The Danish Faroe Islands, located between Norway and Iceland, are in the midst of their annual whale culling, according to The Mirror.
Residents of the remote islands kill hundreds of pilot whales during the warmer months of each year, in order to use the animals’ blubber and meat to make it through the harsh winter.
According to The Mirror, 23 whales, including a pregnant pilot whale, were recently driven on to the shore by boats and then slaughtered. Children reportedly took part in the tradition while tourists looked on and took photos. Blood from the slaughtered whales turned the waters around the shore, often a picturesque blue, blood red.
Sea Shepherd U.K., a marine conservation charity, documented this recent hunt and believes this is the tenth whale hunt at the Faroe Islands this year, reports The Sun, bringing the total of whales slaughtered in 2019 up to 536.
The charity released a statement, obtained by The Sun, about the 2019 whales hunts (called grinds by locals) and their concerns that the tradition is turning into a spectacle.
“The Faroese often talk of the tradition behind the grindadrap and specifically the respect shown to the pilot whales. Video and photographs from the 10th grind of 2019 clearly show this not to be the case, with images of people and tourists taking selfies with the murdered pod,” a spokesperson from Sea Shepherd U.K. said in a statement. “Children were playing with fins, kicking and punching the bodies, walking on them and worryingly seen running around the dock carrying the traditional knives that are used as part of the grindadrap.”
The spokesperson added that the charity finds the annual hunts inhumane because the whales are often driven into exhaustion and are not always killed quickly.
There are also concerns about how these hunts affect the pilot whale population. A 2018 report called “Small Cetaceans, Big Problems,” by the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), Pro Wildlife, and Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), reported that the “Faroese government does not set quotas for any species and few scientific studies exist on the status of the species, raising concerns about the sustainability of the hunts.”