All over the world, different cultures have traditions that they’ve held onto for centuries. These beautiful rituals celebrate life, food, marriage, and other momentous occasions in the lives of their people.
But the traditions held in some places are outdated to the point of being harmful. Sometimes, while tradition might call for certain morally ambiguous actions, what we now know as a civilized people should help inform new traditions and weed out such questionable behavior.
One such tradition in the Faroe Islands in Denmark needs to be put to rest forever. While it is deeply rooted in cultural traditions and steeped in history, once you find out what this tradition is, you’ll agree that it needs to go.
(Warning: Some of the photos below are disturbing.)
The Faroe Islands in Denmark, surrounded by miles of deep blue water, are home to some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. The place looks like something you might see in a fantasy film or on a postcard sent from a faraway land.
But this picturesque spot is also home to a chilling annual tradition: the slaughter of defenseless whales. Don’t let the peaceful environment confuse you. While the islands might seem like a wonderful escape, to some whales, they mean certain death.
To be fair, this is not some arbitrary slaughter that only recently started. Inhabitants of the islands have hunted whales since the 16th century, well before any conservationists were making efforts to understand marine life and to preserve it.
In the early days, this practice was a necessary part of life. Whale meat was a critical part of the diet and the economy of the islands. The fishermen would go out in wooden boats hoping to bring back whale meat to sell or eat.
For this practice to take place in the 16th century is one thing, but the fact that it continues even into today is worrying. The hunt has evolved into a barbaric practice that continues today as a gruesome “celebration” for the entire community.
The modern hunters use technology to their advantage, driving unsuspecting whales into the fjords with loud motorboats. Looking at photographs like these, it is easy to see that the poor cornered whales don’t even stand a chance.
Once the whales have been cornered by the hunters, an unimaginable slaughter begins as people with metal hooks rush into the water and kill the defenseless animals. This gory image is just a glimpse into how horrific this practice really is.
The whales have almost no chance of survival or escape, and the killing is so brutal that it turns the bay’s water a bright red. The image of the bay below during this slaughter has not been digitally edited or color corrected.
After the massacre, the dead whale carcasses are towed ashore and laid out side by side. If the level of mass slaughter wasn’t clear from the images of the killing taking place in the water, the amount of whale carcasses on shore makes it painfully obvious.
They are cleaned and put on display for all to see evidence of the horrific torture they endured. To the people who live on these islands, this isn’t something terrifying and nightmarish; it’s just the way that things have always been done.
This poor whale was pregnant at the time of her death, with her unborn calf lying next to her on the ground. It doesn’t matter to the hunters what condition the whales they kill are in—all that matters is the body count.
Most shockingly of all: there is no real purpose for this senseless violence, or at least, not any more. While the whales were originally hunted for food and to help support trade, that just doesn’t happen with their flesh anymore.
The meat is rarely suitable to eat because of high levels of mercury, so many of the dead whales simply get thrown away. That’s right: this massive level of whale slaughter isn’t so that others might eat and live another day; rather, it’s done purely for the sake of killing.
And while whale killing is illegal in Denmark, the Faroe Islands are bound by different laws, so this violent ritual is protected in the name of “tradition.” Children like this little boy below grow up believing that this sort of cruelty is totally acceptable.
Even so, there is hope: activist groups have been trying to put an end to the annual Faroe Island whale hunting for some time now, and with determination, they may succeed. Here’s to hoping they do.
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