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Humpback whale underwater

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Black Sea common dolphins © Elena Gladilina

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Minke whale © Ursula Tscherter - ORES

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Boto © Fernando Trujillo

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Tokitae in captivity

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Orcas at the seabed

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‘Banana Republic’ Iceland?

Forgive me for smelling a rat here, but the latest news out of Iceland regarding the now infamous whale beer strikes me as highly suspicious. Banned only a fortnight ago on food safety grounds, we learn of a sudden U-turn permitting the beer to go on sale – conveniently just in time for the midwinter festival of Thorrablot which started Friday – pending further investigations following a complaint filed by the Steðjar brewery.  It is difficult to see how a product banned by public health experts because Hvalur lacks a licence to sell ground-up whale bones for human consumption, suddenly passes muster.  Can it possibly have anything to do with Hvalur boss, Kristjan Loftsson, giving the pot an extra stir here and leaning on a pro-whaling government to allow his product onto the shelves after all?

In a show of solidarity for Loftsson’s brew, former Minister of Fisheries, Einar K. Guðfinnsson (the man who increased the whaling quota in 2008) posted a photo showing him eating traditional Thorrablot fare and drinking “…the long-awaited whale beer”.

Certainly Loftsson will not at all have liked the massive negative publicity the story has provoked around the globe – with many Icelanders themselves commenting on social media that they do not like the sound of a beer which even the brewer himself describes as tasting ‘fishy’.

Rannveig Grétarsdóttir, general manager of the Elding Whale Watch company in Reykjavik summed it up beautifully when she posted: “If this isn’t preferential treatment and corruption then I don’t know what is. Who else than Kristján Loftsson gets the Minister of Fisheries to allow the sales of a product that the Public Health Authority has banned. This is Banana Republic Iceland in a nutshell. In the report they forgot to mention that the beer is produced in collaboration with Hvalur Inc.”

Happily, a recent poll suggests that a growing  number of Icelanders are in favour of their country joining the EU.  If this trend continues, those who profit from killing whales will definitely be crying into their beer.

 

About Vanessa Williams-Grey

Policy manager - Stop Whaling and Responsible Whale Watching