Natural Born Whale Killers
The mass slaughter began as soon as they reached the shallows…
Tweeteet…tweeeeeet…” The pregnant whale mother thrashed through the water as if she were heading to so many directions at once. “claack…claack” Echolocating in frenzy. Confused where the shore, the deep, and the horizon were. Everywhere she turned, Faroe boats surrounding her pod of over a hundred pilot whales were chasing them toward land.
Faroe Islanders call it “drive hunt” or “grind.” Centuries-old tradition of killing whales rationalized as “Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling” to benefit over 50,000 people inhabiting the eighteen islands of this protectorate of Denmark.
Each islander receives just about 22 pounds of whale meat a year. It really doesn’t matter if they want it or not. They get it just the same.
The 24 feet long whale mother was vocalizing her alarm. Her mate, swimming at a distance from the pod, heard her. He could have slipped away to safety but he swam toward the scene of impending carnage without any hesitation.
“Tweeeeet…tweeeeeet…tweeteeet…” He replied as if to assuage his mate’s terror.
Schools of pilot whales, known as pods, often a single extended family of hundreds of individuals, form an exceptionally cohesive social group with sophisticated communication method. They can live for over 60 years: females reaching maturity at around eight years and males at around twelve years.
Pilot whales are predisposed to stay together for the rest of their lives. An innate sense of solidarity finds them sticking it out together even in dangerous situations. One animal’s trouble is everybody’s business, making the whole pod band together and face trouble as one community. They won’t abandon each other.
Tweeeeeerrrk! The pregnant whale shrilled, terrified.
A boat’s hull rammed onto her flukes and she found herself pushed in shallow water along with more than a dozen other whales, stranded.
And the bloodbath began…
The whalers, young and old alike, brandishing knives, spears, and iron hooks, waded toward the helpless whales. One of them slammed a heavy metal crowbar-like hook, called gaff, into the pregnant whale’s ultra-sensitive blowhole.
Then they drag her onto the shore where they sank a six-inch whaling knife past her flesh about a hand’s breadth behind the blowhole. The dorsal cut severed the spinal cord and the surrounding vessels leading to the brain.
The pregnant whale was paralyzed, bleeding profusely. As she lost her consciousness, she realized that the waters had turned brilliant red with the blood of other whales, and she saw her mate just about twelve meters away from her.
“Tweeeeeeteeettt…” Her final cry.
“Is it dead yet?” A teenage whaler asked as his father cut the pregnant whale mother’s belly open, yanking out her unborn calf.
The pregnant whale’s mate vocalized a cry of sorrow. Then he beached himself behind his dead mate.
“They’re all already dead in our hands, son, the moment they come to Faroe Islands,” the teenage whaler’s father said. “That’s what we’re born to do.”
Faroe Islanders consider it a “God Given Right” to hunt and kill whales. An important part of their culture and history. They even encourage their children, giving them a school holiday, to participate and enjoy this festive community event of mass whale slaughter.
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