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WDC team at UN Ocean conference

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Black Sea common dolphins © Elena Gladilina

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Minke whale © Ursula Tscherter - ORES

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Risso's dolphin entangled in fishing line and plastic bags - Andrew Sutton

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Fin whale

Is this the beginning of the end for whaling off Iceland?

I'm feeling cautiously optimistic after Iceland's Fisheries Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir wrote that there is little...

Vat-ever next? Icelandic whaler’s new product is hardly a barrel of laughs

At a time of year when most of us are busy making resolutions to give up chocolate and alcohol, comes news of a brand new product designed to tempt Icelandic beer drinkers from New Year abstinence: whale beer.

‘Whale beer’ is the brainchild of the Steðjar brewery and fin whaling company, Hvalur hf. and claims to contain whale meal.  Its launch is timed to coincide with the Icelandic mid-winter festival of Þorrablót (Thorrablot) held in honour of the Norse god, Thor, a time when hearty food is served.

Brewery owner, Dabjartur Arilíusson, declared: “This is a unique beer, brewed in collaboration with Hvalur hf.  Whale beer will include, among other things, whale meal.  Whale meal is very protein rich, and has almost no fat in it.  That, along with the fact that no sugar is added makes this a very healthful drink, and people will be true Vikings drinking it.”

Asked if he was concerned that the product would fall foul of anti-whalers, he commented: “Doubtless some people won’t like it, there is a certain risk and we are aware of that ….. we hope Icelanders will like it as we’re naturally addressing it to Thorrablot, when people eat and drink various things which they normally wouldn’t.”

It is clear that the hand of Hvalur boss, Kristjan Loftsson is firmly stirring the vat here. Always on the look out for a new marketing angle to offload his fin whale meat – and invariably happiest when in so doing, he can provoke outrage from the conservation community – this is a man who boasts of running his whaling vessels on fin whale oil and who kills fin whales to make treats for dogs in Japan. 

Surely then, we cannot expect him to feel a shred of remorse for turning a beautiful and endangered whale into an ingredient on the side of a beer bottle?