The earliest records of drive hunting in the Faroe islands date back to 1584. There are 23 legally certified bays within the 17 inhabited islands where a grind may take place, each chosen for its suitability to beach whales. Killing whales outside of these locations is illegal in the Faroe Islands.
Each hunt, or grindadráp, is led by a grindaformenn but anyone can participate provided they have completed a special 150 minute training course on how to kill the whales. When a pod of whales is sighted, a grind or grindaboð is called and boats form a semicircle around the whales to herd them towards the bay. On command from the grindaformenn, stones attached to lines are thrown into the water behind the whales to create a wall of noise, which herds the whales to swim towards the shore.
The equipment used during the grind usually consists of a metal gaff hook (blástorungul), which is inserted into the blowhole and used to haul the whale ashore, ropes and a specially designed spear (mønustingari) used to sever the whale's spine.
Once the whales have been dragged onto the beach they are killed by using the mønustingari to sever the spinal cord about a hands bredth behind the blowhole. Once they have checked the whale is dead (looking for eye movements and breath), the neck is cut open with a knife to drain the blood.
The whalers say the killing method is humane and the time to death averages around 30 seconds. However, scientific evidence shows that several cuts are sometimes needed and it can take up to 15 minutes for certain whales to die.
International condemnation of the grind is mounting on health, animial welfare and conservation grounds.
WARNING! GRAPHIC IMAGES !
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