A government-backed marketing campaign spruiking whale meat as a delicacy is not imaginable in Australia, but in Norway such an advertising blitz has been going on for years.
Whale steaks, sushi and burgers have been promoted at food and music festivals as modern and trendy, luring in younger consumers.
The Instagram hashtag #hvalkjøtt (whale meat) has more than 800 posts showing all-manner of whale-inspired fine dining.
Whales are not just consumed, the carcass is being turned into cosmetics, vitamin supplements and protein powder with “unique amino acid composition … good for restitution, increased energy levels and combustion.”
In a 2017 Norwegian pro-whaling documentary, whalers proudly showed off their day’s work, which includes harpooning pregnant females and disposing of their unborn calves.
Another industry short film celebrates a veteran whale hunter’s ‘passion and profession.’
Whaling company Myklebust has shown off its charitable side, giving whale meat to those in need.
‘A dying business’
A Norwegian Ministries of Trade, Industry and Fisheries spokeswoman said very limited government funds had been made available to promote whale products.
“Mostly to private projects that aims to make young people acquainted with whale products as part of our overall policy to promote the consumption of all seafood,” State Secretary Veronica Isabel Pedersen said.
But Greenpeace Norway head Truls Gulowsen said the industry was merely staving off its inevitable demise.
“Whaling in Norway is really a dying business. It’s shrinking in demand every year,” he said.
“So far these marketing approaches have not really worked. And the national and international demand for whale products is very, very small.”
The Norwegian Government increased this year’s minke whales hunting quota to 1,278.
But activists say last year only 432 whales were taken, the lowest total in 20 years, which Mr Gulowsen said showed demand was dwindling.
Gone are the days of Greenpeace engaging in high-seas tussles with Norwegian whaling ships to grab international headlines.
Instead the environmental group has adopted a more reserved approach.
“We maintain the need for a ban and maintain the line whaling is unnecessary and stupid,” Mr Gulowsen said.
“But we don’t create unnecessary noise which might fuel the nationalistic eating of whales again, which was very bad for whales.”
He said in past decades when global pressure was heaped on Norway to stop whaling, support at home for the industry spiked.
“That raised the support for whaling to sky-high levels in Norway, because it was seen as a national sovereignty issue,” Mr Gulowsen said.
Legal experts say Norway is doing nothing wrong
Putting ethical concerns to one side, experts say Norway’s whaling industry is on solid legal ground.
In 1982, the International Whaling Commission adopted a moratorium on commercial whaling.
Norway entered a reservation, which essentially means it opted out.
University of Sydney Associate Professor Ed Couzens, who’s an expert in international whaling law, said Norway’s conduct was unimpeachable.
“That reservation gives Norway perfect right to consider itself not bound by the moratorium,” he said.
“Norway has essentially disengaged in many ways from the contentious debate within the IWC.
“And Norway takes the attitude it’s not going to be told by any other state how to manage environmental affairs.”
Mr Couzens said the issue appeared to have ‘gone off the boil’ in Europe.
“The threats to whales are far broader than just whaling. These range from pollution to sonic disturbances and disturbance to feeding grounds,” he said.
Even Greenpeace admits the minke whale population is under no threat of extinction, given there’s thought to be about 100,000 off the coast of Norway.
Norway’s whaling industry bodies and companies have either declined or not responded to interview requests.
article sourced from ABC news