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Minke whale © Ursula Tscherter - ORES

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How we’re tackling whaling in Norway

We’re helping to spearhead a campaign – supported by an international coalition of almost 40 conservation and animal welfare organisations – calling on airlines flying between Norway and Japan to pledge not to carry or promote whale meat. Appetite for whale meat is dwindling. Fewer people in whaling countries want to eat it and so whalers need to find new markets for their grim product.

A breaching minke whale
A breaching minke whale

Whaling in Norway is heavily subsidised by the Norwegian government, giving a financial incentive for the hunts to continue, but leaving the whalers with meat that they can’t sell. Needing to offload it, they look to Japan to take it off their hands. Typically this exported meat is carried by ship and we are working hard to persuade shipping companies to refuse to transport it and to convince ports to refuse entry to ships carrying whale meat. International trade in whale meat is banned and yet Norwegian and Icelandic whalers have exported hundreds of tonnes of minke whale meat in recent years.

Working closely with our colleagues at the US-based Animal Welfare Institute, we’ve been tracking these shipments, many of which have passed through EU ports, particularly Rotterdam, Hamburg and Le Havre. Shockingly, since 2013, at least four shipments of whale products have also passed through the port of Southampton. We need to stay one step ahead of the whalers and, if we get these shipping routes shut to them, then they could look to the sky as an export option. We need to make sure that no airline will carry their cruel product.

Our political efforts to close UK and EU sea ports to whale meat transits are ongoing and it is heartening to report that NGO protests almost certainly influenced Icelandic fin whaler Kristjan Loftsson’s decision to ship his fin whale products via a much longer and more precarious route around the Cape of Good Hope, or ‘over the top’, through Russia’s northeast passage. Our intention is to stop whaling by making it as difficult and expensive as possible for the whalers to export their meat.

Another market for the whale meat surplus is tourists. People visiting Norway or Iceland are enticed into trying it in the mistaken belief that it is somehow a traditional or popular food for locals. The fact is that it is neither. These tourists are unaware that they have inadvertently been keeping the whaling industry alive. Information campaigns in Iceland have succeeded in significantly driving down demand and we are now asking airlines flying tourists to Norway not to promote whale meat restaurants in their inflight magazines and instead to promote responsible whale watching.

A harbourside tourist restaurant in Tromso with whale on the menu
A harbourside tourist restaurant in Tromso with whale on the menu

Brussels Airlines instantly signed our pledge. Wencke Lemmes-Pireaux, head of corporate communications, stated: 'As a member of the Lufthansa Group, Brussels Airlines strictly follows the group's regulation regarding the transport of endangered species. As a consequence, we herewith confirm that Brussels Airlines doesn't carry or promote whale meat consumption to its passengers.'

Our fight to stop whaling continues. If we can persuade tourists not to eat whales and stop shipping companies and airlines carrying the meat, then we will make it much harder for the hunters. Together, we will stop the slaughter.

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