Grindadráp – A Closer Look

Hopefully, everyone is familiar with the images of blood-red water. Every year hundreds of pilot whales are rounded up in selected bays and killed in the “Grindadráp”, traditional pilot whale hunts on the Faroe Islands. Year over year the same pictures, and every time I’m confused again. Why the bloodbaths? For the first time, I took a closer look at the subject instead of just screaming outraged.

Faroeses people take part in the Grindadràp, the annual pilot whale hunt on the Faroese islands. Pictures is courtesy of Jan Egil Kristiansen

All the amazing pictures in this blog post courtesy of Katie Currid and Jan Egil Kristiansen.
Thank you very much!


Without social media, I would not have noticed that hundreds of pilot whales are being encircled and killed again just these days on the annual pilot whale hunts called “Grindadráp” on the Faroe Islands. I only found out about it thanks to Sea Shepherd. Somehow, while browsing Facebook, I ended up with the famous marine conservation organization. Founded in 1977 by Captain Paul Watson, Sea Shepherd has made it its mission to take direct action to protect the world’s oceans and their inhabitants, and in particular to combat poaching, illegal fishing and animal cruelty.

What Is The Grindadráp?

Sea Shepherd of course, taking action against any kind of whaling, also rejects the traditional catch of pilot whales on the beautiful Faroe Islands. This tiny, autonomously managed archipelago is part of the Kingdom of Denmark and is located in the North Atlantic. Fishing and thus whaling is part of their history and heritage and is culturally closely linked to the islands and their inhabitants. Due to the barren landscape and the harsh climate, meat and fish make up a large part of the Faroese diet. The pilot whale hunt is a centuries-old tradition. The first pilot whale hunt was documented in the year 1584. Not only pilot whales fall victim to the yearly hunting season, but also one or two other species of dolphins. Looking chaotic at first glance, the Grindadráp is subject to strict rules.

The Sighting Of The Whales

There is no fixed time window for the Grindadráp (grind = pilot whale school, dráp = killing / slaughter) on the Faroe Islands. The hunt usually takes place in the summer months between June and October. If the sighting of a school of pilot whales is reported, as many ships as possible set out to the reported location. Then an attempt is made to shoo the pilot whales with the ships into a bay where the animals are locked up. If whales can escape, they must not be pursued. The Grindadráp is not allowed to take place in any cove, but only in one of 23 selected bays (Hvalvàgir) along the Faroese coast.

Grindadráp – A Bloody Affair

Then the part of the hunt begins, the bloody images of which go around the world anew every year. The pilot whales are driven close to the beach, where the animals’ spinal cord and carotid artery are severed with special spinal lances (Mønustingari). The animals are dead pretty much immediately. Great value is placed on the animals so they suffer as little as possible. This is even stipulated by law. A lot of thought and research goes into the killing process, as can be seen in this document. The observation that the whalers run around in a bloodlust to kill as many whales as possible is therefore likely to be wrong. None of the animals should suffer unnecessarily. There is no time to waste. The logical consequence of the killing method is that a bay turns blood red during the Grindadrap. Nevertheless, the pictures are intense and impressive.

What Happens To The Whale Meat?

Important points for me come from the whalers themselves. They say that the problem is not the colour of the water, but that mankind is simply no longer used to the sight of slaughter. This due to the industrial processing of meat and fish. “I prefer to eat whale meat from an animal that has lived in the wild all its life than chicken raised in a cage in Denmark.” said one whaler. If you believe the majority of the reports I have read, every single usable part of the whale is consumed. The meat obtained from the Grindadráp is not sold, but distributed, including in supermarkets. The distribution is subject to a hierarchical system. This hierarchy ranges from the person who sighted the whales to hospitals or people suffering from poverty. In contrast to other whaling nations such as Japan or Norway, the meat is not exported. It remains on the Faroe Islands. The remnants of the whales are returned back into the ocean, where they are of use to other marine life.

Is The Grindadráp A Necessity?

The question now is – am I suddenly in favor of whaling? No, absolutely not. All whaling is out of date. I don’t care which kind of whaling we’re talking about, man no longer needs whale meat in his diet. Nevertheless, after my research, I think that the pilot whale hunt in the Faroe Islands contains many important points that are completely forgotten in this day and age. That is the respect for the animal and sustainability. The people who take part in the Faeroese pilot whale hunt move much closer to nature than the end consumer in a supermarket somewhere in Europe, who treats himself to a finely prepared and packaged salmon fillet, shipped from the other side of the planet. Blood has also flowed for the fish and meat in the supermarket. It just happens behind closed doors. And many of these animals, unlike the Faeroese pilot whales, have never lived in freedom. Some of them have never even seen daylight.

What Now?

Pati and I indulge in seafood from the local fishermen every now and then. The meat we eat still comes off the shelf in the supermarket. Nevertheless – a question that I keep asking myself is: Can you still justify the consumption of meat and fish these days? I cannot give a definitive answer to that. This is beyond the scope of this blog post and ultimately we all have to make that decision for ourselves. But when I catch, kill, gut and prepare a fish myself, I think: That’s how it has to be. This way it is sustainable and correct.

What do you think on this topic? We look forward to hearing your opinion. Shitstorm in 3, 2, 1 …


6 Comments

Ein weiterer Aspekt eurer guten Überlegungen und Fragen wäre die Nachhaltigkeit (natürlich nicht für Vegetarier) Der Grindwal soll ja nicht gefährdet sein. Die ähnliche Frage stellt sich auch bei der Fleisch und Milch Produktion in der Schweiz; oft wird übersehen dass auf der Weidewirtschaft keine andere Landwirtschaft möglich ist . Dh für mich als Nichtvegetarier besonders gut auf die Herkunft (etc) des Produktes achten und (im Gegensatz zu früher) einen bewussten und stark reduzierten Verbrauch pflegen. Ja und auch mir ist die industrielle Fleisch/Fisch Produktion ein Greuel aber ebenfalls bewusst ist mir unsere privilegierten Ernährungsmöglichkeiten.

Ja, das ist ein guter Input. In der Schweiz haben wir das Privileg, dass wir uns praktisch uneingeschränkt aussuchen können wo unsere Lebensmittel herkommen. Hier in Mexiko ist das einiges schwieriger.

Thanks for writing this interesting blog post! I totally agree that humans are no longer used to the sight of blood and slaughter. Outrage at what happens in the Faroe Islands is probably unjustified. Instead, people should be outraged by what happens in slaughterhouses and the industrialized meat industry every single day. The suffering of millions (billions) of animals and the horrible impact on our environment. Imagine if we had to kill our own chickens, cows and pigs. I bet we would eat far less meat! It is hard to kill an animal, even a fish. Thinking about the impact of meat and fish consumption on the environment has led us to be 95% vegetarian for the past year. Killing our own fish feels like the most sustainable way to eat an animal. I bet if everyone cut down just a little bit on industrialized meat and fish consumption, it would reap great benefits for our planet.

I don’t think the outrage is unjustified. In the end it’s slaughter of animals. People will and have always reacted very emotional on that topic. You are pointing out a very important idea that I also have been thinking about a lot. Only eat meat and fish when I can kill it myself. I think for most of the meat I would think twice.

Gut geschrieben….trotzdem eine sinnlose Tradition! Vielleicht wäre eine Reduktion des Fleisch- und Fischkonsums sinnvoller als jährlich hunderte Grindwale zu schlachten. Aber das ist nur meine persönliche Meinung.

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