For many, tradition refers to a tangible or intangible cultural heritage that needs to be cherished and supported. But there are also traditions that are heavily contested with strong pleas from outsiders to abandon them. In both cases, traditions are usually enmeshed in cultural politics. This article will focus on the time-honoured Sicilian tuna catching procedure known as la mattanza and on the customary tradition of the grindadráp in the Faroe Islands, a pilot whale drive that is said to constitute an inalienable part of the islanders’ culture. This whale drive has met with international resistance, while the mattanza has not aroused comparable opposition. Yet, both are bloody events, involving the killing of considerable numbers of giant sea creatures at close range with gaffs and knives. What is puzzling is that the one tradition—which is a communal activity aimed at slaughtering a non-endangered species for home consumption—should meet with strong criticism, whereas the other—which is commercial and aimed at an endangered species—is hardly contested. In addition to describing and analysing both traditions, the aim of the present article is to arrive at more general conclusions about the controversies and cultural politics of traditions, especially in connection with issues of identity, authenticity and modernity.