Whaling and animal welfare


Whale drives are only initiated when whales are sighted by chance close to land. A crucial factor in ensuring an effective whale drive is the organisation of participants, both in boats and on shore. Prevailing weather and tidal conditions will also have a major bearing on whether and where a group of whales can be driven and beached. The spontaneous nature of a whale drive requires swift mobilisation of manpower to drive and kill a group of large wild animals quickly. 


Faroese animal welfare legislation, which also applies to whaling, requires that animals are killed as quickly and with as little suffering as possible. Whales are killed on the shore and in the shallows of bays especially authorised for the purpose. A regulation spinal lance must be used to sever the spinal cord, which also severs the major blood supply to the brain, ensuring both loss of consciousness and death within seconds. This, in addition to the supplementary use of the traditional whaling knife, if necessary, is the most efficient and humane means of killing beached pilot whales safely, with many participants involved at the same time.


In recent years, two new items of equipment have been developed and formally approved and required as standard equipment. The blow-hole hook used to secure the whales causes no injury prior to slaughter and is now widely used. The spinal lance has now also been introduced as the preferred standard equipment for killing pilot whales. It  has been shown to reduce killing time to 1-2 seconds while also improving accuracy and safety. These innovations in the equipment used in Faroese whaling have been developed on the initiative of people who are active and experienced participants in the whale drive.


Since 1994, the Faroe Islands have been taking active part in the NAMMCO Committee on Hunting Methods, which brings veterinary experts and hunters together on a regular basis to review and exchange experiences on methods and equipment used in whaling, sealing and walrus hunting and to make recommendations for improvements.
A description of the methods and equipment used in the Faroese whale drive is contained in the following paper (which, however, predates the introduction of the spinal lance as standard equipment):

Killing Methods and Equipment in the Faroese Pilot Whale Hunt. This paper is an English translation of a working paper by Senior Veterinarian, Jústines Olsen, originally presented in Danish at the NAMMCO Workshop on Hunting Methods for Marine Mammals, held in Nuuk, Greenland in February 1999.

NAMMCO recommendations

The 1999 NAMMCO Workshop on Hunting Methods for Marine Mammals agreed on recommendations regarding whale killing methods in the hunting of pilot whales in the Faroe Islands, as well as with regard to methods used to kill stranded bottlenose whales in the Faroe Islands.

Progress on implementing these recommendations has since been reported by the Faroe Islands to the regular meetings of the NAMMCO Committee on Hunting Methods.



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