You may be familiar with Sea Shepherd’s former campaigns opposing the drive hunts and mass slaughter of pilot whales and dolphins in the Faroe Islands from Discovery’s “Whale Wars” spin-off “Viking Shores.” Now, the organization has unveiled a new campaign that they say will be their largest Faroes operation to date: Grind Stop 2014.
The slaughters known as “grinds” (from the word “grindarap” or whale kill) involve the whales or dolphins being driven to the shallow waters of a bay, where they are pulled to the shore by ropes, or hooks jammed into their blowholes before being killed.
Sea Shepherd explains why they feel the hunts are cruel as well as illegal, “Faroese men plunge blades into the whales’ bodies until each cetacean’s spinal cord is severed, rarely on the first attempt and more often it takes several minutes for the whale or dolphin to die. The pursuit and beaching of these animals is extremely terrifying and stressful for them (in the UK, and also across Europe, the harassment of dolphins and whales is a crime in itself) and the killing looks just like what it actually is — a frenzied massacre of innocents.” The organization says no members of the pods are spared, including mothers, pregnant females and babies, adding that “the entire cetacean family is killed and the waters of the Grind bays turn blood red for hours.”
In their announcement of the new campaign, Sea Shepherd reports that 1,306 cetaceans have already fallen victim to the hunts this season, in just 63 days. Most recently, pods of 430 Atlantic White-Sided Dolphins and 120 pilot whales were slaughtered. The Sea Shepherds compare the hunts to the infamous slaughters in Taiji, Japan, but while Taiji’s slaughter takes place in one killing cove, the Faroese slaughter takes place in 23 different bays, making the killing hard to prevent.
Still, Sea Shepherd claims success in their former Faroe Islands operations, and reports zero kills during their presence in the islands in their 2011 “Ferocious Isles” campaign. The new campaign, led by Sea Shepherd UK’s Robert Read, will be their first time back in the Faroes since that time. The Shepherds say their efforts will include “public education, land-based investigations, media relations, deterrent patrols, government relations, celebrity involvement, non-violent interventionist tactics and education of the local eco-tourism industry, among other tactics.”
Read says, “The Academy Award-winning documentary, ‘The Cove,’ may have turned the international spotlight on the bloody carnage of dolphins brutally slain in Taiji by Japanese fishermen. But on the edge of Northwest Europe there are also regular drive hunts of whales and dolphins just as needlessly destructive, equally barbaric and perhaps even more merciless in our very own ‘Taiji of the North’ — The Faroe Islands.”
“2014 will mark three years since Sea Shepherd has made its presence known in Faroese waters. The last time we patrolled there, no whales or dolphins were killed on our watch. Our clients need us — it’s time to return,” Read says.
Sea Shepherd adds that while the Faroese say they hunt the pilot whales for meat, and Faroese law requires that the meat and blubber from the slain whales be divided amongst local residents, some of the meat ends up in restaurants where it is consumed by tourists. Other remains are discarded back into the ocean. The group has previously found pilot whale remains underwater. Faroese officials have also warned against the consumption of pilot whale meat for certain people, like women of child-bearing age and children, due to contamination by “mercury, PCBs, dioxins and DDT derivatives.”
Updates on Grind Stop 2014 can be found on the campaign Facebook page.