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The Case for Mass Murder in the Faeroe Islands


Photo: Peter Hammarstedt

The Faeroese call their mass slaughter of Pilot whales the GRINDADRÁP. As a former student of linguistics I find this very enlightening. Grindehval means pilot whale in Faeroes. In Swedish it is Grindval; in Norwegian, Grindhval; Danish, Grindehval;?Icelandic, Grindhvalur. In Faeroese the word gets shortened to Grind, which still means Pilot whales. It is the word “dráp” that got my attention.

The Nordic word “drap” literally means murder. In Swedish, dråp, means murder, in Norwegian, drap means murder, in Danish, drab, means murder, in Icelandic, dráp, means human murder, in Faroese, dráp, also means murder. Drap is the legal term for murder in all the Nordic countries. In an effort to get around this, some Faeroese are arguing that the word for murder is “mord”. This is not a Nordic word but is, in fact, a borrowed word from the German language where the word for murder is “mord.” The Faeroese use the word as “morð”.

It is true that the word “mord” is now in common use, however the legal term for murder remains as “drap.” The exception is Sweden where the word “mord” has been adopted as the official word for murder, although the word dråp is the proper term in all the older Swedish law books. The word dråp is still the legal term for manslaughter in Sweden.

In Iceland and the Faeroes the word “manndráp” is the legal word meaning “man murder” or homicide. The word for child murder is “barnadråp.”


Murder (Norwegian Law) (Wikipedia)

Murder (Swedish Law) (Wikipedia)

Thus linguistically the word Grindadráp literally means Pilot whale murder. The word “hópdráp” means genocide and the word “oyðdráp” means extinction and so on.

It is my position that this is an accurate description because I hold the belief that the deliberate killing of a whale or dolphin is an act of murder. Dolphins and whales are highly intelligent, socially complex, self aware, sentient beings and I cannot accept any justification for their slaughter, and thus I view it as murder.

We have to remember that just over a century ago, the deliberate killing of an Aboriginal person in Australia was not seen as murder, nor was the killing of an American Indian or an African American slave. The definition of murder is not a static one. If an intelligent life form were to land on the Earth and a human deliberately killed the visiting life form, I think that would be considered a murder by most intelligent people.

We are finding that whales, dolphins, chimpanzees, bonobos and even elephants have highly evolved intelligent brains. They are highly social, self-aware beings. It is my belief that they need to be protected. Empathy and logic dictate that we give these living beings recognition under the law. Linguistically the Faeroese already recognize the killing of Pilot whales as murder, but empathy and logic have not conformed to the language.

The facts are that the killing of the whales is not for subsistence, nor even a nutritional need for the Faeroese. In fact the meat of the Pilot whale is toxic with methyl mercury and other heavy metals like lead, PCB’s, etc. If tradition and culture are to be accepted as justification for the murder of the whales then the Solomon Islanders could argue that their tradition of head hunting other tribes is justified.

It will be a long hard struggle to convince the Faeroese to view the Pilot whales as deserving of compassion and justice under the law, but all-important struggles for rights and recognition under the law tend to be long, hard struggles. The key to success is persistence and an untiring, determined, and unwavering pursuit of the objective of ending the mass murder of Pilot whales in the bloody waters of the Faeroe Islands.

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