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June 17, 1854 : A large grindadráp in front of Vestmanna . 211 pilot whales were shot there and 1,186½ skinn whale meat and bacon were obtained. Lithograph of the English expedition to Maria

The Grindadráp [ ˈgɹɪndaˌdrɔap ] is the pilot whale hunt in the Faroe Islands . For most Faroese it is part of their history and a matter of course for obtaining food on a subsistence basis with strong legal regulations.

International animal rights activists criticize the hunt as cruel and unnecessary. In Faroese society, dealing with the topic is not free of emotions.

Word origin

In Faroese, grind means not only pilot whale school but also pilot whale meat and generally the whole affair and the culture associated with it. A grind is therefore also the specific event. The plural is grindir . The word comes from the Old Norse grind “lattice, lattice door” and was taken in Faroese to designate a pilot whale school, which, according to Lucas Debes, goes back to the idea that a pilot whale school, in which the animals swim close together, resembles a picket fence.

The pilot whale itself is the grindahvalur or the grindafiskur - "pilot fish". The dráp means kill or slaughter. Grindadráp literally means killing or slaughtering the grind . The reputation of Grindaboð! [ ˈGɹɪndaboː ] comes from grind and boð = message , message . It literally means: grind message , or better: grind alarm .

Sliced ​​pilot whale with the clearly recognizable layer of fat. Taken in the port of Tórshavn, 2018.

Grind alert and chase

August 8, 2012: A pilot whale school is circled by pilot boats in front of Suðuroy .


It is always a coincidence when a school of pilot whales is sighted near the Faroe Islands. The appropriate skipper then reports the sighting. The authorities then decide whether the sea and the weather allow pilot whales to be caught. This usually happens in summer when the conditions are favorable. Then a corresponding message was broadcast earlier on national radio . The mobile telephony replaces the radio message. As a rule, employees are given free time and an attempt is made to get as many boats as possible from the relevant location into the water. There are also reports that even services were interrupted if a pilot whale sighting happened just then. With the use of motor boats it is now easier to encircle the animals and drive them; a school of pilot whales can easily escape if there are not enough boats to round them up and crowd them into a suitable bay where whale killing is allowed.

According to a report by the news magazine Newsweek , since May 2015 anyone who fails to report the sighting of a pilot whale school to the responsible authorities has to face a fine of around 3,000 euros - in the event of repetition, up to two years in prison. According to a statement by the state government of the Faroe Islands, tourists are usually not affected.


Hvalvágir means whale bays. These are 17 beaches along the Faroese coast where the Grindadráp is common, in Bøur , Fámjin , Fuglafjørður , Gøta , Húsavík , Hvalba , Hvalvík , Hvannasund , Klaksvík , Miðvágur , Norðskáli , Sandavágur , Sandur , Torshavn (on Sandagerði ,) Trongisvágur , Vágur and Vestmanna .

In the past, the bays of Funningsfjørður , Kollafjørður , Nólsoy , Øravík , Sandvík , Skálavík , Sørvágur , Tindhólmur and the Viðvík ( Viðoy ) were sometimes used. Even in Hattarvík , Haraldssund , Hoyvík , Lopra , Mykines , Saksun , Svínoy , Sumba and Tjørnuvík there has been a grind in history, but that remained exceptional.

In the statistics on pilot whales in the Faroe Islands since 1584 , the 17 beaches mentioned above appear most frequently.

In July 2013, the Faroese Ministry of Fisheries allowed the grindadráp to be carried out in 23 bays.

Blásturongul: hook for introduction into the blowhole of the pilot whale.
Grindadráp in Vágur on June 28, 2004: A relatively small catch of 26 animals with a skinnatal of 133, that is 133 times 38 kg of meat plus 133 times 34 kg of bacon.

Grindabátur and Grindareiðskapur

The respective boat drivers are legally obliged to ensure that only permitted grind equipment ( grindareiðskapur : hooks, ropes , pilot whale knives ) are carried. A boat equipped and manned in this way is then a grindabátur (grind boat). Grind boats are small, motorized Faroese boats or other coastal vessels, but not ships in the ultra-modern Faroese factory fleet. A grind boat describes the temporary state of a small boat during the grind , which is otherwise used for line fishing or recreational purposes most of the time.

If all of the above conditions apply, the animals are driven to the appropriate pen under the supervision of the local authorities. To do this, the grind boats form a semicircle and the school is driven into the bay with a long rope to which stones are attached. Pilot whales that escape this rope in the open sea may not be stalked.

Those animals that do not get far enough onto the beach are held to a rope with a special blunt hook that is put into their blowhole . Hence its name blásturongul - "blowhole fishing rod ". The Blásturongul has prevailed since its invention in 1993, is not only more effective, but also as a human compared to the sharp hook sóknarongul (literally as "hunt Angel" with Sokn also parish is) considered. The Sóknarongul is drilled into the bacon of the grind and is now only used to pull the killed animal ashore.

The pilot whales are killed with the mønustingari . The spinal cord in the neck and the carotid artery are severed so that they die within a few seconds. So they don't bleed to death, as some reports claim. Before 1985, spears ( hvalvákn ) and harpoon ( skutil ) were also used, but have been banned for reasons of animal welfare since a corresponding Løgtingsgesetz .

A report in the Faroese newspaper Norðlýsið shows that children were also actively involved in the Grindadráp in August 2017.

The whales used to be decapitated with the
Grindaknívur and usually died within a minute. Today they are shot in seconds with the Mønustingari.

Cultural meaning

The water of the corresponding bay turns red with a grindadráp. These images are often shocking to outsiders. Since no harpoons and spears or even firearms may be used, the hunters have to stand in the ice-cold water and fight with each individual animal. Those involved describe this as exhausting and requiring a lot of concentration. For them it means first and foremost free food for themselves and their families.

The grindaformaður (Grind head, chairman of the Faroese Grindamannafelag - "Grindman Association") Ólavur Sjúrðaberg from Leirvík describes it as follows:

“I am sure that no one who kills their own animals for food is left untouched. You want to do it as quickly as possible and with as little suffering for the animal as possible. "

Culturally , the Grindadráp means not only the social factor of hunting and food supply, but also part of their identity for many Faroese. One often hears men talking about how they feel like real Faroese at the Grindadráp . In the Faroese Literature and Art , the Grindadráp is an important subject. The grind paintings by Sámal Mikines are among his most important internationally.

The Danish governor of the Faroe Islands, Christian Pløyen, wrote the famous Grindweise , a Faroese ballad in the Danish language , during his tenure (1830–1847) . There it says in the refrain :

Raske drenge, grind at dræbe
det before lyst

In German:

Nimble boys, killing Grind
that's our lust

This song is only sung in the Faroe Islands on special occasions. It is one of the best known clichés about the country in the outside world ( Denmark in particular ).

By Joseph Victor von Scheffel , a German poet of the 19th century, the poem is "The pilot whale hunt in the Faroe Islands":

Far away a boat is dancing on the bluish tide.
His signal shouted loudly: “Grindabud!
The black whale is coming! ”
And“ Grindabud ”shouts from every mouth,
“ Out itzt in a bright sunny morning hour
To hunt down foaming waves! ”

And old and young come armed to fight,
even the fat bailiff spreads his arms
and leaves his peaceful ones Tables.
Only the women and the preacher stay at home, people
fear that bad weather will break out otherwise
And their approach will scare away the fish.


Pilot whales killed on the beach of Hvalba on August 11, 2002. With 89 animals and 492 skinn not an exceptionally large catch at this location, where more than 200-300 animals have been caught in one day, most on October 20, 1938: 854 Whales with 3,849 ½ skinn.

The pilot whale is fully utilized. However, this statement is denied by some animal welfare organizations. Its distribution is based on a centuries-old key. The inhabitants of the municipality in whose fjord the animals swam received the relatively largest share. Then it is the turn of the other parishes on the same island and then the rest of the country. All members of the society come into play, including those who did not / could not participate in the catch.

The pilot whale hunt goes back to the Viking Age in the Faroe Islands and was an important source of food and vitamins for the remote North Atlantic archipelago. It is estimated that grind makes up around 10% of the local diet.

Catches, number of whales and amount of whale meat
Period Grindir Whales Skinn
1709-1950 1,195 178,259 1.360.160
1951-1960 122 18,772 99.102
1961-1970 130 15,784 79,588
1971-1980 85 11,311 69,026
1981-1990 176 18.806 108.714
1991-2000 101 9.212 66.284
2001 11 918 7,447
2002 10 626 4.263
2003 5 503 3,968
2004 9 1.010 8,276
2005 6th 302 2,259
2006 11 856 6,614
2007 10 633 5,522
2008 0 0 0
2009 3 310 2,965
2010 14th 1.107 8.008
2011 9 726 4,682
2012 12 716 4,961
2013 11 1.104 8,302
2014 2 48 341
2015 6th 501 3,559
2016 6th 296 2.115
2017 19th 1203 9,396.5
2018 oA 607 oA
to hum 1.934 262,407 1,856,156

The statistics on pilot whales in the Faroe Islands go back to June 24th, 1584. At that time, four whales were killed off Lítla Dímun . There are patchy but numerous records for the following years. Between 1639 and 1708 there is only a rounded number of catches of 1664 , but it has been complete since the end of the fork period in 1709, making it the oldest hunting statistics in the world [evidence?] . From April 20, 1709 ( Hvalba ) to August 28, 2005 ( Svínoy ), 1,850 schools of pilot whales (grindir) were raised and 255,467 animals were killed. There you can see significant fluctuations in the number of catches. A grind is pure coincidence. On October 6, 1940, the biggest catch of all time was made in Sandur : 1200 animals were killed in a single day. The second largest catch was on August 10, 1729 in Klaksvík with 1184 whales. But there are also years without a grind.

In 2004 there were a total of nine Grindir with 1010 pilot whales killed. They had a value of 8,276¼ Skinn . This is a Faroese unit of measurement and in the case of grind means: 1 skinn = 38 kg of meat ("Tvøst") + 34 kg of bacon ("Spik"). So we're talking about 595 tons of pilot whale meat and bacon for households. A total of 130,091 tons of grind were won on the Faroe Islands in the 295 years from 1709 to 2004.

What is striking in 2005 is the relatively low catch volume compared to previous years. The largest catch in 2005 on May 2nd in Fuglafjørður was 123 animals. The smallest and last catch was that of Svínoy on August 28th with 5 pilot whales in an unusual place.

In 2008 there was no grind at all.

In August 2015, seven pilot whales were caught alive in Fuglafjørður for scientific purposes. They were fitted with transmitters and then released.

The pilot whale as a food source

Most of the traditional Faroese cuisine consists of meat. Because of the inhospitable, rocky islands, crops and vegetables do not grow well. Only around 2% of the 1395 km² are suitable for agriculture. During the winter months, the inhabitants of the Faroe Islands lived mainly on salted or dried foods such as meat , pilot whale meat, seabirds and fish . The pilot whale has been an important food source for the isolated population of the North Atlantic archipelago for centuries.

The meat and bacon of the pilot whale are stored, prepared and eaten in Faroese households. In Faroe Islands supermarkets, the pilot whale meat is not sold, but distributed as described in the “Tradition” section. Although fish is the main export of the Faroe Islands fishing nation, whale meat is not exported. Similar to the hunted prey in Greenlanders , pilot whale meat and bacon are the subject of subsistence farming . An annual catch of around 950 pilot whales (1990–1999) corresponds to around 500 t of meat and bacon. This in turn corresponds to around 30% of the meat produced in the Faroe Islands.


Tvøst and spik. The black pilot whale meat and bacon (in the shell) is often served with dried fish (left) and boiled potatoes. Traditionally, you drink beer with it

The grind is usually preserved in a special wooden shed, the hjallin, using the traditional method of air drying . In the cool, salty air of the Faroe Islands, this is a common practice for clipfish , sheep meat and puffins . Made to last, it is then soaked in water - or better: a marinade - for hours before consumption .

The meat is prepared as a steak ( grindabufur ) or boiled ( saltgrind ). Local potatoes are common as a side dish. It is seasoned with mustard . There is also a white sauce with the grindabufur. A strong red wine is often served with this, while beer and schnapps are recommended for a fresh grind.

In Faroese is at Grind between the whale meat (tvøst) and Speck (Spik) distinguished. Sometimes the Tvøst also will seal blubber eaten. On the plate it's called tvøst og spik .

The meat of the marine mammal preserved by air drying is black and relatively tough. The taste is similar to beef . Grind is extremely nutritious. In addition, there is the vitamin-rich oil in the whale's bacon.

Tourists in the Faroe Islands who want to try grind are mostly dependent on so-called Faroe Islands evenings , folkloric events with Faroese chain dance and local cuisine . But there are also restaurants with Faroese cuisine.


White-sided dolphins killed in Hvalba in 2006.

The pilot whale catch in the Faroe Islands and the regularly circulating images of the red colored water at the scenes move whale protectors worldwide, while many Faroe Islands insist on their right to be allowed to hunt edible wild animals.


If there is a fresh pilot whale, only part of it is prepared immediately. Usually in one large pot, family and friends then eat together. The majority, however, is cured and dried.

The Faroese whalers argue that they do not go out to the whales , but that they come to them by themselves. It is also stated that they do not catch pilot whales for commercial reasons , but still exclusively for the internal distribution key of the households. Thirdly, many Faroese believe that the pilot whale population is not endangered by their hunt , because most of the whales would miss the small archipelago on their migration through the Atlantic and are not affected. Critical voices are rare in the Faroe Islands, but have been heard more frequently in recent years.

According to the website of the state government of the Faroe Islands , which tends to defend the Grindadráp - - scientists estimate "the population of pilot whales in the eastern North Atlantic to be around 778,000 animals, of which around 100,000 around the Faroe Islands." According to the website, the Faroe Islands hunt an average of 800 pilot whales per year .


Sea Shepherd GrindStop 2014
Faroese postage stamp from 1986 on the subject of marine pollution and its impact on the food chain. It is the only Faroe Islands postage stamp that shows a pilot whale

Animal rights activists , such as Sea Shepherd or Greenpeace , argue that catching pilot whales is cruel and, given the supply situation in the Faroe Islands, unnecessary. Fishing methods have changed. If the Faroese once rowed out to sea in rowing boats to circling and driving a herd of whales, the whales had a relatively good chance of escaping. The chance is less against motor boats.

A report by the Faroese Ministry of Health warns against excessive consumption of pilot whale meat, as it is contaminated with environmental toxins such as mercury , dioxins and PCBs . Whales are at the end of the marine food chain. A Faroese study in 2007 showed that the Faroese have twice as much mercury in their bodies as recommended.

On November 26, 2008, the Faroese health authorities advised against eating pilot whale meat for the first time. The reason given was the risk of Parkinson's disease due to exposure to mercury . The regional doctor Høgni Debes Joensen and the senior doctor Pál Weihe declared:

“We give this recommendation in mourning. The grind served the Faroese for many centuries and has probably saved many lives during this time. But times and the environment change, and that's why we believe this recommendation is medically necessary. "


The Faroese Minister of Health, Hans Pauli Strøm , joined the call for pilot whale meat to be abandoned, but emphasized that it must be up to each individual to decide whether to follow the advice.

In June 2011, the Faroese Food and Veterinary Authority updated their consumption instructions: adults should therefore eat pilot whale meat and bacon at most once a month . The consumption of pilot whale liver and kidneys should be avoided entirely. Girls and women who wanted to have children were recommended to do without.

In Germany, u. a. the whale and dolphin protection forum against the Grindadráp.

Several cruise companies no longer call at the Faroe Islands due to whaling.


Animal rights activists often argue on an ethical level, especially with the bloody outcome on the fjord bank. The Faroese counter that this is not a problem of whaling, but of the alienation of large parts of the civilized population from the foundations of animal food production. Whaling is harmless compared to conditions in a modern slaughterhouse, which hardly any meat consumer knows from personal experience. A frequently cited argument is: The pilot whale lives its entire life in freedom in the Atlantic and then dies in seconds. The other meat you can buy in the supermarket comes from captivity.

It is clear that the Faroe Islands are reacting to the criticism and are independently looking for better hunting methods that cause less pain to the animals, and that they prohibit excesses by law. The majority of the Faroese reject fishing methods that are considered cruel.

International criticism, however, is often perceived as interference in national affairs. Many Faroese therefore believe that, regardless of tradition and justified hunting, it is also about prestige as a nation, for the sake of which one should forego it.

In the summer of 2007 , the NAMMCO (North Atlantic Marine Mammals Commission) sent a representative to the Faroe Islands to monitor the pilot whale catch .


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Web links

Commons : Whaling in the Faroe Islands  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

In Faroese

Wiktionary: grind  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. entry dráp . Electronic dictionary of Faroese. Retrieved June 30, 2019
  2. Felicity Capon: Faroe Island conservationists face two years in prison for not aiding whale killings. In: Newsweek . June 30, 2015, accessed November 27, 2015 .
  3. ^ Statement from Government of the Faroe Islands on Grindalógin. Provincial Government of the Faroe Islands , July 2, 2015, accessed on November 27, 2015 .
  4. ( Memento of the original from February 1, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  5. ^ Executive Order On The Pilot Whale Drive. (PDF; 356 kB) Faroese Ministry of Fisheries, July 5, 2013, accessed on September 4, 2017 (English, see § 13).
  6. ^ Jóhann Lutzen: Sýslumaðurin: Fyrstu ferð grind he dripin á Borðoyavík. (No longer available online.) In: Norðlýsið . August 20, 2017, archived from the original on September 2, 2017 ; Retrieved September 2, 2017 (Faroese, children involved in whaling, see video, in the background on the right). Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  7. Child participation in the whale massacre on the Faroe Islands 08/20/2017. In: YouTube . Retrieved September 2, 2017 .
  8. Whaling in the Faroe Islands. Modern and traditional at the same time ( Memento from June 13, 2010 in the Internet Archive )
  9. Joseph Victor von Scheffel: The pilot whale catch on the Faroe Islands. In: Gaudeamus! Songs from the narrower and wider. 22nd edition. Publishing house Bonz & Comp., Stuttgart 1876
  10. a b c d e f Grindir 2007–2012. In: Retrieved October 31, 2018 (Faroese).
  11. a b c d e f Grindir 2013–2018. In: Retrieved October 31, 2018 (Faroese).
  12. The “Grindadráp” continues. August 7, 2019, accessed November 9, 2019 .
  13. The World Factbook - Faroe Islands . Central Intelligence Agency. March 4, 2010. Retrieved March 16, 2010.
  14. Pilot Whale catches in the Faroe Islands 1900-2000 . Archived from the original on June 14, 2006. Retrieved December 4, 2006.
  15. - Villini djór ( Memento from May 7th, 2006 in the Internet Archive ) (Information from the Faroese alcohol monopoly trade on what you can drink with game. Hare and grind are considered local game here)
  16. Sustainable whaling. In: State Government of the Faroe Islands , accessed September 4, 2017 .
  17. a b Dietary recommendations for the consumption of pilot whale meat and bacon. (PDF; 230 kB) Faroese Food and Veterinary Authority, June 1, 2011, accessed on September 4, 2017 (English).
  18. ^ Co-ordinators: Grandjean, Philippe, University of Odense , Weihe, Pal, Chief Physician, Tórshavn: MARINE CONTAMINANTS: Methyl Mercury. (. No longer available online) CHEF - C hildren's H ealth and the E nvironment in the F Arões, archived from the original on September 29, 2007 ; accessed on June 17, 2010 (English): "Highest exposure about 1,000-fold higher than lowest" Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  19. Vit hava nógv kyksilvur í okkum., January 4, 2007, accessed June 17, 2010 (Faroese, we have enough mercury in us).
  20. Heilsumyndugleikar mæla øllum frá at eta grind . (“Health authorities advise against eating pilot whales”) , November 26, 2008
  21. Hans Pauli Strøm tekur undir við grindabanninum . (“Hans Pauli Strøm supports the ban on grind”), December 2, 2008
  22. Whaling on the Faroe. Whale and Dolphin Conservation Forum , accessed on September 1, 2017 .
  23. ^ Daniel Schaefer: Whaling: Udo Lindenberg wants to stop cruise ships. In: Hamburger Abendblatt . August 21, 2017. Retrieved September 1, 2017 .
  24. Faroe Islands: Whaling or Crusader? Deutsche Welle , July 13, 2016, accessed on December 27, 2017 .
  25. NAMMCO shall eygleiða grindadráp . ("NAMMCO should monitor pilot whale catches") , August 10, 2007
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on August 15, 2005 .