‘the harvesting of this species for food in the Faroes and Greenland is probably sustainable’.

The IUCN Red List website reads as follows:

‘Although this fishery has been actively pursued since the 9th century, catch levels have apparently not caused stock depletion, such as occurred off Newfoundland. Catch statistics exist from the Faroes since 1584, unbroken from 1709 to today, showing an annual average catch of 850 pilot whales (range: 0 – 4,480) with a cyclic variation according to the North-Atlantic climatic variations (Bloch and Larstein 1995). The IWC, ICES and NAMMCO have concluded, that with an estimated subpopulation size of 778 000 (CV=0.295) in the eastern North Atlantic and approximately 100 000 around the Faroes (Buckland et al. 1993; NAMMCO 1997) the Faroese catch is probably sustainable.’

faroe islands grass house

Whales are cruelly hacked to death

With the introduction of the spinal lance, whales are killed in approximately one second. The lance severs the connection of the spinal cord and major blood vessels to the brain, causing immediate death. Only people in possession of a specific hunting licence are allowed to join the Grindadrap and kill the whales. To get that licence, people have to follow a course that teaches them how to operate the lance to kill whales in a fast and pain-free manner, in compliance with Faroese animal welfare legislation stating that animals should be killed as quickly and with as little suffering as possible.

Faroese brains are poisoned by mercury

In 2008, the chief medical officer of the Faroe islands warned the population against consumption of pilot whale meat, since it has been shown to contain toxic levels of mercury, PCBs, and environmental poisons. The department for public health went on tho recommend whale meat to be consumed in moderation and never by pregnant or breastfeeding women and children. This fact has been used by groups spreading Grindadrap hate to further the myth of ‘mentally-deficient, mercury-poisoned savages’. Health issues related to mercury consumption have indeed been recorded in the Faroe islands, but definitely not to the extent of causing widespread intellectual impairments.

Not to mention that the high levels of mercury and other pollutants are related to ocean pollution, which also happens as a result of our industrialised, urbanised lives – considering that the Faroese have very little industry, save for some fish-processing plants and salmon farms, their contribution to ocean pollution is marginal at best.

On top of that, it has been argued that historically, consuming whale meat (before it became contaminated) was actually beneficial for the health of Faroese islanders. Centuries of isolation produced a population with little genetic diversity, susceptible to genetic diseases like SPCD (1:1000 incidence in the Faroes vs 1:100,000 worldwide), causing a defect in the transportation of the amino acid carnitine into the plasma membrane, leading to a variety of conditions that may result in death.

The German doctor and scientist Ulrike Steurwald, who has done SPCD research in the Faroe Islands for several years, has argued that the meat-rich Faroese diet (including sheep meat and whale meat which contain high amounts of carnitine), may have protected many Faroese people from a sudden death at a young age from SPCD. The scientist found evidence of elderly people surviving the disease without taking carnitine supplements – evidence that their diet is what helped.

Children are exposed to cruelty – The Faroese should be tried for child abuse

Children are not allowed to join the Grindadrap – as I said before, only adults in possession of a valid hunting license can access the beaches where the hunt occurs. Images of children posing next to the whales have been published by media in the past, leading people to believe that innocent Faroese children are coerced by their cruel parents kill.

Just stay with me for a minute. Imagine a child growing up in an Italian farm and witnessing the annual pig slaughter. Or an American child going deer hunting with his father. Would you refer to these two instances as ‘child abuse’? Some may argue that children should be kept away from all this, whereas others may say that it’s good for children to learn where their food comes from.

This is just an example of double standards and hypocrisy, result of disinformation and online hate. The IUCN defined the Grindadrap is a sustainable practice. Whales live free up until the moment when they are killed, which happens in a quick and pain-free manner, regulated by the authorities. When I questioned people sending me hate messages, asking them why so much hate, their sole answer seemed to send me graphic pictures and a litany of ‘nastybastardssavageskillersassholes’.

And when I asked these people why they didn’t think visit the Faroe Islands to see the truth with their own eyes, NOT A SINGLE PERSON said yes, actually, that’s what should be done before casting judgement. Clearly sitting in an air-conditioned apartment, eating industrially-farmed meat, fruit and veg flown from the opposite side of the globe, consuming tonnes of plastic then jumping in a car to drive 1 kilometer is ok, but living like the Faroese is not.

And they’re savages, so they don’t deserve a say.

faroe waterfall
Amazing Faroese waterfall

The Faroese people, Nature and Sustainability

Now let me tell you two shocking things I discovered during our 6 days in the Faroes.

First – the Faroese do their best to live in harmony with nature. Driving around the islands you won’t see many people, but plenty of sheep and geese, grazing and wandering around freely. A far cry from the packed industrial farms where most meat in the rest of Europe and the US come from. These animals live under the wide Atlantic skies, eating pollutant-free grass and plants, with ample space to move about – and they’re finally killed in a fast and humane manner, not herded in a line and kept in cages for hours on end.

Seabirds are still hunted, but their numbers are monitored closely. For instance, I mentioned to one of our guides on the bird island of Mykines that when we visited Iceland 10 years ago, puffin was often found on menus.

‘We don’t eat puffin anymore’ our guide replied. ‘We noticed puffin numbers declining, 7 or 8 years back, and hunting was banned’.

You’ll be hard pressed to even find a single piece of litter around the islands – rubbish is carefully sorted for recycling, and ferries carry the excess rubbish from smaller outlying islands to Tórshavn where it’s disposed of.

faroe green coast
Have you ever seen a more spectacular place?

Second discovery – there are Faroese that disapprove of the Grindadrap, simply because it’s no longer necessary for survival. On the other hand, some agree with it, considering an important part of their heritage and culture. Others – probably the majority of people – don’t have a strong opinion one way or another.

During Ólavsøka celebrations in Tórshavn on our last night in the Faroe Islands I asked half a dozen people what they thought about the Grindadrap.

‘For some people it is important, but it’s not important for me’ said a man that – accidentally – was eating whale blubber.

‘So why do you eat it’, I asked.

‘Why shouldn’t I eat this, and eat chickens raised in a cage in Denmark?’ he replied.

Another man said ‘there are people that strongly advocate in favour of the Grindadrap, and many locals that are against, and the two groups often clash. Most people are somewhat in the middle. Extremes are never good – neither one way nor the other. What we need is dialogue’. 

However, most Faroese seem to have one thing in common – anger, for the way they are being demonised by the media, and for how marine conservation groups are carrying on their struggle against the Grindadrap.

Volunteers from Sea Shepherd and other organisations arrive in the Faroes without making an effort to learn about Faroese culture, ready to cast judgement, post graphic images and insult locals on social media rather than trying to sit at a table and engage in beneficial talks.

I met a guy who hosted Sea Shepherd volunteers at his home for six months, until he had enough of them talking about ‘bloody fjords’, ‘savages’ and ‘killing beaches’ every day.

‘I was all in favour of what they stood for – he said – but I couldn’t take them disrespecting my people and my country, day after day’.

faroe beach
Hello sheep!

Hypocrisy and Media Sensationalism

What’s this warmongering attitude going to achieve? Nothing – if anything, it’s counterproductive.

The Faroese authorities have discussed banning Sea Shepherd from entering the country. Tradition-loving Faroese become even more strongly attached to their heritage and willing to continue the Grindadrap. Activists call locals ‘savages’ because killing whales is ‘morally wrong’ – locals tell activists that they should mind their own good business and not tell them what to do on sovereign territory.

Activists post graphic pictures that are picked up and shared by mainstream media, often without sharing details or facts. People reason with their guts, attributing meaning to what they see – like in the case of this picture.

A man stands post-Grindadrap, smiling, his shirt, arms and t-shirt covered in blood.

Here are some of the comments (sic):

  • THAT would slaughter a human just as gleefully > I have No doubt. It is sociopathic as are its’ tribe mates.
  • These ppl are sick we shud hack there heads off????????
  • Just look at these people, they are mentally deranged!
  • Lol looks like a pedophile

Let’s just stop and think for a second. How can one assume that he is smiling because he actually enjoys the act of killing? Maybe his friend out of the frame called out, or somebody told him a joke, or whatever. In any case, calling people ‘sick’, ‘sociopath’, ‘mentally-deranged’ and even a pedophile (beats me), or calling for their death, does nothing but perpetrating the circle of hate and disinformation about the Grindadrap.

However, the circle of hate and sensationalism works very well for both media and marine conservation groups. The latter share highly emotional material with the former, used to boast circulation and engagement. In turn, donations (necessary to support up to 500 activists every summer in the Faroes) pour in – a win-win situation, right?

This leads to the Faroe islands being demonised for a practice considered to be sustainable and humane, simply because it is bloody, and happens in plain sight.

At the same time, Japan still practices commercial whale hunting under the disguise of ‘scientific research’. Iceland hunted endangered fin whales until this year – this summer the hunt won’t take place, but it hasn’t yet been banned altogether. In Norway, whales are also routinely hunted – yet, demand for whale meat is so low that it is fed to animals on fur farms.

When I questioned people sending us hate messages why they didn’t do the same with people in Japan, Norway or Iceland, no one seemed to be able to give us a conclusive answer.

I’ll tell you the reason why – because these countries kill whales far out at sea – out of sight and out of mind, as the saying goes.

faroe island village
Village across the fjord

Conclusions – Faroe Island Grindadrap and the Future

Reading this article, you may think that I’m in favour of the Grindadrap. As a matter of fact, I am not, because it is no longer vital for the survival of Faroese people. The meat is no longer suitable for human consumption, making whale kills totally unnecessary.

However, after having met and spoken with the Faroese people, I see their point. They’ve been ridiculed and demonised by media worldwide, portrayed as mindless savages and targeted by endless, unjustified hate.

One of the people I spoke with in Torshavn said ‘what we need is dialogue’ – I totally agree, and believe dialogue and education are the answer.

A proud people like the Faroese will not take kindly to hundreds of activists descending on their country with an aggressive attitude – but trust me when I say that the Faroese are not brain-damaged by mercury consumption, but they’re kind and hospitable people, who will go out of their way to make you feel at home in their country.

Yet, the Grindadrap will not stop because of Sea Shepherd or other activist groups. Their attitude is counterproductive – in this Op-Ed: From the Faroese Perspective article, a former Grindadrap hunter reports that ‘when he reads defamatory, degrading, hurtful and misleading comments, he sometimes wants to show solidarity with the whalers and go hunting again.’

The same article reports a quote by a Canadian whale and dolphin advocate, Leah Lemieux. ‘If you want the hunters to make friends with the whales you first need to make friends with the hunters.’

The Grindadrap will end when the Faroese people will want it to – pure and simple.

Promoting ecotourism could be the answer – a positive campaign, organised by the whale-watching industry and International Fund for Animal Welfare has had success in shifting local attitudes about whaling in Iceland, and in the Faroes themselves killer whales once also used to be hunted, but are now viewed with fascination, as a possible tourist attraction.

faroe cliffs nice weather
Faroe islands cliffs on a rare day with nice weather

Tourism still makes up for a small percentage of economy in the Faroes. Calling for tourism boycotts simply won’t make a difference. Educating locals about using whales to create jobs and new sources of revenue might.

We strongly urge people to stop and think before sharing yet another bloody Grindadrap picture on their social media and insulting the entirety of Faroese people with unjustified hate. This attitude won’t change anything – it will only further more hate.

Changing perspectives doesn’t happen overnight, especially when talking about a country that has been isolated for centuries and is strongly rooted to their millenary traditions.

Dialogue, education and listening to one another does. This is why we strongly urge our readers to go and visit the Faroe Islands, to talk to the Faroese people and get to know their point of view. And also because it’s one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever seen.

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Faroe 1

Faroe pin 2




42 thoughts on “Faroe Islands Grindadrap – Understanding Faroese Perspective”

    • Thanks so much Claudia. I hadn’t planned on writing this post, I thought that so many had been written already, but after having received so many bad comments I thought I had to share what I had learnt. I’m really glad you liked the piece, thanks for taking the time to read it.

  1. I love this post! Well researched, rational, and personally experienced. I really didn’t know anything about the Grindadrap, but I’m very familiar with activist groups using inflammatory rhetoric to gain support. If more people would actually make the effort you did to research things themselves, this world would be a more harmonious place. Thanks for the engaging read!!

    • Thank you Nathan! I’m really glad you took the time to read it. As much as I appreciate the work Sea Shepherd and other groups are doing, this kind of confrontational attitude won’t change anything. I really hope more people will take the time to learn about the Faroes and the Grindadrap before sharing hate-filled posts.

  2. Boycotting a country because of something like this is silly. An argument could be made to boycott at least half of the countries of the world (probably all) due to some sort of human rights or other cause.

    If people really want to stop this they should be promoting the Faroe Islands for the reasons that you state.

    but the Grindadrap shouldn’t become a tourist attraction though. I hope it stays as a local custom that is private.

    • Hi Kirk! Thanks for reading the article and taking the time to comment. I totally agree with you. Every country has some questionable practices/traditions – the only difference is that the Grindadrap has been paraded on all kinds of media, often with no explanation. Don’t worry – it will never become a tourist attraction. The Faroese are way too proud and will never allow that to happen. Plus, it can’t be predicted, so people won’t know a pod it’s coming until it’s there already.

  3. This is an excellent, comprehensive, and objective piece.
    I’m a vegetarian, but I can see the points on both sides here, and I can respect that you reported objectively despite the fact that, as you yourself said, you don’t personally agree with Grindadrap.

    • Hi Nick! Thanks for reading the article and taking the time to comment. I’m glad you appreciated the point I was trying to make – I’ve done my best to be as objective as possible. Thanks!

  4. This is excellent journalism! Well researched and objective. I am a vegetarian, so obviously don’t agree with any kind of hunting, but I am open-minded enough not to treat a whole culture as “cruel, retarded” or worse because of that. Trying to understand just shows you that you are willing to learn about other cultures, even if you don’t necessarily agree with certain customs. Very well written!!!

    • Hi Els! Thanks for reading and for comment. I totally agree with you. It was sad to see the Faroese being demonised for something that the rest of the world does too – only with animals that don’t get the love that whales do. Thanks again!

  5. Words cannot describe how much I love this! Rare are the “activists” who actually take the time to listen to the other side, without imposing their points of view, which is really damaging to the points we try to make. Absolutely, dialogue is what’s needed. I have to admit I knew nothing about the Grindadrap before reading this (besides, of course, those controversial Facebook photos) but this helped shed some light. And I can see both sides. I can’t say I support it, but neither can I demonize those who take part in it, as they clearly have their reasons. These things are never black and white!

    • Thanks Nikita. It’s really sad because I’ve donated to many of these organisations, and support what they do most of the times – but the way they carry on this fight is just counterproductive. I hope more people will think before sharing Grind photos in the future and place blame on an entire country. Thanks again!

  6. I’m so proud of you my friend!! This is one of the best post i’ve ever read… ever… It’s not a simple post … mind, wisdom and heart speak in this article!!
    You’r a great travel writer!!! I’m impressed!!
    Well done and go on like this!!!

  7. This is a really well-written article. I can see it from both sides. As a vegan, I obviously oppose hunting of any animals. With that said, I wouldn’t boycott traveling there. If I boycotted traveling anywhere where animals were hurt or killed…well, I wouldn’t have anywhere to live or go. I definitely admire what activists do. It’s hard work and it’s important to bring to light the atrocities that happen in the world. If we didn’t have anyone fighting the good fight and taking photos or video of the things that happened to animals, the world mostly wouldn’t know what went on. We wouldn’t be able to put pressure on those to stop it.

    However, I believe in leading by example and not by being forceful. In my experiences, people tend to shut down if you’re negative and present an opposing view in a negative light. They won’t listen, even if you’re in the right. It’s always a good idea to present alternate solutions in a dialogue that’s working with people and not against them.

    At the same time, with those who argue that because it’s a tradition that it should be honored….well, there are so many examples of “traditions” and the ways we used to do things that were horribly wrong… I’m all for progress and moving with modern times. If it’s not something that’s necessary for survival, it would be nice to see the Faroese people honour the whales in new ways. Although they might not be looking for a boost to their tourism, it would be lovely to see them conduct whale watching tours and honor their past traditions in whaling museums…while recognizing that it’s no longer necessary to hunt them.

    It’s also a difficult situation to walk into a foreign country and try to change their way of life. But, it would be nice to work with the people of the Faroe Islands to respect both the whales and their traditions by leaving the Grindadrap in the past. With some people living there that oppose it, perhaps we’ll eventually see this happen. I hope so.

    • Thank you so much for your comment Lauren. I agree with you on all levels. I also respect the work of activists – but the fact is that here massive generalisation is happening. The whole country is being demonised for the actions of a few. I disagree with the way the struggle is being carried out, and the hate that is being spread as a result.
      Other than that, I would so much love for the Grind to end. I just wish people would try to understand, and engage in beneficial talks. The idea of whale watching is brilliant, and I hope it will see the light in the future.

  8. I really have to disagree with your article. This planet is past the point where human traditions and pride mean anything. They really don’t. We blew it. The world owes us nothing.

    Additionally, they are a Danish colony and as such should abide by European law on whaling. To my mind there should be no budging on that.

    The fact they are isolated, no still not buying it. The canaries are isolated, the western isles (the distance from Scotland is small but the cost of travel there is phenomenal in comparison) … These places don’t need to eat such animals.

    Their argument that their wild meat is ok as in Europe we eat caged animals also doesn’t fly. There is a huge movement in much of Europe to push for humane practices and better animal welfare. One of the key elements of this is to reduce the stress of the slaughter, this isn’t done here. Animals considered less sentient (I call bullshit, but anyway) show a fear of death, whereas cetaceans are on par with us. They see they mother, daughter killed and would feel
    It as we do.

    Beyond that, oh we keep doing it cos we don’t like people telling us not to. Seriously, grow up. That’s play ground level antics, and the Danish government need to be stepping in to deal with the legality of allowing it to continue.

    To say other hunts are not given the same publicity, are you serious? The US government has been putting pressure on places like Iceland, shipping companies have been refusing to carry the meat, there has been international outrage and the drive hunts in Japan, and legal wranglings over cetacean capture in Russia. Did you just include that paragraph to make out these people are being hard done by!?

    i could go on, but as much as hitting seals around the head, wearing fur, the dog meat festival in China, battery hens, breeding crates Are now seen as categorically wrong, however you dress it up, slitting the throat of a mother in front of a daughter based on some ancient tradition, on an island that can ship food from anywhere in the world is still, categorically wrong.

    What you are saying in your post (to my mind) is like saying, oh we know it’s not great that that restaurant over there won’t serve black people (or gay people or women etc) but moaning about it won’t help, pop in and have a cup of tea, if you do they’ll listen to you tell them the error if their ways.

    Cos that’s always been a successful approach through history hasn’t it ?

    • Dear Ruth
      First of all thanks for taking the time to read and comment.
      Let me go through your points one by one.
      1) The Faroe islands are not part of the EU. Should they abide to EU law, being a Danish colony? I don’t know, I am not an international law expert. Are you?
      2) I do state that Faroese people don’t need to eat whales, don’t I? However, when asking locals about the Grindadrap, most of them associate the hunt to food, not just tradition. I am just reporting their point of view here.
      3) There are indeed plenty of other hunts or instances of animal abuse in the media, but they don’t get nearly as much press as the Faroese. Basically in people’s mind Faroes = Grindadrap, does Spain = Corrida, or Japan = Whaling? Not really. I am referring to my own experience here. During our week in the Faroes I received an average of 50 messages a day slandering the Faroes and insulting us for going, yet we have visited China, Japan, Russia, Iceland, Spain and many other countries and never got a single message. Go figure!
      4) AND NO, WHAT YOU ARE SAYING IN THE LAST PARAGRAPH IS TOTAL BULLSHIT. It has nothing to do with ‘popping over to the restaurant that refuses to serve black people and tell them the error of their ways’. Sorry. I’ve been to the Faroes. I have listened to people that agree with activists in principle tell me about their anger for the way activists disrespect the WHOLE COUNTRY AND ALL ITS PEOPLE. Did you read the end of my article and what actual local people said? Do you still think the way activists are behaving is beneficial? I think not.
      I am not condoning the Grindadrap in this article, something I state quite clearly. I am trying to explain what locals think and feel.
      Without understanding, there can never be change.

    • How do you explain, with your reasoning, that the EU recently had a trade embargo against the Faroe Islands?
      Would a “union” embargo a part of itself? How unionised is that?

      I fail to understand your logics, but I’m more than interested in hearing your point of view.

      • Thanks for adding to the discussion Eyðbjørn. For some reason, all people pointing fingers against the Faroese have never been there – which is exactly the point I was trying to make.

    • Faroese person here:

      1) The Faroese have never justified grindadráp by calling it a tradition. The only people who use that argument are Sea Shepherd like organisations.

      2) Nope, there is nothing illegal going on with the hunt, and EU law don’t apply to the Faroes. I can give you links to the specific law and paragraph if you like. This is also an argument that Sea Shepherd uses to demonize the Faroese, but as we’ve said for years: If it’s illegal then why don’t you try it out in the court? Sea Shepherd is a multi million organization, so they can deffo afford it.

      3) We are indeed isolated and our main source of food are the surrounding birds, whales, fish and sheep. We just happen to value all animals equally, and don’t see any good reason why a whales life is superior to that of a sheep, bird or a pig.

      You cannot compare the climate in the Canaries to the climate in the Faroes, but it’s 100% legit to mention that the Faroese have a habit of eating local, sustainable, free range food. Hence the Faroese aren’t supporters of unnecessary pollution caused by bananas etc. being shipped from the other side of the world.

      4) The stress that the pilot whales experience compared to the ones you mention are second to none. The pilot whales live their entire lives in the wild and when they get killed it takes 1-2 seconds. (Yup you can see death cramps, but chop a head of a chicken and it’ll run around with no head… but it’s not alive)

      5) There are HUGE differences between the whale hunts in Iceland, Japan and The Faroes, as the Faroese hunt is non commercial. And isn’t it Ironic that a nation like the US are telling other people how to behave? The US has been busy killing innocent people for decades on false grounds, and they have animal farms going on which are based on extreme animal cruelty. Mc Donalds, KFC, Burger King… nuff said!

      6) Why should we buy food from other countries? Why is a Danish pig, a NZ sheep or Argentinian cattle any better than locally hunted, sustainable free range meat? If you prefer animal cruelty where animals suffer in tiny cages their entire life, then it’s deffo the way to go… also if you want to pollute the world even more. Otherwise it’s an extremely bad idea.

    • Ruth, it would be actually in your favour if you would actually lean something properly about the Faroe Islands before starting criticising it. It is definitely not a “Danish colony”, but a separate country who happens ti be in an union with Denmark and Greenland. Wiuld you call Wales or Scotland … colonies? I’d rather see that, especially in the presence of a Scot :))

      Then you compare with the Outer Hebrides. Yes, the ferry fares are incomparable, but then you get into Tesco fir example where everything costs up to 7 times lesser than in the Faroes. Been there, seen withmy eyes. Not only, but an airplane ticket from the Faroes to Copenhagen and back can costs up to £450 for one person, while the ferry can easuly go up to £1500-1800 for a family with two kids and a car. And you call this not being isolated?

      Just saying.

    • If I may, there has been talks about including the Faroese into the Danish for getting them into the EU. With some saying as they are danish they should be counted as such and others which I agree with saying if that happens they are just 50000 more danes.
      It would kill the uniqueness of the Faroe People.
      I wish you people would just for once show the same respect to other human cultures that you ask those cultures to show to the animals.

  9. Its funny how this post has only pictures of the hills and beautiful landscapes, when we are talking about the [excesive and “fun”] death of sea creatures. Im wondering: if you’re talking about this “tradition” [hunt necessity], ehy not post this images??? Im talking about those red pictures, not the green ones, in other words, the bloddy sea and and whales being killed? Double standards right?
    Talking abot double standards, you compare this “tradition” to the pig being killed by Italians, im an italian myself, and theres no comparisson, the pigs we kill are on farms, where theres a control of this animals, theres a control of how many we raise esch year, there’s a control around my farm with my neigbors to decide who kills the pig this summer or the next one.
    You also mentioned the deer hunting in U.S. once again, this hunting is during “hunting season”. It doesn’t mean that if a see a deer in backyard i can shoot just beacuse im low on meat. I can’t shoot the deer beacuse it’s not on the hunting area and is not the season. Once again, they shoot the deer beacuse theres a control pf how many there are in the area. There has to be a balance in nature, you cannot go ahead kill an animal whenever it shows up in your “doorstep”. If we kill too many animals of one type in one area, theres going to be another area with other animals that suffer the lack of these whales. Al nature is conncected, thats why we have animal farms, to not disturb the balance of nature. Im sure in this islands you can get fish just by throwing the reel, since its so “isolated” as you mentioned. Why not build fish farms????
    Another point i desagree with you: the way of killing these whales and children involved. Once again, here in Italy we shoot the pig [in the head] with a pistol, 100% sure kill, no pain, no excesive blood. In these case we go back to “tradition”: is it possible that in 2016 that are still using spears??? In times before guns, sure, we [humans] killed with spears, knives and other stuff, but come on, there are other ways to kill an animal than with a freaking spear through the spine.
    CHILDREN….”no children can kill without a liscence”. As you mentioned there are tons of videos on the web. In more than one video i’ve seen CHILDREN with KNIVES/BLADES [NOT SPEARS] killing these whales, maybe they didn’t do the initial cut, but sure they use their blade to cut the fin or other parts of the body [while the “dead” whale is still moving].
    i really dont know how to finish my comment/opinion about this post.

    • Hey Andres
      Thanks for reading and commenting. Let me go through your points one by one – you see, it took me an awful long time to write this post, and to find reputable sources to back up my claims.
      1) I didn’t use Grindadrap pictures first of all because I didn’t take any – it’s not a matter of ‘Double standards right’, it’s a matter of not having rights to share the ‘red’ pictures but just the ‘green’ ones.
      2) You talk about ‘control’ and ‘hunting season’, but I am linking to a very reputable source that states pilot whales are NOT ENDANGERED (after 1000 years of hunting them) and the Grindadrap is probably a sustainable practice. Do you know how many times the Grindadrap happens every year? Only a few, not every day. As to your long-winded argument about the balance of nature, feel free to share sources that prove your claims. Your points are just based on hearsay – unless you can find some sources maybe? Relevant to pilot whales, and not just from the Sea Shepherd site please.
      3) I do explain that killing the whales with the spears is actually a humane way to end their lives. So why should they use a gun? Spear does not = savages – I also explain that the killing is highly regulated and CHILDREN ARE NOT ALLOWED TO KILL WHALES. Yes, they are allowed to go and stab them with knives, but after they’re dead.
      Feel free to let me know more of your thoughts. You see, I’ve come to the conclusion that people never like to admit they’re wrong, but some of the things you claim have already been explained in the article. You can also write to me in Italian, I am Italian as well 😉

    • I am from the Faroe Islands, and I can tell you we don’t hunt every pod of whales that we spot. When we deem that we have hunted enough, so there is enough for everyone we stop hunting for that year.

    • When you shoot an animal, you need to cut the trought after, to make sure that the blood gets out. Otherwise the blood goes in to the meat, and destroys the meat.
      We use a spear to get the blood out as soon as posebel, and thereby get the best meet as posebel.

  10. Only thing thats not true is that the harvest IS actually necessary. if it stops you get a chain reaction.
    because all that whale meat has to be replaced with other meats. And since they already have a overload of sheeps (one of the few animals that can acually survive there) they have to import more meat from other countries which is even worse for the environment. cows produce waste and the shipping pollutes the ocean.

    Plus, the people LIKE the meat and blubber. saying they dont have to eat it is like saying you dont have to eat cow because we also can eat pig.
    aslong its sustaineble this hunt is way better for the environment than keeping lifestock.

    • Hey Richa, I was just saying that eating whale meat is no longer necessary because of the high levels of mercury. I totally see your point – it’s a complicated matter and I’ve done my best to explain what I learnt over this week, but of corse there’s a lot more to it than just my article.
      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment though.

  11. Richa has a good point. Let me support her good argument and other Faroese arguments in this article as well:

    This is to all you people, who are against the killing of pilot whales in the Faroe Islands, because you think this practise is totally unnessecary in the 21th century and ought to be something that should have been left behind long ago. How can anyone in their right mind kill such magnificent creatures.

    Well, you have to understand the circumstances. Note that the Faroese people are totally dependent on their ocean resources and that whaling in the Faroe Islands is done for food only. Not for any other reason, even though you might have heard otherwise.

    It IS a food tradition, yes, just as it is a food tradition in most of the world to eat cows and chickens. But it is NOT done FOR tradition. It is done for food only.

    The killing method looks gory, because there is no way for the blood to go into underground sewers, like in farm animal slaughter houses. But the slaughter of pilot whales is not nearly as gruesome as it is often described by anti-whaling activists. The whales are certainly not “hacked to death” or anything like that. Don’t believe these exaggerations.

    The Faroese people kill pilot whales in a sustainable way, which means, that they don’t take more than the pilot whale population can handle, which is only 0,01% of the whole population in the North Atlantic on average in a year. Pilot whales are not an endangered species according to NAMMCO, which is the highest authority in these matters.

    The meat and blubber is shared in the community – for free. It is forbidden for business companies to hunt whales and sell them on a commercial basis. This is what makes the big difference between Faroese whaling and whaling in other countries, which is solely done for commercial purposes and for profit.

    However, pilot whale meat and blubber does still have a great significance for Faroese economy, because it represents a quarter of the meat consumption in the Faroes. If the Faroese would stop eating this food, they would have to replace it with other foods. They could certainly not replace it with crops from local agriculture with only 2.14% arable land available on the islands and a harsh subarctic climate, which makes it very difficult to grow anything edible on the islands. Notice the treeless landscape.

    Fruits and vegetables don’t just magically appear in the supermarket. They have to be imported – and for what? The Faroese have to earn money by using the resources available. The Faroese would have to catch a lot more fish – or kill a lot more other animals in their (ocean) area, in order to export these goods and thus be able to afford importing more of other foods, like the fruits and vegetables, foreigners seem so eager to force the Faroese to eat more of.

    Either way, animals will have to be killed in order for the Faroese to survive in their environment, which is quite inhospitable most of the year, because there is nothing else to live of there.

    You have to understand the context – how everything is woven together.

    If all killing of animals suddenly would be prohibited all over the world, it would not be possible for human beings to inhabit all arctic and subarctic areas in the world, This would have dire consequences for all the people living in these colder areas, because everyone there is dependent upon the killing of animals – fish, seals, whales, bisons, reindeer…. either for their own consumption or for export, so they can afford to import fruits and vegetables. People of the north could not afford any fruits or vegetables, unless they exported killed animals of some sorts. See?

    Millions of people would starve and would have to be deported from these cold areas to more southern areas with warmer climate, where crops can be grown, which would cause total chaos in the world, now that we already have a refugee crisis where people also flee from the south to the north.

    Is this the scenario you wish for? What about just letting the people in the north live their lives in peace the way they have been living it peacefully for centuries. They are not the monsters you perhaps imagine them to be. They are just trying to survive and adapt to their environment as best as they can.

    If you are really interested in understanding the Faroese and their food culture, which for many outsiders seems incomprehensible, you can enlighten yourself by reading these articles: http://heinesen.info/wp/blog/category/english/pilotwhaling/

    • Hey Elin
      You’re totally right, thanks for adding to the argument. I mention several of these points in the article as well – the ones related to the fact that whales are killed humanely and in a sustainable manner, meat is shared, whale meat is 25% of Faroese meat consumption, fruit and veg are imported and so on.
      I only say at the end I *personally* disagree with eating whale meat because it has been declared unfit for human consumption and may ultimately be harmful for health, so I don’t see any point in eating it. I wouldn’t eat something potentially toxic. However, this is just my personal opinion.
      I totally agree when you say that people in the north are not monsters and should be left to live their lives. I despise all the hate and dread they get day in day out, and I also don’t see any difference between eating a whale, a chicken or a cow. The Grindadrap topic is a lot more complex, in this article I’ve just tried my best to present what I’ve learnt during our week in the Faroes. Thanks for adding to to the article.

  12. I am sorry but reading this article makes me wonder how much the Faroes Tourist Lobby paid you for writing it.

    First of all: in this world there is nothing like (“probably” the source you mentioned said) sustainable meat. Nor is there a need to eat meat at all. Yes, maybe other food is expensive in the Faroes Supermarkets, but you forgot to mention that they have the highest income per head in comparison to other countries in Europe and that they are not isolated at all: the supermarkets are stocked with erverything, just like ours.
    Then you talked about the hunting license. It takes less than an hour to get this and it is not a warranty that the Hunter is able to kill painless and within seconds – there is enough material available on the internet that shows whales struggling for up to 15 minutes. And dont forget that they are hunted to exhaustion before, sometimes they are hunted for hours with motorboats, they get run over and are seperated from their families. They are in stress and fear and not swimming peacefully in the ocean the moment before they are killed. One after another is slaughtered, they see and hear their families die and have to swim in the blood of their beloved for hours.
    Many are pregnant. And maybe they are not endangered jet (nobody really knows) but would it not be a good idea to stop killing them before it is too late?
    Also there is a lot of material in the internet that shows children at the killing scene. They are taking part, perhaps they are not cutting the whales spines, but they witness and are educated that it is okay to kill.
    I could write more, but Ruth and Andres have summarized the facts earlier in their comments.
    Your proposal is to not offend the Faroes People by telling them to evolve and to stop – in my opinion it is my first obligation to tell the Faroes AND Norway AND Iceland AND Japan AND yes even the farm and the slaughterhouse in my city to stop this cruelness and insanity! Animals are not ours to kill. And especialky cetaceans must be prontected because of their important role in their ecosystem. The sea is as important for the survival of our planet as the rainforest.

    • Vera, I am not deleting your comment because I am in favour of free speech, but please note that:
      1) I was not paid by Faroe Islands to write this article. Why do you feel the need to judge like that?
      2) I am aware there is a lot of controversy regarding this issue. If you have evidence of what you state, please share sources with me. I am happy to update my article to include more views.
      3) Pilot whales have been hunted for 1000 years and are still not endangered. I guess that makes the hunt sustainable? Did actually you read my article? Especially the last few paragraphs?
      4) As for the eating meat, this goes way beyond the point I am trying to make – I am not going to start another argument, it is neither the time nor the place.

  13. Excellent blog post!! Revealing the truth. Love it.

    Please check out my blog when you get the chance.

    Kind Regards,


  14. Hi sorry I kind of accidently stumbled on your Article because of the whole shitstorm with Tyr in germany and such. That being said it is beautifully written and it makes me really want to visit the Islands rather soon :D. And thanks for an objective opinion!

  15. I start to read your article and I could almost believe it if I didn’t see so much B.S. Really kids are not exposed to this massacre? Funny then to see kids looking at it in many videos and photos… Maybe you gonna tell me its a montage?!?. And also the spinal lance thing that take only fews seconds for the animal to die…I mean come on they already have hard time in a slaughterhouse to kill animals in a fast way and “YOU” gonna tell me that in the water with those pilot whales moving plus the waves they are all dying fast and peacefully? I have been thinking in the past year about who we are on this planet to decide who can die and who can live. Why do we choose witch animal is our pet and witch one gonna be on our table tonight. You might have a cat or a dog maybe you love horses why are they more valuable than those who get kill on this beach. Even yourself do you really think that you are worth more than those whales? What does your life bring to the world more than a sheep would?

    • Hey Cedric, if you scroll through the comments you’ll see I’ve already addressed all these issues, which have also been explained in the article. Discussing whether or not eating meat is correct is besides this point, and al this YOU YOU YOU is frankly annoying. Take care!

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