As Norway’s whaling fleet prepares to hit the high seas to begin its annual hunt for minke whales, a report just released by the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) and the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) suggests that market demand for whale meat is so low that unsellable stock is ending up as feed for animals being farmed for the country’s fur industry.
Norway continues to hunt whales under objection to the general moratorium on commercial whaling instigated by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in 1982. The country has killed over 5000 whales since 1991, and in defiance to a specific IWC resolution in 2001 that specifically called on Norway to stop all whaling and cease trade in whale products, the nation has actually increased exports of whale products in the last two years, shipping 172 metric tons of meat and blubber to Japan since 2014.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare has long claimed that the global whaling industry is being propped up by governmental subsidies, yet the scale of Norway’s hunt now exceeds quotas set by any other whaling nation, and over the last two years the country’s hunters have slaughtered more whales than Japan and Iceland combined. This year’s quota is 880 whales, considerably less than the 1,286 targeted in 2015, but still a number arrived at by a process that IWC scientists have slammed as ‘insufficient’ in terms of its conservation performance.
And for those opposed to the industry, what makes it all more unpalatable is the fact that the domestic market demand doesn’t even seem to exist. Despite repeated attempts to reinvent whale products and rebrand whale meat—to give it a new image and increase its appeal by spruiking trendy recipes and marketing new products such as the Karsten Ellingsen Company’s ‘Lofotburger’ (50% minke whale and 50% pork)—consumption remains small and is declining.
In the past there have been reports of unwanted whale meat and blubber finding its way into pet food, or even getting dumped overboard or burned to fuel ships. The most recent evidence of perverse profligacy comes in the form of last week’s document, which claims that over 113 tonnes of whale meat (which equates to 75 slaughtered minke whales) was delivered to Rogaland Pelsdyrfôrlaget, the largest manufacturer of animal feed for the Norwegian fur industry, in 2014.
‘Killing these sentient and magnificent animals to feed suffering animals on fur farms underscores why the world opposes whaling, and clearly demonstrates that Norwegians have no legitimate need for whale meat,’ said Susan Millward, executive director of AWI. ‘Whaling is inherently cruel and has no place in a civilized society.’
Last year Norway exported 258 tonnes of fox pelts and 1,000 tonnes of mink skins into the EU, most imported by its Scandinavian neighbours Denmark and Finland. Jennifer Lonsdale, director of EIA, said the fact that two ‘cruel and controversial’ industries were supporting one another was ‘unacceptable’.