Norwegians not interested in whale meat, hunting season kills 575 whales

Minke whale swimming in blue water
Minke whale, photo: Joanne Weston via Canva

Norway’s killing of minke whales has been described as “inexcusable” by activists as a new poll shows only 2% of Norwegians want to eat whale meat.

The Norwegian whaling season officially ended Wednesday. Whalers killed 575 whales, according to statistics provided by the Norwegian Fishermen’s Sales Organization. Last year, hunters slaughtered 503 whales. 

But the higher number of whales killed didn’t increase the appetite for whale meat in Norway.

The new poll indicates that the number of Norwegians who said they eat whale meat often fell to 2%, compared with 4% who said they ate whale meat often in a 2019 poll. The new poll also showed that no respondents under 35 said they ate whale meat frequently.

“This is nothing short of ecocide,” said Vanessa Williams-Grey, policy manager at Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), in a press release. The word ecocide is defined as the destruction of large areas of the natural environment by human activity.

“Killing hundreds of minke whales is utterly inexcusable, especially given the essential role they play in our oceans. Whales are our allies in the battle against climate change,” Williams-Grey added.

Pregnant whales killed
Norwegians also have concerns about how hunters killed whales and that many whales were pregnant when they died.

The poll showed that two-thirds of respondents find it unacceptable that nearly 1 in 5 whales do not die instantly when shot by a harpoon. And 63% said they found it unacceptable that two-thirds of whales killed are female, almost half of whom are pregnant. 

“Whales continue to endure excruciating deaths from grenade harpoons,” said Dr Siri Martinsen, a veterinarian with NOAH, Norway’s largest animal protection organization. “It is completely unacceptable that 18 percent of hunted whales do not die instantly and are left to suffer,” she said.

Martinsen added that the poll results “clearly show that whale welfare is a major consideration for Norwegians.”

No whaling zones
Many respondents felt whales should be seen not as food but as a tourist attraction, with 71% of those aged 18 to 24 saying they felt Norway should create no-whaling zones similar to those established in Greenland and Iceland.

Susan Millward, director of the Animal Welfare Institute’s marine animal program, said that despite all efforts on marketing whale meat to consumers, “Norwegians are clearly not interested in eating whale meat.”

“Live whales can play an important role in Norway’s tourism economy, as Iceland and Greenland have already recognized by creating sanctuaries for whales in areas that host responsible whale watching and other ecotourism activities,” Millward said.

She urged the new Norwegian government “to listen to its citizens, and establish similar whaling-free zones, especially in key tourist areas such as Svalbard and Finnmark.”

The new poll of 1,037 Norwegians, aged 18 to 87, was conducted by Respons Analyze AS and was commissioned by NOAH, the AWI and Whale and Dolphin Conservation.

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