Whaling in the Faroe Islands


of tradition?

In the isolation of the North Atlantic Ocean, caused by famine, crop failures, and food shortages, the Faroese were forced to provide their own food.

Then people decided to replenish the vital raw materials from the sea.


The Faroe Islands are some of the most remote in the world, and as such, have remained largely unchanged over time.

At that time, there were no other sources of meat, and dolphin meat provided the local population with food for a year to come. So for many islanders, whale eating is still an important part of history.

The practice dates back to the 9th century, and many Faroe Islanders consider eating whales an important part of their history.

Hunting carried out the through the creation of the whaling fleet, became more than just a means of survivaL

off the coast
of Vestmanna, 1854

1900 - 1924

Whaling in the Faroe Islands, 1855

«Pilot Whaling in the Faroe Islands»
by Jóan Pauli Joensen

Grind in Torshavn, 1961



Long-finned pilot whales are known as such because of their unusually long
fins. They get their name from the
original belief that there was a «pilot»
or lead an individual in their groups.

Pilot whales are large dolphins, the second largest member of the oceanic dolphin family (second only to orcas)



Pilot whales are extraordinarily social; their strong bonds with one another motivate them to stick together through thick and thin, even when that means putting themselves at risk.

They are long-lived and live together in multigenerational, tight-knit, stable pods. Pilot whales usually travel in matriarchal pods, containing 10 to 20 individuals way up to a hundred pilot whales living together in a pod.


There are no fixed hunting seasons, but whale hunts are likely to happen during periods from June to October. Whale drives only take place when sea and weather conditions permit.

The whale

The whale

The whale


Near the shore, they generally end up beaching themselves. They are then dragged onto the sand and killed quickly with a special tool that severs their spinal cord.

When the hunt is over, meat and blubber are divided equally among the participants — with any leftovers distributed around the local village or further afield.


Since 1948, the hunt has been regulated by the Faroese authorities, which required its participants to be trained and used modern equipment, so that the animals are killed as quickly and painlessly as possible, and supervised by police.

The largest catch of pilot whales in a single season in recent decades was 1203 animals in 2017. The average, since 2000, has been 670 animals, and white-sided dolphins caught has been 298 animals. A highly unusual hunt took place on 15 September 2021 in which 1428 white-sided dolphins were caught and slaughtered in a single day. This was nearly five times the average annual catch of this species.

The whale

The entire sea around a whale hunt beaching location tends to turn a bloody reD and

have A Shocking
A      Shocking
The entire sea around a whale hunt beaching location tends to turn a bloody reD and  have  a

Whale meat has been found to have high levels of toxins, including methylmercury and other chemicals — and many local medical professionals recommend that whale meat not be eaten at all.

Pilot whales are not classified as endangered. However, most organizations agree that human activity is the primary threat to the species.

For activists, the argument that whaling is no worse than farmed meat doesn’t justify the hunt's cruelty.

And certainly, now that food is readily available from other sources, the tradition is no longer necessary for survival.

Whole families are slaughtered, and some whales swim around in their family members' blood for hours

Even less so given that the meat is unsuitable for human consumption.

We know enough about dolphins to know that they are very well capable of experiencing anxiety and pain, and they are very conscious creatures with strong social bonds.

The project was made for educational purposes and
non-commercial use only. All materials belong to their authors.

Sabina Vassabi

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