Dolphin drive hunts

Drive hunts are a horrifically cruel practice. In places like the Faroes (part of the Kingdom of Denmark) and Japan, dolphins and small whales at sea are herded by boats into a cove area where they are either brutally slaughtered or selected alive for sale to marine parks and aquaria across the globe for our ‘entertainment’. These intelligent animals suffer pain and stress during the crude hunts which include barbaric killing methods. In Japan, curtains are pulled across the shoreline to hide the killing process from the public, and many dolphins selected for transportation die of shock before they are taken away. These hunts must end.

There are targeted hunts of small toothed whales and dolphins in a few other countries, but nothing of this magnitude at a commercial level sanctioned by a modern government. Other hunts that take place around the coast of Japan may be just as inhumane, and involve larger numbers, such as the Dall’s porpoise hunt where up to 17,000 dolphins may be killed each year. However, these other hunts are conducted out of view from land-based observation and are difficult to evaluate.

The most shocking and infamous drive hunts take place in the Faroes and Japan where boats herd whales and dolphins into a small inlet or cove for slaughter. The Japanese hunt is one of the biggest slaughter of whales and dolphins in the world yet many of its own people don't know the hunts take place. In the Faroes, which is part ruled by Denmark, the hunt (or Grind) involves rounding up entire family groups and, once stranded in shallow water, blunt-ended metal hooks are inserted into their blowholes and used to drag the animals up the beach whilst alive. They are then killed with a knife cut to their major blood vessels. The killing of pregnant mothers and youngsters happens within sight of each other, and these intelligent animals are fully aware of what is going on around them.

In the cove at Taiji in Japan, some of the dolphins rounded up are selected for use in dolphin shows but many die of shock before they make it to waiting transport. Over 1,200 dolphins were killed in Taiji during the 2010-2011 hunting season. These hunts have to end. Why? Because these intelligent animals suffer pain and stress during the crude hunts, and taking whales and dolphins from their natural homes and families for use in the worldwide captivity industry is cruel. Profit from sales to the captivity industry is what keeps the drive hunts going in Japan, and both Japanese and Faroese consumers are being sold meat containing dangerously high levels of mercury.

Photo: Hans Peter Roth

Long term independent studies of children in the Faroe Islands have directly linked heart, and other development problems to mothers eating this meat whilst pregnant. Recent studies have shown a direct link between the occurrence of Parkinson's disease in Faroese adults and eating pilot whale meat.

Sadly, the Faroe Islands drive hunt is not subject to any legal restrictions as it targets small species of whales (mainly pilot whales and some dolphin species) that the International Whaling Commission does not currently manage, and the Faroe Islands are not members of the European Union so they are not subject to European laws that forbid whale hunting.  New regulations and licensing are set to be implemented in 2015, but WDC remains skeptical that these measures will change the inherently and unavoidably cruel methods utilized in these hunts.

Photo: Hans Peter Roth