Danish officials on Tuesday hosed down Copenhagen's famed Little Mermaid after the statue was found doused with red paint, the AP reports. On the ground in front of the statue was written in red, in English, "Denmark defend the whales of the [Faeroe] Islands"—likely a reference to the hunting of pilot whales in the North Atlantic islands during the summer months, Danish media say. Authorities on the Faeroe Islands allow islanders to drive herds of pilot whales into shallow waters, where they're stabbed to death. The meat and blubber are shared afterward in the non-commercial slaughter, a practice that dates from the late 16th century.
The whales are not an endangered species. Island officials say that the pilot whale population in the eastern North Atlantic is abundant with about 778,000 whales, with approximately 100,000 around the Faeroe Islands. Islanders hunt and kill, on average, 800 pilot whales each year. The Little Mermaid was created by Danish sculptor Edvard Eriksen in tribute to the Danish storyteller Hans Christian Andersen. Sitting on a rock at the entrance of the Copenhagen harbor since 1913, she has been a popular target for vandals, who have blown her off her perch, beheaded her, and painted her.