07/01/2017 7:09 PM AEDT | Updated 07/01/2017 8:20 PM AEDT

Whaling In The Faroe Islands: Senseless Slaughter Or A Justified Way Of Life?

Andrija Ilic / Reuters
Local residents catch and slaughter whales near the town of Hvalvik, May 23, 2009. More than 180 pilot whales (Globicephala melaena) were killed in the small town of Hvalvik during the traditional whale killing In Faroe Islands. Residents of the Faroe Islands, an autonomous province of Denmark, slaughter and eat pilot whales every year. The Faroese are descendents of Vikings, and pilot whales have been a central part of their diet for more than 1,000 years. They crowd the animals into a bay and kill them. The Faroese aren?t involved in commercial whaling, they don't sell the meat, instead it is divided evenly to the local community. Picture taken May 23, 2009. REUTERS/Andrija Ilic (FAROE ISLANDS ANIMALS ENVIRONMENT)

Almost every year, bloody images of the Faroe Islands’ grindadráp are splashed across newspapers, with the practise damned as “a gruesome massacre”, “a barbaric slaughter”.

But is killing whales for food really so different than slaughtering cows in an abattoir?

Despite popular belief, the Faroese do not set out to hunt whales; instead they wait until a pod is passing one of the designated whaling bays. Then, an alert will go out to other islanders, who will herd the whales into one of the bays - which can only qualify as a whaling bay if it has a sloped beach. It’s a centuries-old tradition, and one which has come under repeated fire from animal campaign groups - Sea Shepherd, in particular. 

“The Grindadrap is indefensible by any modern humane standards,” says Rob Read, chief operations officer of the charity’s UK arm.

“I don’t know why the grind is being judged so harshly by people,” Faroese journalist Høgni Mohr tells The Huffington Post UK. “Maybe for people who live in the big cities, it is not very common for them to go out to hunt their own food.

“They’re more used to going to the grocery store to buy their food.”

More On This Topic