'Terrible' act caught on camera as dolphins swim into island waters

Faroe Islanders began hunting pilot whales on Saturday morning. By the following day over 130 were dead and the water was red with blood.

A man filmed throwing rocks at pilot whales in the village of Viðoy on Saturday. The water is red with blood.
A man was filmed throwing rocks at dolphins he wanted to force back out to sea. Source: Neptune's Pirates

Villagers on a remote North Atlantic island had a simple plan. They wanted to hunt enough members of a passing herd of pilot whales to feed their village and then push the rest back out to sea.

Then everything went wrong.

Heartbreaking footage shows attempts to herd the animals back out to sea – like rock throwing and loud noises – proved fruitless. The "terrible" outcome was that over 130 pilot whales now lie dead on the shores of a European island.

The grim situation began on Saturday morning as locals from the Faroe Islands resumed their controversial practice of killing pilot whales — a large type of dolphin.

Because of their tight family bonds within their pods, the two species of pilot whale stick together even when faced with danger from hunters and this often results in large numbers fleeing into the harbour.

In the past the Faroese have slaughtered every single animal including pregnant mothers and calves – over 1400 white-sided dolphins were killed in 2021. This has led to criticism that more animals are being slaughtered than could possibly be eaten.

Related: Faroe Islanders defend butchering 78 dolphins in front of cruise ship tourists

The village of Viðoy. Around 40 dead pilot whales on the ground.
The plan was originally to hunt and kill around 40 of pilot whales in the village of Viðoy. Source: Captain Paul Watson Foundation UK

The weekend’s hunt occurred on the windswept, treeless island of Viðoy, which is home to just 600 people. Early reports on Saturday suggested they’d killed 40 of the animals.

Observers from the UK-based whaling opponents Captain Paul Watson Foundation (which rebranded from being called Sea Shepard UK) called this initial attack on the whales “cruel”.

Witnesses reported the dolphins were not herded into the usual port. And instead they became trapped between large rocks and a concrete wall, making it difficult for the hunters to use their preferred killing method of hooking them through the blowhole, paralysing them with a lance, and cutting them open.

Responding to the reports, Captain Paul Watson Foundation UK’s Rob Read said it was “a relief” that not all the animals were killed. But he added the event will “take a massive toll” on the group because of the family bonds within the dolphin pod.

A witness with knowledge of the Faroe Islands hunts said the animals appeared “very stressed” and it was something “terrible” to watch.

“They came up all the time, the heads of the animals. Some of the boats must have run over them. It was a disaster because it took so long,” he said.

The dolphins' ordeal which began at 11.30am looked like it was finally ending as the hunters worked to drive the animals they hadn’t killed back out to sea.

But a witness to the event told Yahoo News on Sunday the surviving dolphins “didn’t want to go back out”.

“For one hour they tried to get them out again. But pilot whales, they always want to stay with their family, they didn’t want to leave the killing beach,” the man said. “They tried with boats, clapping, and I saw one guy who threw rocks at the whales.”

The dolphins then began beaching themselves. And so the hunters responded by killing those that beached themselves.

“They killed 139 pilot whales. A few of them went out again, but I don’t think there’s much of them left,” the witness said.

A pilot whale with its head above the bloody water in the village of Viðoy.
The pilot whales refused to leave the rest of their family group. Source: Captain Paul Watson Foundation UK

The Faroese who take part in the dolphin and whale hunts, maintain they are carrying out a tradition that is akin to hunting other wild land-based animals.

But critics of the practice argue the killing is unnecessarily violent and causes prolonged suffering. They are particularly concerned that children are encouraged to watch the hunts.

Last year, tourists were left shocked after their luxury cruise ship docked as a hunt was underway. Pictures show the surrounding waters red with blood.

Animal advocacy groups like Captain Paul Watson Foundation and Neptune’s Pirates advocate against tourism to the island chain.

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