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Annual Ritual Sees Hundreds of Whales Slaughtered in Denmark, Pictures Spark Outrage

On 29 May, 145 pilot whales and seven white-sided dolphins were killed in Torshavn bay and images of the slaughter triggered outrage on social media.

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Updated:June 3, 2019, 5:23 PM IST
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Annual Ritual Sees Hundreds of Whales Slaughtered in Denmark, Pictures Spark Outrage
The sea turns red after the annual bloodbath in the Faroe Islands, Denmark when hundreds of whales are slaughtered for food as part of tradition that dates back many centuries | Image credit: AFP

The sea turns bloody red as an annual ritual in Denmark’s Faroe Islands sees locals kill hundreds of whales.

On 29 May, 145 pilot whales and seven white-sided dolphins were killed in Torshavn bay and images of the slaughter triggered outrage on social media. But, according to a Metro UK report, this was not a one-off incident as every summer around 800 pilot whales are massacred in bays across the remote islands “as inhabitants prepare for the harsh winter months ahead.”

A government spokesperson quoted by Metro said that while the massacre may be a “dramatic sight for outsiders,” whale meat and blubber are “valued part of the national diet in the Faroe Islands.”

Páll Nolsøe, a spokesperson for the ministry of foreign affairs and trade, said “whaling is a natural part of Faroese life.”

“Each whale provides the communities with several hundred kilos of meat and blubber – meat that otherwise had to be imported from abroad. It has long since been internationally recognised that pilot whale catches in the Faroe Islands are fully sustainable,” he said.

When whales are sighted close to land, boats enclose behind and begin to herd them to the “most suitable bay” to be beached and killed, Nolsøe said.

When the animals are close enough, a hook is inserted into the blowhole to haul them further up onto the shore. A fisherman will then use a spinal lance to stab the neck and sever its spinal cord, cutting off the blood supply to the whale’s brain.

This method, Nolsøe told Mirror, ensures that the whales lose consciousness and die within a few seconds.

However, more than 276,200 people have signed Blue Planet Society’s online petition calling for a ban on hunting dolphins and whales in Japan and the Faroe Islands. The campaigners say that most hunts are “unregulated, illegal and unsustainable” and kill off “100,000 dolphins and small whales” every year.

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