Residents of the Faroe Islands, an autonomous province of Denmark, slaughter and eat pilot whales every year, as these photos graphically depict. The Faroese are descendents of Vikings, and pilot whales have been a central part of their diet for more than 1,000 years. They crowd these intelligent animals into a bay and kill them, cutting the dorsal area through to the spinal cord. In the process, their main arteries get cut. As you can see, the waters in the bay turn bright red from all the blood.
Ironically, this practice, called grindadráp, is diminishing the population of 5,000 islanders. Many of them get sick and die from high mercury levels in the whales. Mentally retarded children are reportedly being born at alarmingly high rates.
To be clear, the whales are not endangered and animal rights organizations have largely backed off due to the fact that this process is such an integral part of Faroese culture, and because the Faroese aren’t involved in commercial whaling. That doesn’t make the pictures any easier to look at, though.
PBS has a video about the mercury problem and this culture’s deeply held beliefs called ‘The Faroe Islands – Message from the Sea’, viewable here.
Link [PBS] + [Wikipedia]