Sitting on the rocks watching the pod move closer to the bay, a jet ski rushed passed joining the boats being used to push the pilot whales and dolphins to the beach it struck us just how far removed from a “tradition” this could be given the extensive use of modern technology, the innocent lives about to be lost stood no chance against this modern as opposed to traditional activity.
As the pilot whales approached and the locals rushed into the water the expressions of joy on their faces looked more like those of a football fan rushing the field to celebrate their team winning a tournament, rather than those of someone about to brutally end the life of multiple sentient beings. As a whale was pulled from the water in front of me by multiple men that appear range from as young as 15 through to late 40’s or older, the cries broke out. The sound of fear and panic was clear for all to hear, yet fell on deaf ears of the participants who continued to laugh and take pleasure from the brutality. Watching in horror as whale after whale was dragged from the water, crying and fluke kicking out to try and escape a death that appeared neither compassionate, humane or respectful. What really struck me was the chaos and the lack of organisation or compassion these “trained” professionals displayed at the expense of the Dolphins and Whales.
Numerous times those designated to make the fatal blow in a humane way failed, sometimes leading to 3, 4 or even more attempted kill blows; horrific to witness and devastating for the defenceless whale whose last moments of life were filled with pain, suffering and terror. Witnessing this brutal macabre scene is soul destroying or anyone with even the smallest level of compassion for a sentient being. The participants scrambled over bodies of those recently slaughtered to drag the next family member through the blood of their relatives toward their own bloody death. While further up the shore those watching on continued to smile, laugh and enjoy the brutality before them. It is difficult to comprehend the disconnect between the two scenes.
As the number of brutally slaughtered whales mounted on the beach, attention turned to those still in the water; at this point I noticed the young children on the boats. Already aware of how to terrorise the graceful pilot whales and dolphins at such a young age, at that moment the dread and fear that future generations will not have learnt from the past and will continue to slaughter the marine life until the oceans have been damaged beyond repair.
Participants could be seen exiting the water, blood stains covering their faces and a look of joy and satisfaction on their faces, reaffirming my belief that the Grind is nothing more than a blood sport akin to that of the gladiator battles in roman times…surely society has moved on from those times?
As the slaughter ended its amazing how quickly those that looked on and watched this “entertaining” afternoon dissipate, leaving those designated to move and butcher the whales. As I walked round from the bay to the harbour where the bodies were being taken, there pilot whales and one dolphin broke our hearts once again. Somehow escaping the death that met their family members, these compassionate beings were circling in the harbour where their relatives bodies were being taken, refusing to leave the waters despite the obvious risk to their own lives; such is the level of dedication and commitment to family that these amazing cetaceans have! What lessons we as a society could learn from them and what a different world we would live in if we could!
Upon arriving at Hvannasund it was clear the locals were expecting whales to be driven here. We divided up the team but stayed within sight of each other and I was the first to reach the killing beach. Straight away I noticed the ropes led on the ground for around 100m along the beach with hooks just beyond the waterline. Soon after I spotted the pod on the fjords horizon. You could feel the atmosphere change in the area right away, the participants starting to get into groups near the ropes laughing and joking like this was some fun event.
On arrival to Hvannasund, we could see a build up of cars up and down the road and a large number of people around one of the main bays. There was a sense of excitement about them with a lot of males with knifes heading down the slipways to the bay, all looking out to the water. In the distance out to the sea you could see a line of boats of all different kinds heading towards the bay. It was hard to see any finns or splashing at first. A couple of older men were laying out the ropes and hooks along the bay as more and more people gathered on the sides, some with wet and dry suits on some with knifes some just there but all with excitement building as the boats came closer. By this time, families of all ages and tourists had filled the area.
As we were set in place, the boats with children of all ages were shouting and hitting the sides of the boats, rounding up the pod of whales and forcing them to the bay.
The Slaughter!! - It happened extremely quickly, the hoard of Faroese monsters rushed in to the water with hooks and long ropes in hand! The Whales were of different sizes, some absolute giants, some the size of a tall human adult, in a different world, to see one that close would of been a privilege, they are magnificent creatures, beautiful grey/black bodies with a long white marking underneath which forms the shape of a heart that sits just under their bottom jaw, they have pointed golden teeth and big human like eyes that when looking at you, you see wisdom but unfortunately that only lasted a short time as all I could see in them was panic and fear!
The sound of the whales calling out, to what I think was each other was gut renching..as the first whales were beaching, I watched as the young calfs pushed themselves against there more larger adults, mother or father I not the sure but I knew they were looking for protection as any other child would do. I stood there, 2 foot in front of me was a peaceful giant that has had no intention of harming any human and was only there on that bay because a tradition for bloodlust had put it there was crying for help, asking me to step in front of this barbaric human that pushed a large hook through its fluke and more of them that proceeded to pull it more on to land, as it thrashed about trying to move back a barbarian ran to it with a medieval tool, placed it on its head...and pushed! Her tail rose up in the air, then slapped the water, the whale was still. Another man quickly cut through the whales large head and neck like it was butter, he used a large knife that looked very ceremonial and he was clearly proud of! Blood poured from the whale, not green or blue but a thick red, just like ours a manuals blood. The peaceful being that had swam the oceans with little or no knowledge of man had been taken from its home, from this earth because of human tradition. I moved over to look in to the whales eye, I could see nothing now, only what looked like a long line of tears that ran from the corner of its eye and down to its mouth. The last moments of that beautiful creatures life had been panic and fear. This was an intelligent being that knew when it felt the hook and steel press against its head that its fate was sealed and at that moment I believe it wept! Just as I would if I was in that whales place.
Hundreds of young Fulmars killed in Hvannasund
Pilot whale tagging by the Faroese at Bøur not only involved a stressful 3.5 hours of a pod of 20-30 pilot whales being chased by boats - but one of the five pilot whales tagged on release was found to be almost dead from injury or stress and was brought back to the bay by a Faroese RIB and was killed and butchered
8th June at Hvalvík - 11 Atlantic white-sided dolphins
14th June at Sandur - 4 Long finned pilot whales
30th June at Borðoyarvík - 26 Long finned pilot whales
24th July at Tórshavn - 51 Long finned pilot whales
30th July at Sandavágur - 135 Long finned pilot whales & 1+ Bottlenose Dolphins
30th July at Tórshavn - 38 Long finned pilot whales
31st July at Húsavík - 22 Atlantic white-sided dolphins
16th August at Hvannasund - 87 Long finned pilot whales & 12 Atlantic white-sided dolphins
21st August at Sandavágur - 75 Long finned pilot whales
29th August at Hvalba - 4 Northern Bottlenose whales
5th September at Bøur - 1 Long finned pilot whale
11th September at Hvalvik - 210 Atlantic white sided dolphins
16th September at Norðragøta - 12 Long finned pilot whales
21st September at Syðrugøta - 51 Long finned pilot whales