Pair of white sided dolphins
Nearly 1,500 dolphins were killed last weekend in a traditional Faroe Islands sea hunt.

Just because a tradition has history and deep cultural meaning, does that mean it's okay? That’s the question some are asking after 1,400 dolphins were killed in the Faroe Islands.

The traditional sea hunt was denounced by numerous marine conservation groups as needlessly brutal, as a super-pod of 1,428 Atlantic white-sided dolphins was corralled onto the beach by local fishermen in speedboats, where they perished.

Locals, however, are defending their ways, arguing that this tradition is both justified and humane. 

When historic tradition bumps up against modern ethics, which should win out?

Beaches Turned Red

The traditional sea hunt took place in the Faroe Islands, a North Atlantic archipelago and autonomous territory of the Kingdom of Denmark. The hunt - called a grindadráp in Faroese -  has been practiced for centuries. But in recent years, the Faroese government has begun strictly regulating the tradition, as they increasingly face backlash both internationally, and in some cases, locally. 

The hunt usually involves pilot whales, not dolphins.

According to a local biologist, this was the largest number of dolphins killed in one of these hunts on record, beating the previous record of 1,200 in 1940. 

The dolphins were first driven into the largest fjord on the island chain by local fishermen, then herded onto Skalabotnur beach in Eysturoy. As they breached the shore, locals began killing them with knives, turning the whole beach red with blood.

Conservation groups were outraged. “Brutal and badly mishandled," said conservationist group Sea Shepherd, estimating that Sunday’s events may possibly be “the largest single hunt of cetaceans ever recorded worldwide.”

“Considering the times we are in, with a global pandemic and the world coming to a halt, it's absolutely appalling to see an attack on nature of this scale in the Faroe Islands,'' stated Sea Shepherd CEO, Captain Alex Cornelissen.

“If we have learned anything from this pandemic is that we have to live in harmony with nature instead of wiping it out."  

Feeding the Masses

Locals defend the custom, explaining that it's not a bloodsport. A Faroe Islands government spokesperson compared it to hunting, claiming that nothing would go to waste. “The meat from each whale drive provides a large amount of valuable food, which is distributed free in the local communities where the whale drives take place,” he stated. “The meat of the 1,400 dolphins caught on Sunday has likewise been distributed among the participants in the catch and the local community." 

And one local fisherman stated that the only reason there’s any outrage over this hunt at all is because it took place out in the open. "We do [the killing] in a very humane way, using veterinarian-certified tools... The problem in the Faroe Islands is that we have a public slaughterhouse. So everyone can see what is going on."

Many have echoed that sentiment, suggesting that anyone who is outraged over this hunt and who also eats factory-processed meat – not generally known for humane conditions – is acting hypocritically.

Tradition and Ethics Collide

The ordeal has many wondering where we should draw the line when ancient traditions conflict with modern ethics. For Faroe Islanders, the annual sea hunt is highly anticipated – the continuation of a centuries-old tradition that generations of local fishermen have participated in. 

This male-dominated event has deep roots in local culture and is clearly meaningful to those who take part. 

And yet, there's no disputing that modern inventions like motorboats and mechanical rigging have made the event far more efficient and deadlier than it was in the past. 

What do you think? Do historical traditions have a place in the modern world, or are we better off letting some traditions die?

28 comments

  1. Asa William Sprague, II's Avatar Asa William Sprague, II

    Does it really qualify as a "historical tradition" if they are using modern technology (speedboats and jetskis) rather than traditionally historic methods?

  1. Nicholas J Page's Avatar Nicholas J Page

    Heavens sake.these are all God's creatures.16 years ago whilst in Jamaica I swam with dolphins and they are gentle, beautiful, intelligent animals to share their water was an honour and a privilege.Yet these idiots want to kill them.Leave them be

    1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      You should go back to Jamaica Nicholas, and Stay with the dolphins long enough to turn into one of those Jamaican mermaids I've heard about, then you can really protect the dolphins. It would help immensely if you first smoke a lot of ganga. I'm sure the dolphins will appreciate it, and even give you the key to their underwater kingdom. You might even find that you fit in better with fish.

  1. Lori Mongillo's Avatar Lori Mongillo

    Modern ethics are questionable, as well as ancient traditions. If these people have no other way to acquire food it would probably be considered acceptable, but I have my doubts that a slaughter like this keeps them from starving. I could be wrong. I don't know their circumstances. Tradition can be a lovely thing, but it can also be way out of whack, as this appears to be. Personally, I think tradition needs to go. It is a psychological pacifier for beliefs that should be viewed as tools, rather than truth. "Belief" is never truth. It is a psychological and philosophical bandaid to help us connect with a reality that no one is able to comprehend.

  1. David Arthur Lewis's Avatar David Arthur Lewis

    The only problem I have with this particular ethnic tradition is that it really amounts to genocide. They don't just harvest a few wild animals for food. They slaughter the entire pod. Every single member of that clan of marine mammals is killed. Not a single survivor. Their DNA is exterminated from the species forever. These animals are already endangered. The fact that they kill every single one is just unconscionable.

  1. Clay Serenbetz's Avatar Clay Serenbetz

    This practice is barbaric. It's an unnecessary crime against nature. What surprises me is that the Faroe Islands belong to Denmark. I would have expected them to have more environmentally friendly laws and practices.

  1. William Dusenberry's Avatar William Dusenberry

    As most of those who believe everything in the un-Democratic King James Bible already know, the Christian God killed every land animal on Earth - except those fortunate enough to be invited on to Noah’s Ark.

    The Christian God didn’t need to save the inhabitants of our oceans, lakes and rivers, so very few fish ( in this case, dolphins) died, while the Christian God murdered all of humankind— except Noah and his family.

    So, it’s possible, that now that the Christian God has found out that dolphins are the most intelligent of fish - and such intelligence has permitted them to no longer believe in the Christian God — which explains why the Christian God might be trying to get rid of all of them.

    ULC’ers, should shun the King James Christian Bible — and only use The Thomas Jefferson Bible, which can be ordered from the ULC Ministries.

    1. Jim D.'s Avatar Jim D.

      Dolphins are not fish. They are mammals.

      God did not slaughter the dolphins. Humans did.

      1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

        Some people confuse dolphins with porpoises. Regardless of that I think dolphins taste pretty good, and much better than sharks, but not nearly as good as red snapper. And personally, I don't care if I'm eating fish or mammals, as long as I don't have a hard time digesting them. And pero and gato tamales in Mexico go down just as easy as beef or pork. Ole! When they're all extinct I guess we'll have to be vegetarians. However, if we live to be that old, it would probably be for the best anyway. Ofcourse, there will always be Morning Star Farms, Loma Linda, and Boca Burgers. Bon apetit!

        1. Ilmenheru Terikson's Avatar Ilmenheru Terikson

          You seem to really fail hard at being able to walk the path toward being a better human these days Carl. These creatures possess a level of social and emotional ability that makes them no less then a human in any way that a reasoned human let alone a minister of the universe should be able to grasp.

          One of our precepts at the ULC is life, this is not life only for humans. Life for all sentient beings. Especially real followers of the ancient way of Weka, now generally called Wiccans understand this, which you have often seemed to portray yourself as here.

          And yes have managed after many years to largely eschew all meat from my diet, and consider plant life really the only viable food source for one with any real semblance of humanity.

    2. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      ULC is not a Christian sect or denomination, William. Only christians believe in any form of the bible, which is a Christian book. Some ULC ministers are christians, but some aren't. Those of us who arent don't and won't abide by anything contained in it, which is not also found in the religions and spiritual paths we belong to. Those of us who arent christians aren't going to preach Christianity. Personally, I only use the pages from bibles for rolling papers and *** wipes, and would never consider reading it.

  1. Gerardo Salazar's Avatar Gerardo Salazar

    Every year thousands of animals (bears, moose, deer, and an infinity of wild birds are slaughtered by hunters who claim this is their sport of choice, each year millions of humans are slaughtered inside their mothers wombs and apparently it is an accepted practice while billions of dollars are involved in the trade of weapons, both military and civilian, whose only purpose is to kill humans and public opinion is ok with that but when isolated islanders capture some cetaceans as food everybody cries murder and I find this attitude highly hypocritical.

  1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

    Ok for all the ones who are complaining, tell me exactly whats the difference in this and when you go and get hamburger or bacon? Cows/Buffalo/Deer/Pigs/chickens are all raised to be food. So are you saying now that this shouldnt happen?

    And take a look at the whale hunts in Washington State and in Alaska. Native Americans have been doing this for thousands of years and using the meat to feed their families, just like what happens when there is an annual season for deer and squirrel and bear and so forth. And I bet the people complaining here dont think twice about going into a seafood eatery and having their dinner brought to them live in the tank and picking the one they want. Or they eat Tuna, and yet I wonder how they would or if they would eat it again if they saw how these fish are caught and then dragged to the boat and then speared with hooks and drug up onto the boats and then cut up wile they are still alive.

    And yet they want to whine about this? Its called being a hypocrite.

  1. Pamela Kay Waters's Avatar Pamela Kay Waters

    What's the point , REALLY in taking the lives of this mammals? There are a lot of humans they could use.

  1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

    I learned as a kid in school that dolphins are fish, and porpoises are mammals that some people confuse with dolphins. Regardless of that, us homo sapien sapien erectus bi-peds are carnivorous mammals who aren't going to quit eating meat, regardless of how the animals die, or how they feel about it. You can pray for their souls if you think that will help, but not many people as re going to become vegetarians so animals can live long, peaceful lives, and not be tortured to death. If those damn critters would lay still and accept their dates their deaths would be much quicker, and less painful.

    1. Asa William Sprague, II's Avatar Asa William Sprague, II

      Sounds like you got some bad information when you were a kid in school. FYI - Dolphins and Porpoises are both mammals. Neither one of them are fish.

      1. Ronaldo's Avatar Ronaldo

        Dolphin is a term commonly used for Coryphaena hippurus, also called the mahi-mahi. It is a fish, not a mammal. The term dolphin is often used for porpoises, as well, but it is not the only definition of the term. Perhaps you are the one with some bad information, which should be easily corrected with the internet.

        1. Asa William Sprague, II's Avatar Asa William Sprague, II

          Mahi-mahi is commonly known as the dolphinfish; not as dolphin.

          I easily checked that on the Internet.

    2. Gerardo Salazar's Avatar Gerardo Salazar

      I’m sorry but your information is erroneous. Whales, dolphins and porpoises are cetaceans, give birth to living offspring and feed them with milk because they are mammals, all of them.

  1. Gary Richard Noce's Avatar Gary Richard Noce

    Sick, just sick. People kill everything beatiful, kind and vulnerable. We need to put the breaks on HARD somehow before it's too late !!!

  1. Gary Richard Noce's Avatar Gary Richard Noce

    Sick, just sick. People kill everything beatiful, kind and vulnerable. We need to put the breaks on HARD somehow before it's too late !!!

  1. Madeline Cheers's Avatar Madeline Cheers

    In my opinion, if we are claiming to be interfaith ministers, shouldn’t we be reading the Bible, Old and New Testaments, The Koran, The Bhagavad Gita, The Tenakh, etc. etc. in order to have an understanding of the most influential teachings in world cultures? Shouldn’t we be sitting with Native Elders and listening to their perspectives on their traditions? If we are to be of service to a diverse world community shouldn’t we do so with an open mind and an open heart and not judge the very people we are supposed to be helping? If not, then why did we become ministers? Just a thought.

  1. Madeline Cheers's Avatar Madeline Cheers

    In my opinion, if we are claiming to be interfaith ministers, shouldn’t we be reading the Bible, Old and New Testaments, The Koran, The Bhagavad Gita, The Tenakh, etc. etc. in order to have an understanding of the most influential teachings in world cultures? Shouldn’t we be sitting with Native Elders and listening to their perspectives on their traditions? If we are to be of service to a diverse world community shouldn’t we do so with an open mind and an open heart and not judge the very people we are supposed to be helping? If not, then why did we become ministers? Just a thought.

    1. Etha L Moore's Avatar Etha L Moore

      I read the Bible, different translations. I prefer the word for word translation of the Hebrew and Greek. I grew up with KJV and I still read and study it, because it's easy for me to find what I'm looking for in it's well-worn pages. I ve used it for 60 years. I find the scripture I want then study it using various other study guides. My religion is Christian but only because that means Chrust like. And Jesus is a man I have the utmost respect for. But I also study other religions and do not discard any teaching that teaches kindness and ethics. I am still and always will be studying and learning, If there comes a time when I have nothing new to learn , I may as well die. How boring that would be!

  1. Keith Warren Kunz's Avatar Keith Warren Kunz

    if it's for food and community needs and nothing goes to waste then they have the right to hunt, it's none of our business

  1. Etha L Moore's Avatar Etha L Moore

    I agree with Keith- it's none of our business, especially if it's legal. But..since this is a blog asking for comments.. I think if their tradition means so much to them, they should hunt them the "traditional" way their ancestors did....or someone just write a folk lore book for the area and add a poem to the dolphins. They could READ it to their kids every year, for the sake of the "tradition". Besides, wasn't the "tradition" whales? not dolphins? The "tradition" story really doesn't hold up very well....interesting to see what happens next year...

  1. Marius Gabriel Burja's Avatar Marius Gabriel Burja

    Suspicious Observers channel on YouTube needs our help. Please come. Let me know there and I will say more.

  1. Angel's Avatar Angel

    There is a huge tradition and stupidity...

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