Wednesday, October 2, 2019

The custom of hunting bloody whales on an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean

Whaling at Faroe island.
Faroe island fishermen only need 10 minutes to hunt a herd of fish, then slaughter them right by the bay to get meat and fat.

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Several days of the year, the waters around the Faroe Islands are tinged in red from the blood of hundreds of whales. This sight was an inevitable part of the Grindadráp custom of the people on the Danish autonomous island, near Norway and Iceland.

Grindadráp has existed since 1584, when the first inhabitants of Faroe hunted whales for meat, according to Condé Nast Traveler. Unable to grow anything but potatoes, they depend on the sea, and pilot whale meat has been an essential part of daily meals since Vikings.

Whaling can occur at any time of the year. When they spotted the whales swimming in the bay, boats approached and cornered them. Waiting close enough, the fishermen throw straightly an iron hook into the water ejection hole of the fish to pull them ashore. In the blink of an eye, they cut off the spinal cord of the whale with a special knife mønustingari. The fish completely lost consciousness and died after a few seconds.
Whaling at Faroe island.
The sea is dyed red with whale blood on the island of Faroe. Photo: AFP.
Fishermen only need about 10 minutes to hunt a school of fish. Hundreds will be butchered right on the banks of the bay, providing tons of meat and fat to 50,000 people on the island. If they do not store enough for the long winter, they must import meat, such as buying vegetables, fruits, etc. daily from elsewhere, at a price 10 times higher than agricultural products sold anywhere in Europe.

Although the Faroe residents have maintained Grindadráp for hundreds of years, the bloody coastline with densely fish bodies is still shocking to far-flung guests. Alastair Ward, from the UK, visited the village of Sandavágu on the island on the occasion of the whale hunt last year.

"Even the children joined, pulled the ropes and jumped on the fish. We just sat there watching it all in silence, indignation but could not do anything else," Ward told the BBC.

The young man was concerned about the hunting methods of the local fishermen: "The whale cries are terrible. They never die in a humanistic way."
Whaling at Faroe island.
Whaling is a common activity of the Faroe community, and the fisherman will be distributed as many as the whales they caught, at no cost. Although modern diets have changed, many Faroese still stick to tradition and consider whale meat to be a masterpiece. Photo: AFP.
However, local officials insist that Grindadráp is not cruel, as people only use specialized whale hunting tools and ensure the animals die in seconds to minutes.

Páll Nolsøe, a spokesman for the Foreign Affairs and Trade Agency on the archipelago, said: "Whaling is part of the Faroe's daily life. The whaling here that recognized by international is fully sustainable ".

Faroe's law stipulates that whaling takes place only in licensed bays. People must fully report the number of whales caught and are not allowed to commercially hunt whale meat.

There are an estimated 778,000 individuals in the northeastern Atlantic Ocean, including 100,000 individuals around the archipelago. In particular, people on the island hunt about 800 on average a year.
Whaling at Faroe island.
Animal rights activists have long criticized Grindadráp as unsound customs. Photo: AFP.
However, according to Pal Weihe and Hogni Joensen, the island's chief medical officer, whale meat is not suitable for human digestion. People who eat whales or dolphins are also at risk of health problems, due to the heavy metal content like mercury that builds up in their meat and fat.

The Faroe government has not strictly controlled its consumption, though it claims that whale meat hunted is not for commercial use. Whale meat is currently displayed in many supermarkets, serving diners in restaurants and even sold to visitors at seafood markets.

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