Cruise Passengers Get a Gory Welcome to Port: the 'Grind'

Ship arrived in Faroe Islands as 78 pilot whales were being slaughtered, a centuries-old tradition
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 14, 2023 2:00 PM CDT
Cruise Passengers Met With Gory Scene of Whale Hunt
Stock photo of a pilot whale.   (Getty Images/slowmotiongli)

It's not a sight you especially want to see as your cruise ship pulls into port. But as Ambassador Cruise Line's Ambition approached Torshavn, the capital of Denmark's self-governing Faroe Islands, over the weekend, the water was red with blood, leaving passengers horrified. What happened on Sunday, per the Washington Post: The ship arrived just as nearly 80 pilot whales were being slaughtered, in a centuries-old event called "grindadrap," or "the grind." Futurism describes the activity as follows: "The tradition involves hunters forming a circle of boats around the helpless animals and driving them into a shallow bay. Once beached, they are slaughtered by men armed with knives."

The Post gets even gorier, detailing "securing a hook in the blowhole, dragging the animal onto the beach, severing its spinal cord and blood supply, and cutting its neck with a whaling knife." In this case, the 78 pilot whales, which are members of the dolphin family, were corralled by humans on motorboats and in a helicopter to a nearby beach, where they were killed (the New York Post has photos—be forewarned, they're graphic). The annual event, which usually takes place from April through October, used to be a necessity for the remote island chain to feed and sustain its population. That's no longer the case, but the tradition lives on, despite the protests of conservation and animal rights groups.

"It is barbaric and torture, and it's done on such a large scale," John Hourston of the activist group Blue Planet Society tells WaPo. "Those people are going to need counseling after seeing that." The killing of whales and dolphins is outlawed in the European Union—but although Denmark is part of the EU, the autonomous Faroe Islands aren't, and locals say they're "proud" of the hunt and don't seem to intend to let up anytime soon. In a statement, Ambassador said it was "incredibly disappointed" that the hunt took place while its ship was there. The cruise line has asked the Faroe Islands government in the past to address the hunt's cruelty, and it advises crew and passengers to refuse to purchase any whale meat.

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One commenter has a more "simple" suggestion on how Ambassador can deal with this in the future. "Exclude #FaroeIslands from your route completely," the detractor wrote. "Just don't support their economy in any way until they stop." Not everyone agrees. Nora Livingstone, CEO of Animal Experience International, a Canadian firm whose niche is ethical animal travel, tells WaPo that tourists seeing the practice can serve as a tool to educate on different cultures, and to prompt change. "Turning away doesn't help the animals who are killed, and it doesn't help give voice to those who take part in the hunt," she says. (More whales stories.)

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