Faroe Islands government to review annual dolphin hunt after international outcry

Almost 1,500 dolphins were culled earlier this week during the annual grindadráp. Credit: AP

Warning: This article contains images of dead animals

International outrage over this year's Faroe Islands' dolphin hunt, which saw almost 1,500 mammals killed, has prompted its government to launch a review.

The annual hunt, known as the grindadráp, is a local tradition that has been practised for hundreds of years on the Faroe Islands - an archipelago between Iceland and the UK.

Every year the hunt attracts widespread outcry - but this week's grindadráp sparked particular outrage after conservationists said a record number of 1,428 Atlantic white-sided dolphins were slaughtered. The extent of the cull was so large - much higher than in previous years - that it appears participants may not have been able to follow regulations to minimise the suffering of the animals.

The Faeroese government said although the hunts are considered sustainable, it will review the way they are carried out.

Faeroese Premier Bardur a Steig Nielsen said in a statement: “We take this matter very seriously.

"Although these hunts are considered sustainable, we will be looking closely at the dolphin hunts, and what part they should play in Faeroese society."

More than 1,400 dolphins were killed in a hunt less than two weeks ago Credit: Sea Shepherd

The annual grindadráp usually sees islanders in boats herd whales into a shallow bay where they are stabbed to death for their meat and blubber.

Earlier this week, a video posted on social media by Sea Shepherds showed hoards of dolphins thrashing in shallow waters while being slaughtered on the central Faeroese island of Eysturoy.

Boats can be seen forming a barrier to stop the creatures from swimming away.

According to Russell Fielding, a US academic who studies grindadráp, the tradition "has provided meat and blubber for human consumption since at least the late 16th century" and is viewed by many as a key part of Faroese culture.

Grindadráps are regulated by law and the meat and blubber are shared on a community basis.

The Faeroese government said the “whale drives are a dramatic sight to people unfamiliar with the slaughter of mammals."

However, it adds: "The hunts are, nevertheless, well organized, and fully regulated. Faroese animal welfare legislation, which also applies to whaling, stipulates that animals shall be killed as quickly and with as little suffering as possible.” The former chairman of the Faeroese association behind the drives, Hans Jacob Hermansen, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that it was no different “from killing cattle or anything else. It’s just that we have an open abattoir.”

But this year, even people on the Faeroes who defend the four-century-old practice have spoken out amid fears that it will draw unwanted attention.

Robert Read, from Sea Shepherd, said earlier this week: "For such a hunt to take place in 2021 in very wealthy island community just 230 miles from the UK with no need or use for such a vast quantity of contaminated meat is outrageous."