The Denmark Dolphin Slaughter

by Ashton Felts

There has been extreme amounts gore in the last few weeks on the Faroe Islands. On August 8th, 107 Calderon dolphins were slaughtered in Sandavágur. On August 11th, 21 were butchered in Leynar. On the 13th, 135 lost their lives in Húsavík. The grind, as the slaughter is called, has a recorded history since 1584. The grind is initiated when the fishermen and/or ferries offshore sight the dolphins. The dolphins are driven into a bay with boats and even jet skis and pulled up onto a beach with a hook in the blowhole. Then, the spinal cord is cut with a knife.

The sea is being stained red with all of these slaughters. This has been going on hundreds of years, and still, a lot of people (including me) can’t understand why anyone would allow or want these slaughters to occur.

Several slaughtered dolphins on the shores of the Faroe Islands

Several slaughtered dolphins on the shores of the Faroe Islands

The Grind

It’s said that the grind was conducted for food and tradition. Those who participate say that it’s exciting, and provides opportunity for people to break up their daily routines and gather with friends and neighbors from the outside. So, it appears that people treat this to be a sport, or “right of passage”. Apparently, enough people have complained; soon, wannabe dolphin killers will have to pass a test before they can participate in the bloodshed. The Minister of Fisheries announced that as of May 2015, all persons taking part in the slaughter must take a course in the laws and correct procedures relating to the grinds, and possess the relevant license to kill. They will get training in the use of grind tools that will be permitted as of 2015, nostril hooks and spinal lances; the ability to recognize death signals (not suffering, as that is irrelevant to the killers) of the animals; and be familiar with all legislation before they can participate.

The first grind last year took place on July 21st, when 125 dolphins were killed. All of the animals were killed, but because it was too dark, the cleansing had to wait until the next morning. By that time the corpses had already started to rot and most of the dolphins were discarded, killed for no reason. Erwin Vermeulen of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society said that on October 25, 2012, an attempt to tag 36 dolphins went terribly wrong. The disoriented dolphins got stuck in the mud and ended up screaming on the beach. Officials couldn’t be reached, and the government didn’t allow them to be killed, as it is illegal to kill tagged dolphins. Only several hours later in the night, when it was decided that the animals couldn’t be saved, the locals were given permission to slaughter them. This is a perfect example of needless torment and suffering that cetaceans have to endure before they are brutally killed.

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While there may be animal rights activists all over the world, I’ve only heard of fourteen on Faroe Island that have made their voices heard. Fourteen animal rights activists have been detained trying to stop the controversial dolphin hunt. The activists were detained on a Saturday when attempting to save a pod of 33 dolphins as the mammals were driven to shore to be killed by waiting hunting parties. Lamya Essemlali, President of Sea Shepherd France, said “The 14 have been under arrest since Saturday, and three of our boats have also been seized,”. The group detained included six Sea Shepherd members on shore during one of the massacres and eight who were on the three small boats near the island. After the arrest, the hunt unfortunately was resumed.

What’s confusing to a lot of people, is why activists are being arrested but the people brutally killing these dolphins are being treated as if what they are doing is without consequence. What about the population of these animals? If they are killed off into extinction, some of the food chain will undoubtedly be off-balance. Every animal in this world plays a specific role in their food chain, and for every animal that goes extinct, there will be another in danger of being next in line. It would be a different story if the dolphins were being killed in smaller numbers; they could regroup and repopulate. However, these animals are being killed in significantly large numbers, such as groups of 30 and 40 at a time.

There could have been a time when killing the dolphins was beneficial to the townspeople; they could have starved. The dolphin has once been described as a “Gift From God”, due to it’s meat and blubber. In today’s time, however, there is no evidence that the population of the Faroe Islands are starving. While they say they slaughter for the food, it’s for the taste. Would it be considered a delicacy then? If so, that’s what it would be. A delicacy, and not a necessity.

Hopefully, there will be people that ask more questions about the reasoning behind slaughtering these creatures, and whether it’s truly necessary.