COPENHAGEN, Denmark — The Faeroese government said Thursday that it will review the way hunts of Atlantic white-sided dolphins are carried out following the release of gruesome video footage showing the mass killing on Sunday of nearly 1,500 sea mammals.
The extent of the slaughter was so large — much higher than in previous years — that it appears participants may not have been able to follow regulations to minimize the suffering of the animals.
“We take this matter very seriously. Although these hunts are considered sustainable, we will be looking closely at the dolphin hunts, and what part they should play in Faeroese society,” Faeroese Premier Bardur a Steig Nielsen said in a statement.
The decision by the government of the 18 rocky islands, located halfway between Scotland and Iceland, came after Sunday's catch. That day, islanders slaughtered 1,428 white-sided dolphins on the central Faeroese island of Eysturoy in the North Atlantic archipelago. The sea mammals are killed for their meat and blubber.
White-side dolphins and pilot whales — which are also killed on this islands — are not endangered species.
Environmental activists have long claimed the practice is cruel. But this year even people on the Faeroes who defend the four-century-old practice have spoken out amid fears that it will draw unwanted attention.
A local activist from the international animal rights group Sea Shepherd filmed the Sunday episode, and on Wednesday the international animal rights group said it hopes that pressure will build from within the Faeroe Islands to end its traditional drive of sea mammals.
There was no immediate reaction from Sea Shepherd to Thursday's announcement.
Each year, islanders drive herds of the mammals — chiefly pilot whales — into shallow waters, where they are stabbed to death. A blow-hole hook is used to secure the beached whales and their spine and main artery leading to the brain are severed with knives, turning water in the bay red with blood. The drives are regulated by law and the meat and blubber are shared on a community basis.
The Faeroese government said the “whale drives are a dramatic sight to people unfamiliar with the slaughter of mammals. The hunts are, nevertheless, well organized, and fully regulated. Faroese animal welfare legislation, which also applies to whaling, stipulates that animals shall be killed as quickly and with as little suffering as possible.”
The former chairman of the Faeroese association behind the drives, Hans Jacob Hermansen, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that it was no different “from killing cattle or anything else. It’s just that we have an open abattoir.”