The recent slaughter of pilot whales witnessed by guests who had sailed aboard the Ambition operated by Ambassador Cruise line earlier this week to the port capital of Torshavn in the Faroe Islands reminded me of the first time I became aware of this repulsive activity. Eight years ago (July 2015), a reader of Cruise Law News asked me what I thought of cruise lines sailing to the Faroe Islands where they routinely slaughter pilot whales. I didn’t know anything about the issue at the time. Quite frankly, I had not heard of the Faroe Islands back then. I wasn’t even exactly sure what a pilot whale was, but I promised her that I would look into it.

I was shocked with what I quickly learned of the so-called “tradition” of slaughtering pilot whales in the Faroes. I remain appalled by the brutal and senseless killing in what I now feel comfortable calling the evil, murderous, bloody Faroe Islands. I was absolutely disgusted by what I read and the horrific images I saw back in 2015 and just this week.

Image credit: Captain Paul Watson Foundation UK

These sentient, highly intelligent social beings which travel in pods with around 20 other family members. They sense fear when the pods are under attack. The people in the Faroe Islands gut the whales and rip their babies out after terrorizing the pods. (photo above via Sea Shepherd was of prior hunt). The violence is ruthless. Cruising to these killing zones is barbaric and unconscionable.

Grim Facts of the Carnage

Many hundreds of pilot whales are slaughtered annually in the Faroe Islands which has admitted that around 800 pilot whales are killed each year. This year, 646 whale killings have been slaughtered.

These are not far out-at-sea murders by huge Japanese ships away from civilization. These are well attended sporting events where the whales are chased into a harbor and killed by the locals with knives while their family members cheer them on. The locals call it the “Grindadráp Grind.” I call it the killing of defenseless mammals for fun by sick sociopaths. There is nothing “traditional” about using helicopters and power boats to herd and kill whales.

John Hourston, founder of Blue Planet Society, told the Washington Post: “It’s a blood sport. It’s no more than a summer pastime.” 

Image credit: abdpost.

But the people in the Faroes are not satisfied with killing just whales; they view most anything swimming in their waters as fair game to slaughter. The Washington Post wrote that in addition to pilot whales, the Faroes’ hunters “target other small whales and dolphins, such as orcas, Atlantic white-sided dolphins and Northern bottlenose whales . . .” More than 20,000 marine mammals have perished in these hunts in the Faroe Islands, the Post writes.

Here’s what one person described about a whale hunt:

The whales “are dragged to the shallow water, where participants kill them in the sea to around waist height. There they are slaughtered with traditional knives whose blades are usually 16 to 19 cm (6.3 to 7.5 in) long. Usually two deep cuts are made on either side of the animal’s neck, just behind the blow hole, causing the head to drop forward. A third cut is then made through the middle of the neck down to the carotid arteries and spinal cord, which are severed. After a period of violent thrashing the animal is paralyzed and loses consciousness, (eventually) dying of blood loss in most cases. With this the sea turns bright red with blood.”

This is exactly what hundreds of clueless Ambassador cruise passengers witnessed earlier this week where numerous media outlets reported that seventy-eight pilot whale were butchered.

Subsequently, the CEO of Ambassador Cruise Line sheepishly acknowledged the incident on Twitter and professed some degree of remorse that the guests were “upset” by the gruesome carnage. But Ambassador’s expressions of “disappointment” seem to be limited to the fact that the horrific slaughter occurred while the ship was in port in Torshavn. In other words, Ambassador was upset that the customers saw the gruesome truth of the local port’s so-called traditions. It doesn’t appear that Ambassador was concerned enough with the fact that terrorizing and killing these sensitive mammals is, in itself, inherently evil as to lose any profits by not cruising to Torshavn.

Indeed, the sincerity of Ambassador’s newly found regret is belied by the fact that the company’s itinerary reveals that it will return its cruise ships to the Faroe several times within the next year.

The core values and moral compass of any reputable business should keep any cruise line from having anything to do with a country which carries out such cruelty to animals in such a routine and widespread manner. But taking paying customers to the bloody Faroes is business as usual for most cruise lines.

A few years ago, I urged the readers and followers of this blog (we have over 260,000 subscribers and followers of our Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Threads pages) to boycott the Faroe Islands. (I’ll repeat that call again here, now).

The tourist board Visit Faroe Islands (whose Twitter name is @VisitFaroe), as well as the tourism board for the capital Torshavn (whose Twitter name is @VisitTorshavn) blocked our firm on Twitter, which should give you some insight into how the Faroes handles criticism of its barbaric pastime.

The Washington Post wrote about the slaughter, saying that the cruise ships were allegedly “blindsided” when they arrived at the port capital of Torshavn, “where a traditional hunt had turned the sea red. Hunters used motorboats and a helicopter to corral the whales in a beach nearby before dragging them with hooks and butchering them with knives.”

Andrija Ilic/AFP/Getty Images via Washington Post

Predictably, the “Visit Faroe Islands” tourism office did not respond to the Washington Post’s requests for comment. A chief adviser in the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Culture however said in an email to the Post that tourism and whaling taking place side by side “does not cause concern for the government, although whale drives can be a dramatic sight for spectators unfamiliar with the slaughter of mammals.” (emphasis added)

Image credit: CPWF / Triangle New via Daily Mail

The Post explained that although “the carnage caught the cruise line by surprise when it pulled into Torshavn, the company had been aware of the annual event.” The cruise line’s CEO had even “expressed his dismay over a dolphin hunt” that had occurred in 2021. Ironically, Ambassador teamed up with a marine conservation group called ORCA based in the United Kingdom, on an anti-whaling and dolphin hunt campaign.

Ambassador needs to commit to pulling its ships from visiting the Faroe Islands in the future, like a few cruise companies have responsibly done.

The Good Guys:

A few cruise lines have discontinued supporting cruises to the deadly Faroes Islands in protest of the annual slaughter of pilot whales, namely two German lines, Hapag-Lloyd and AIDA.

Disney Cruises was planning to include the Faroes on its itinerary eight years ago but decided not to cruise there after it learned of the ground swell of opposition to such a barbaric practice. So, kudos to Hapag-Lloyd, AIDA and Disney which all decided to do the right thing!

Other Cruise Lines Which Take Tourists to the Bloody Faroe Islands

Sadly, the vast majority of cruise lines still sail to the Faroe Islands and have all ignored prior boycott efforts.

NCL promotes excursions to Torshavn, which it describes as the “colorful capital city of the Faroe Islands on the island of Steymoy (which) features a panoply of Nordic landscapes, with fjords, straits, deep green valleys, and a wonderful harbor dotted with colorful boats. Thorshavn began as a Viking settlement, and later became a thriving town, replete with quaint, colorful neighborhoods, and historic cathedrals and fortresses from the Middle Ages.” But no mention, of course, of the horrific whale slaughters.

Princess Cruises encourages it guests to buy tours to the Faroes and advertises the capital as a “pretty town of 20,000 (which) rises gently up the hillside from the water’s edge, dotted with red painted government buildings and charming turf-roofed cottages. Restaurants and cafes can be found nestled alongside the national theater, the national library and several delightful museums.” But the cruise line obviously doesn’t mention that the quaint “red-haired, freckle-faced Faroese people” murder hundreds of whales a year.  

Oceania Cruises joins parent company NCL in selling cruises to the Faroe Islands, characterizing the port of Torshavn as a “picturesque fishing town.” 

Cunard makes money by convincing its guests to buy outings to the “colourfully painted wooden houses of the old town (of Torshavn) with turfed roofs.” The captain of the  Queen Victoria is a native of the Faroe Islands and there was great fanfare when he sailed the Cunard cruise liner into the port of Klaksvik in the Faroes.

Other cruise lines which are on the Bloody-Faroes-Wall-of-Shame: Holland America Line P&O CruisesRegent Seven Seas, Viking Ocean Cruises, SeabournWindstar, Silversea, Crystal, Explora Journeys, Fred Olsen and Azamara among other smaller companies like Hurtigruten Expeditions, Aurora Expeditions, Albatros Expeditions, Lindblad Expeditions (National Geographic), Quark Expeditions, and Poseidon Expeditions (Listed under Adventure Life’s Best Faroe Islands Cruises & Tours).

The public awareness of the barbaric, grisly practice is due to the tireless hard work of volunteers at the organization of Captain Paul Watson.   

The residents of the Faroes try to justify their deadly hobby of killing whales by pointing to their “heritage and tradition” of eating whale meat. (Read: Faroe Islands ‘cherish’ their bloody whale-hunting tradition). (I say cruelty for a long time is hardly a tradition).   

The Faroe Islands has a high standard of living today and the distribution of whale meat is completely unnecessary. It is a stretch to claim the residents of the Faroes are desperate for a source of food in their completely modern society today. (Indeed, the island even boasts that it has a Burger King). Whale meat is also high in toxins and dangerous to eat anyway.

We again recommend boycotting the Faroe Islands and any cruise line which stops there. We suggest taking any or all of the following six steps:

  1. Don’t buy any product, particularly fish products such as salmon, from the Faroe Islands. Tell your local supermarket, fish store or sushi restaurant to stop buying fish from the Faroe Islands.
  2. Don’t travel to the Faroe Islands; tell your travel agents to cross the Faroe Islands off your bucket list.
  3. Don’t cruise to the Faroe Islands or support cruise lines that do; contact your favorite cruise line and tell them to stop calling on the Faroe Islands.
  4. Let the public know that slaughtering families of whales is wrong. Post your thoughts on Twitter, Threads, Instagram and Facebook.
  5. Join and support the Captain Paul Watson Foundation UK.
  6. Join and support the “Stop the Grind” effort of Sea Shepherd, including signing the petitions listed on its site.

Have a comment or question?. Please leave one below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Image credit: Whale slaughter – Sea Sheppard and Captain Paul Watson Foundation UK; Andrija Ilic/AFP/Getty Images via Washington Post; carnage at beach – abdpost; beached whale being slaughtered – CPWF / Triangle New via Daily Mail; Ambition cruise ship – Ambassador Cruise Line.