Almost 1500 dolphins were killed on Sunday in the traditional hunting of the Faroe Islands, which provoked criticism even among defenders of the ritual. Activists advocating an end to hunting say it was the biggest massacre in the history of the autonomous territory of Denmark.
It is a tradition that has been going on for hundreds of years in the Faroe Islands, an autonomous territory that belongs to Denmark, but which still causes revolt annually. According to the BBC, 1400 white-faced dolphins were captured and killed last Sunday, which is generating controversy in the region.
The territory captures every year 600 whales on average, according to government data, these figures are much lower in the case of dolphins – 35 in 2020 and only 10 in 2019. But the recent capture of 1400 dolphins in a single day was considered excessive and left a huge trail of blood in the sea, which hundreds of people watched on the beach.
The group of nearly 15,000 dolphins was lured into the shallows at Skálabotnur beach on the island of Eysturoy and was killed for hours. The carcasses were then distributed to the population for consumption.
However, a local revealed to the Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet that it would be impossible for the population to eat all the meat. “My guess is that most dolphins will be thrown in the trash or a hole in the ground. We should have quotas by district and we shouldn’t kill dolphins”, he revealed.
“it was a big mistake. When the group was found, it was estimated that there were only 200 dolphins. Someone should have known better. Most people are in shock at what happened”, says the president of the Whalers Association of the Faroe Islands, Ólavur Sjúrðarberg, who emphasizes that hunting was authorized and that no laws were broken.
Even people who normally advocate hunting as a part of their culture have expressed outrage at the situation. “It makes me sick to see this kind of thing“, said a commenter on the Facebook page of a local television station, quoted by The Guardian.
“I’m ashamed to be Faroese,” said another commentator, who described the massacre as “completely terrible.” As the former president of an association that defends hunting, Hans Jacob Hermansen, states that what happened “destroys all the work that has been done” to preserve the tradition in the Islands.
Danish Deputy from the Faroe Islands, Sjurdur Skaale, visited the beach on Monday to speak with the inhabitants and considers the ritual to be “cool but not popular” and that people “were furious and shocked” at the scale of the massacre. However, the politician believes that the hunt can continue.
“From an animal welfare point of view, it’s a good way to provide meat – and much better than keeping cows and pigs locked up,” defended Sjurdur Skaale.
Sea Shepherd, a group advocating an end to hunting, says Sunday’s deaths were “the largest massacre of dolphins or pilot whales in the history of the Islands“.
Alex Conelissen, captain and global head of Sea Shepherd, considers it “absolutely horrible” to see a attack on nature of this scale during a pandemic.
A marine biologist from the Faroe Islands, Bjarni Mikkelsen, compared the scale of this Sunday’s hunt to that of other years. The previous record had been in 1940, with 1200 animals killed, followed by 1879, with 900 and 1873, when 856 mammals were captured.