Everything seemed to indicate that the dolphin hunt this Sunday in Faroe Islands it would go on as usual.
The “grindadráp” (a term in Faroese that refers to the hunting of marine mammals, mainly whales) is a tradition that has been practiced for hundreds of years and that today is legal in this remote autonomous territory of Denmark.
SIGHT: They slaughtered 180 whales during traditional ritual in the Faroe Islands
“When the pod was found, they estimated there were only 200 dolphins,” Olavur Sjurdarberg, president of the Faroe Islands Whalers Association, told the BBC.
Locals’ boats drove the so-called white-flanked dolphins to Skalabotnur beach in Eysturoy. There they were killed with knives.
Only when the slaughter began did they discover the true size of the herd: they were more than 1,400 dolphins. All died.
“It was a big mistake,” said Sjurdarberg, who did not participate in the hunt and acknowledged that it was an excessive killing.
“Someone should have noticed,” he said. “Most people are shocked by what happened”.
The Faroese government says that an average of 600 pilot whales are caught each year, cetaceans that can weigh more than 3,000 kilos.
White-flanked dolphins, on the other hand, are caught in lower numbers: they were 35 in 2020 and 10 in 2019.
Supporters of whaling and dolphin hunting claim that it is a sustainable way to collect food from nature, in addition to an important component of their cultural identity.
However, animal rights activists disagree and consider these killings to be cruel and unnecessary.
Images from Sunday’s dolphin hunt show the animals struggling to swim in shallow, blood-red waters as hundreds of people watch from the beach.
The corpses were then brought ashore and distributed among the locals for consumption.
Bjarni Mikkelsen, a marine biologist from the Faroe Islands, said that according to records, never have so many dolphins been killed in one day there.
The previous record, he said, was 1,200 dolphins in 1940. It was followed by 900 in 1879, 856 in 1873 and 854 in 1938.
That is why the magnitude of the massacre this Sunday caused commotion and even aroused criticism from groups involved in the practice, something that is unusual.
The national reaction was “bewilderment and shock due to the extraordinarily large number”Said Trondur Olsen, a journalist with the Faroese public broadcaster Kringvarp Foroya.
Still, according to Sjurdarberg, the capture was approved by local authorities and no laws were broken.
“Legal but not popular”
Killing dolphins is “legal but not popular,” said Sjurdur Skaale, a Danish MP for the Faroe Islands.
Skaale visited Skalabotnur Beach on Monday to speak with locals. “People were furious”, He assured.
Still, he defended hunting, which he said was “humane” if done the right way.
That implies that the hunters have an official training certificate and use a specially designed spear, which cuts the spinal cord of the whale or dolphin before cutting the neck.
With this method, it should take “less than a second to kill a whale”, afirmó Skaale.
In his opinion, “from an animal welfare point of view” this is “much better than keeping cows and pigs incarcerated” and then eating them.
However, Sea Shepherd activists argue that the killing of dolphins and whales “is rarely as rapid” as the Faroese government claims.
“The hunts of ‘grindadráp’ can become prolonged and disorganized massacres”Says the group.
“Pilot whales and dolphins can die for long periods in front of their relatives while stranded on sand, rocks, or just fighting in shallow water.”
*Constructed by Joshua Nevett de BBC News.