Dolphins Slaughtered in Faroe Islands in Biggest Massacre in 124 Years

Nearly a hundred bottlenose dolphins have been slaughtered in the Faroe Islands, marking the biggest hunt of this species to take place in 124 years.

At 99 bottlenose dolphins killed, this is the second largest hunt of this species ever recorded in the islands. The last time such a large number of bottlenose dolphins were killed in the Faroe Islands was in 1898, where 100 dolphins were slaughtered, according to the statistics from the Faroese Government.

The whaling season in the Faroe Islands begins in the summer months. It is a tradition that dates back around 1,200 years, when people would hunt dolphins and whales during times of famine. Several dolphin species, including pilot whales and white sided dolphins, are still killed each year for their blubber and meat.

The latest hunt occurred during Ólavsøka, a summer festival that takes place every year on July 29.

The hunt was documented by non-profit campaign group Sea Shepherd. Volunteers from the organization photographed the dolphins lying dead and butchered following the hunt. They counted 98 adults, 1 calf, and 1 foetus in a dead, pregnant female, the organization said in a press release.

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One calf was also discovered as well as a heavily pregnant female. Sea Sheperd UK

Ocean conservation group The Blue Planet Society said on Facebook that the hunt was "horrific news."

"We're deeply shocked that the Faroe Islands cruelly slaughtered nearly 100 bottlenose dolphins on Friday. They haven't hunted this species on this scale since 1898." John Hourston, founder of the U.K.-based campaign group Blue Planet Society told Newsweek.

"The amount of time, effort and joy that goes into watching and studying bottlenose dolphins in the U.K. is incalculable. Many have been named, people have a genuine affection for individual animals and they generate millions for our economy.

"To think that the Faroes, effectively our neighbors, can kill these highly-intelligent animals on a whim is disgusting. If the U.K., Denmark and the EU do not take action to stop the utterly irresponsible slaughter of this highly-protected species now, then they are complicit in this ecocide."

Not all Faroese people approve of the hunt. The practice has long been opposed by animal rights activists that deem it cruel and unnecessary.

It has been subject to more controversy recently, after an "unusually high" number of white sided dolphins were slaughtered in September last year. It was found that 1,423 dolphins were killed in just one hunt, prompting the government to launch a review into the practice.

In July, the Faroese government announced an annual catch limit of 500 dolphins would be implemented, in order to stop this from happening. However animal rights campaigners were unimpressed with the decision.

Helene O'Barry, European campaign correspondent at the Dolphin Project, told Newsweek at the time that the catch limit was no reason to celebrate.

"There is no way to humanely kill pods of dolphins. We know so much now about their complex social bonds and ability to feel stress, pain, and anguish, but apparently Faroese authorities refuse to look at those deeply troubling aspects of mass slaughter," O'Barry said.

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Pictures were captured by Sea Sheperd. 99 dolphins were killed. Sea Sheperd UK

"At first glance, one might think that the catch limit of 500 dolphins per year is good news, but just look at the catch statistics for the last 21 years[...]500 dolphins is still 500 too many when one considers the enormous animal suffering involved."

Whalers herd dolphins into the shallows before killing them. Hunters will use spears and hooks to bring them ashore.

Sometimes stainless steel hooks will be used to stab the dolphins blowhole. This hook is also attached to a piece of rope, which hunters use to drag the animal ashore.

Despite outrage from animal rights groups, the government deems that the hunt is sustainable.

The Faroese Government said in July that the hunt continues as an "important supplement to the livelihoods of Faroe Islanders, who have for centuries relied on the sustainable use of marine resources for their economy and local food security."

Newsweek has contacted the Faroese Government for a comment.