WHY SHOULD THE GRIND BE BANNED?
We are calling on the Faroe Islands to ban the Grind immediately and permanently because there are strong, evidence-based reasons to do so based on ethical and environmental concerns. They are:
The Grind is Cruel & Unethical
Once a pod of pilot whales or dolphins is spotted, the hunters will drive them to one of the 26 designated killing bays, often for hours, using a deafening wall of sound from their powerboat engines and jetskis to scare the animals. As the pod is forced into the shallow waters, Faroese men waiting on the shoreline drag the pilot whales to shore with ropes and blunted hooks inserted in the animals' blowholes, the killers then attempt to sever their spinal cord with a lance. However, sometimes cetaceans are simply dragged ashore by hand and killed with knives. The killing is supposed to be painless and quick, but Sea Shepherd has recorded instances where the killing of individual whales or dolphins has regularly taken over 2 minutes, and in the worst cases up to 8 minutes. The spinal lance used on pilot whales, even if used correctly, only paralyses the animal which then, unable to struggle, bleeds slowly to death. On average, the killing at grinds takes around 13 minutes. There are no regulations specifying which animals can be killed or how many, so every animal in the pod is killed, including pregnant mothers, juveniles and weaning calves.
There is no evidence that the Grind is 'sustainable'
With long finned pilot whales being the most commonly slaughtered species during the Grindadrap hunts - it is problematic that their numbers remain undetermined and poorly studied. This has led to the Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic, North East Atlantic, Irish and North Seas (ASCOBANS) and the Conservation of Migratory Species convention (CMS) never having classified the grind as sustainable. Faroese government officials have likewise admitted that there has never even been a sustainability study for white sided dolphins in Faroese waters. This is especially troubling, as the September 12th 2021 hunt saw the slaughtering of almost 1500 dolphins, nearly ¾ of the Japanese government’s quota for the six-month dolphin capture and killing season in Taiji, Japan (home of the "Cove"), and double the number of dolphins actually killed over Taiji's 6 month season.
Conservation must be prioritised over tradition
Even with a slew of Faroese regulation around the procedures of the Grindadrap, it is evident that these have been in vain. Although legislation strictly governs where pilot whales and dolphins can be killed and how they are to be driven to land, pulled to shore, and killed, there are numerous examples of these animals being slaughtered inhumanly. Unlike most hunts around the world, the grindadrap has no effective practical regulation, no season and no quotas which means that the grindadrap cannot even be said to be sustainably managed - not that it should even continue in the 21st century due to the inherent cruelty involved. The September 12, 2021 hunt in which 1428 Atlantic white-sided dolphins were killed is illustrative of the ineffectiveness of Grind regulations. Not only was the initial calculation of the pod size wrong, which led to a lack of people waiting on the shore to kill the animals, prolonging the animals' suffering, but the majority of killing was carried out by clearly inexperienced younger Faroese men using knives to hack the animals to death, sometimes ineffectively with live animals being thrown on top other dead dolphins just to make space on the beach to kill even more.
When it comes to weighing animal protection over cultural heritage and tradition, there is a growing precedent of favouring the ethical treatment and conservation of animals. This is evident with the UK's Hunting Act of 2004, which saw the banning of fox hunting. Similarly, in 2019 the European Court of Justice ruled in favour of the Flemish (Belgium) regional government's provision requiring animals to be stunned before being slaughtered, essentially banning the Islamic and Jewish practices of animal slaughter. Grindadrap has fundamentally evolved from its 15th-century roots. Originally, wooden rowing boats and rocks were used to drive the whales to shore, where they were killed in the shallows with spears. That was when whale meat was an essential source of food. However, with the Faroese fisherman now using jet skis and motorboats, the fairness of the hunt is increasingly and disproportionately tilted in favour of Faroese hunters. Similarly, the argument around sustenance and lack of access to food are not evidence-based, with the country possessing a lucrative fishing and tourism industry and a GDP per capita of $64,225, similar to other Scandinavian countries.
It is puzzling why the Grind remains prevalent even though the consumption of whale and dolphin meat is no longer necessary for survival. This is especially true given the severe side effects of eating whale and dolphin meat caused by the high concentration of mercury, Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) and persistent organic pollutants (POPs). A major peer reviewed study showed that whale and dolphin meat consumption has been linked to impaired cognition and has increased the risk of Parkinson's amongst Faroese residents. In 2011, the Faroese Food and Veterinary Authority released a recommendation advising adults not to eat pilot whale more than once a month, and women and girls planning on having children to abstain entirely.
Eating whale and dolphin meat is harmful to human health
The Grind is poorly regulated and governed
The Faroe Islands undeniably has a unique relationship with pilot whales that stems multiple centuries. As has happened in many other cultures where conservation has been prioritised over tradition, there is an opportunity to recognise this important connection and allow it to live on in other forms. The following case studies provide examples of when countries - some of which face far greater food insecurity than the Faroe Islands - have prioritised conservation over tradition and have chosen to become protectors not killers.
In Kenya, traditional tribes, such as the Maasai, have transitioned from lion killers to lion protectors. Locally relevant conservation programmes encourage locals to monitor species, protect food sources and deepen their connection with nature. As a result, areas where this programme take place have seen a 6x increase in lion population density since 2004.
Similarly, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, community ownership of forests has helped to safeguard the Grauer gorillas from poachers who hunt the species for bushmeat. Improved farming techniques and crop diversification have also helped to reduce the local population's dependence on traditional food sources from the forest.
In the remote Portuguese archipelago of the Azores, whale hunting was once an important cultural activity for locals. Since it was banned in 1982 (and its effect in 1986) whale watching has become highly popular in the Azores and now represents one of its main tourist attractions.
The #stopthegrind campaign is a multi-year initiative that will include a variety of activities that increase the pressure on the Faroe Islands to ban the Grindadrap. We will regularly launch new initiatives and share information – and the success of our campaign relies on the engagement of individuals. If you are interested to get involved, please provide your contact details to receive campaign updates and information about specific initiatives. More to come, so watch this space!
UK GOVERNMENT ACTION
We are starting with a call for the UK government, given its COP 26 leadership, to show environmental leadership and condemn the killing of dolphins and Pilot Whales in the Faroe Islands. We will be expanding the call for support from other governments as the coalition grows.
We are calling on the European Union, and Denmark in particular, to take action against the Faroe Islands through diplomatic pressure and a review of trading relations.
We are calling on international retailers that sell Faroese products to immediately suspend their sale of salmon and other fish products to consumers that originate in the Faroe Islands until the Grind is suspended.
Thinking about visiting the Faroe Islands? We are asking people who are planning to travel and visit the Faroe Islands to reconsider their visit and choose another destination until the government agrees to permanently ban the Grind.
UK-FAROE ISLANDS FTA
The UK and the Faroe Islands signed a Free Trade Agreement in 2019. The UK is the Faroe Islands’ most valuable export market, with the UK importing £582 million worth of goods and services, and exporting only £34 million to the Faroe Islands. UK consumers are, unknowingly, supporting the Grind by purchasing fish products from the Faroe Islands. The UK government has considerable economic leverage and must use it to pressure the Faroese government to ban the Grind. We are asking the UK government to commit to a trading relationship with the Faroe Islands that includes both economic and ethical considerations, and suspend its Free Trade Agreement with the Faroe Islands until the Grind is banned.