Tag Archives: Norway

Whaling resumes :(

Whale captured

It’s bad news for whales. Japan has resumed commercial whaling, bringing back to port the country’s first official catch since it withdrew from the International Whaling Commission, a global organization committed to the conservation of whales. But Japan isn’t the only country still hunting whales, in spite of a 1986 ban on the practice. Norway and Iceland hunt whales too.

Whales roam throughout all of the world’s oceans, communicating with complex and mysterious sounds. Their sheer size amazes us: the blue whale can reach lengths of more than 100 feet and weigh up to 200 tons—as much as 33 elephants.

Despite living in the water, whales breathe air. A thick layer of fat called blubber insulates them from cold ocean waters. And like humans, they are warm-blooded mammals who nurse their young.  We know that they feel pain just like us too.

Whales are at the top of the food chain and have an important role in the overall health of the marine environment. Unfortunately their large size and mythical aura does not protect them; six out of the 13 great whale species are classified as endangered, even after decades of protection.

There are a number of factors contributing to the current endangered status of whales such as overfishing, pollution, dam/bridge construction, private/commercial boating and commercial whaling, but out of these contributing factors commercial whaling has had the largest effect on the endangered status of today’s existing whale populations.

Fortunately, whale meat is becoming less appetizing. Conservation groups have revealed that Norwegian exports of minke whale to Japan contained damaging levels of toxic pesticides, making that meat unfit for human consumption. It’s a discovery that could cue a swifter decline in the appetite for whale meat.

Japan used to import whale meat from Norway but had to stop. Tests showed samples contained pesticides at twice the limit Japan imposes on its imports. The meat harbored chemicals such as aldrin, dieldrin, and chlordane, thought to play a role in causing birth defects, neurological harm, and some cancers, if humans consume them in high quantities.

We hope that this is a wake-up call for those cultures that still consume whale meat.  Of course we wish that the whales weren’t so polluted, since it isn’t good for their health either, but we also wish that they were free to roam the oceans without fear of capture.  Hopefully that day will come in the not-too-distant future.

Meatless Meals for the Norwegian Military

Santa & ReindeerAre vegetarian meals available at the North Pole? Well not quite…yet. Almost at the North Pole, Norway has just instituted meatless meals once a week for their entire military, in order to do their part in the struggle against global warming.

According to spokesman Eystein Kvarving “It’s a step to protect our climate. The idea is to serve food that’s respectful of the environment. It’s not about saving money. It’s about being more concerned for our climate, more ecologically friendly and also healthier.” A Norwegian environmental group that campaigns for meatless meals nationwide, The Future in Our Hands, welcomed the military’s announcement. “The defense ministry deserves a lot of praise because it’s taking climate and environmental issues seriously,” said the group’s director, Arild Hermstad.

Of course in instituting the new policy some preconceptions need to be overcome, since only about 1 to 2 percent of Norwegians self-identify as vegetarians. The Future in Our Hands group says that the average Norwegian currently eats more than 1,200 animals in his or her lifetime, including 1,147 chickens, 22 sheep, 6 cattle, and almost 3 deer.

“It seems that people don’t think it’s possible to be an iron man as a vegetarian. It seems like they don’t think a good soldier can be a vegetarian, but we have a lot of soldiers who are vegetarian, so I know it’s possible,” says Pal Stenberg, a nutritionist and navy commander who heads up the army’s catering division. “We have to use a lot of effort in communicating both the environmental benefits and the health benefits.”

We’re glad they recognize some of the health benefits. Actually, this should already be well-known to them. While their country was occupied during World War II, the supply of animal products was all but cut off from the general population. During that time disease rates fell significantly, giving something of a silver lining to all the hardship. Now that they recognize the environmental and health benefits of a vegetarian diet, we hope they will come to learn more about compassion towards animals and the global hunger benefits of a vegetarian diet as well.

To our knowledge, this is the first instance of an entire military going veg once a week. The significance of this can hardly be overstated.  Hopefully this will set the ball rolling for other NATO members to follow suit. So far, the vegetarian fare is going over pretty well amongst the troops, especially the meat analogues. One soldier was convinced the mysterious soy product in his taco was actually ground beef because it was so real.

In the meantime, Santa please take note. We’re getting real close to the North Pole. So on your next trip down from the Pole, why not stop at Spisestedet, an all plant-based restaurant in Oslo, and treat yourself and the elves to dinner. They’re making a recipe and checking it twice. Their chimney is all clear for you and you’ll be giving yourself, the elves, the planet, and all who share it, the most precious gift of all: life itself.