Gruesome pic shows mass slaughter of whales in Faroe Islands hunt

Faroe Islanders have turned the sea red after slaughtering hundreds of whales as part of a centuries-old hunt, which has been harshly criticized by animal rights groups.

The hunts, or drives date back to the late 16th century.  Authorities on the islands allow islanders to drive herds of pilot whales into shallow waters, where they are killed using a spinal lance that is inserted through the animals neck to break its spinal cord.

The grisly image shows a hunt on June 16.

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The first hunt of this year was on May 21, according to ocean conservation group Sea Shepherd, which claims that 84 pilot whales were killed in the hunt. Hundreds more whales have died in subsequent hunts  according to Sea Shepherd, which describes the drives as incredibly cruel.

The Faroe Islands are located in the Atlantic Ocean between Iceland and Norway.

According to the Faroese Government, approximately 450 pilot whales have been killed in the Faroe Islands so far this year. Some 295 pilot whales were killed during hunts, which are known as Grindadrap in the local language, last year, according to official statistics. Some 501 were killed in 2015, according to official statistics.

A spokesman for the Faroe Islands government told Fox News that whaling in the islands is sustainable and conducted in accordance with international law. There is no doubt that whale hunts in the Faroe Islands are dramatic and result in a lot of blood in the water, he explained, via email. They are, nevertheless, well organised and fully regulated.

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The spinal lance used to kill the whales was designed by a Faroese veterinarian and ensures that the mammals lose consciousness and die within a few seconds. Normally, the entire pod of whales is killed in less than fifteen minutes, the spokesman said. A rounded blowhole hook is used to haul the whales further up onto the shore.

The government says that the pilot whale population in the eastern North Atlantic is approximately 778,000, of which around 100,000 are around the Faroes. The Faroese catch around 800 whales a year on average, it says. The long-term annual average catch of pilot whales in the Faroe Islands represents less than 1 percent of the total eastern North Atlantic whale population, according to the spokesman for the Faroe Islands government. It has long since been internationally recognised that pilot whale catches in the Faroe Islands are fully sustainable, he said.

The hunts can happen at any time of the year and are noncommercial - meat and blubber from each drive is shared among the local community. The whales are not an endangered species.

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The islands are a self-governing group of islands that is part of Denmark, but are not part of the European Union, where whaling is banned.

Last month officials in the Danish capital Copenhagen had to hose down the citys famous Little Mermaid statue after it was found doused with red paint in an apparent protest at the Faroe Islands whale hunts. On the ground in front of the statue was written in red, in English, "Denmark defend the whales of the Faroe Islands."

Activists recently urged the European Union to take action against Denmark over the Faroe Islands whale hunt.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

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