The Faroe Islands - Facts About The Killing Methods

1. The killers insert a whale hook sideways into one of the air sacs of the whale’s blowhole, getting a good grip on the whale and then they cut the spinal cord.

The whale does not lose consciousness and die from the cutting of the spinal cord but by the successive cutting of the spinal arteries. The unconsciousness is confirmed by checking if the whale blinks or the eye moves when touched. If there is no reaction the whale is unconscious or dead.

If the whale blinks or moves the eye it is regarded as conscious and needs to be re-stabbed. Thereafter a cut is made with a whaling knife to the main ventral vessels on either side of the neck to extract as much blood as possible from the whale.

Until 1986 whales were slaughtered with harpoon and spears and it took a lot longer to kill, this method has since been banned.

2. The dead whales are hauled by boats from the bay to the nearest dockside where they are placed side by side, evaluated, bellies opened to cool and measured from eye to anus with a “rod” developed in 1832. The units of measure/weight are “skinn”. Most “rods” measure up to 20 skinn. Approximately 1 skinn of Pilot whale weighs 72 kg with 38 kg of meat and 34 kg of blubber. Each whale is marked with a number and the skinn’ value in roman numerals.

On average, 54% of a Pilot whale’s total weight is meat and blubber. The blubber and meat are distributed among the participants, in alphabetic order, who have listed their names with the local police at the slaughter beach. The intestines are used as bait in the fishery and the rest is dumped at sea.

3. The local police can decide to offer the whale meat to other districts if the his community has an oversupply of whale meat and blubber. Only on Suðuroy island does the whole population share the whale meat and blubber regardless of who has participated.

4. Studies have found whale meat and blubber to be too contaminated and not recommended for human consumption. Too much may cause adverse health effects such as:

  • Nervous system birth defects
  • High blood pressure
  • Damaged immune system
  • Increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease
  • Hypertension
  • Arteriosclerosis
  • Type II diabetes

Therefore it is recommended that adults eat no more than one to two meals a month.

Women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant within three months, as well as nursing women should abstain from eating Pilot whale meat. Pilot whale liver and kidneys should not be eaten at all.

The authorized 23 whaling bays - the 20 in grey color were visited by TAF

The Northern Islands:

  1. Klaksvík, the beach below Víkarnar
  2. Viðvík, the beach
  3. Hvannasund


  1. Fuglafjørður, the beach
  2. Funningsfjørður, the estuary
  3. Syðrugøta
  4. Norðragøta, on the western side of the bay below the cemetery and on the north side of the beach
  5. Norðskála, in Miðstovukrókur between Stórá and Garðsendi and below the church


  1. Tórshavn,Sandagerð
  2. Leynar, the beach
  3. Vestmanna, Fitjasandur
  4. Hvalvík, around Oyrarnar on the Streymnes side
  5. Tjørnuvík, the beach


  1. Miðvágur, the beach
  2. Bøur, the beach
  3. Sandavágur, the beach


  1. Sandur, the beach
  2. Húsavík, the beach


  1. Øravík, the beach
  2. Trongisvágur, the beach
  3. Hvalba, Lítlabergssandur, í Nesi and Hvalbiarsandur
  4. Vágur
  5. Fámjin

Whaling in Faroe Islands From Year 800 To The Present

Whaling in the Faroe Islands is regulated by the Faroese authorities but not by the International Whaling Commission as there are disagreements about the Commission’s legal authority to regulate cetacean hunts.

An average of 800 Long-finned Pilot whales (Globicephalamelaena) are killed every year. In the mid 1980’s the catch was as high as 3142 whales. The hunt goes on mainly during the summer months when the weather is milder and the days are longer but if a pod of Pilot whales are spotted at any time of the year, and it is viewed as large enough, it will be slaughtered.

The whale drive also includes Bottlenose dolphins, White-Beaked dolphins and White-Sided dolphins. Average number of whales in a slaughtered Pod is 140, there is no annual quota of Pilot whales or any other formal limitation on the numbers which can be slaughtered.

Until 2015, anyone could participate in the whale drive, but today one has to have an official license, though this is easy to obtain.

Out of the 23 whaling bays, Tórshavn and Leynar are now being frequently used whereas before it was Miðvágur with 1/5 of all Pilot whales being driven ashore there. The second was Klaksvik bay and the third was Hvalvik bay.

The Faroe Islands are divided into 6 districts, each with its own local chief of police, who is responsible for the overall supervision of whale drivers.

When a whale pod is spotted by the fishing boats, inter-islands ferries, helicopters or from land, the hunt begins. The one who finds the pod of whales gets the largest whale. 1/3 of the pods of whales are spotted on a Friday or Saturday. 

The inhabitants are nowadays informed via mobile phone when a whale pod is spotted; Everyone is allowed to leave work or school immediately, so all, including the children, can participate in the slaughter.

The hunters surround the whales with a wide semi-circle of boats which all have weapons/equipment on board, including stones, stones attached to lines, whaling knifes and whale hooks.

The boats throw stones into the water behind the whales to form a wall of bubbles which reflects the sound waves from the whales’ sonar system. The whales perceive this as a solid barrier which they must avoid and they are then easy to heard towards one of the 23 authorised bays.

In the bay a large number of people are waiting with their spinal lances, hooks and knives.

Whales are counted and meat distributed to participants. The person who find the pod gets the biggest share. 

Dolphins get slaughtered as well. No one wanted to answer us what they use the dolphin meat for!