Images of Norway

My backyard

Killing the whales
– and the monks of Lindisfarne

(The terrible Norwegians)

Christian Krohg: Leiv Eriksson discovers America (1893)

Christian Krohg:
Leiv Eriksson discovers America (1893)

The Vikings were great seafarers. They came from all Scandinavia, mainly from what during the Viking Age became Denmark and Norway. They made more or less peaceful journeys all over Europe and populated Iceland. Also, they sailed to Greenland and America, where they only killed the wild natives, which of course has always been legitimate. Their most well-known deeds are, however, the plundering, burning, slaying, and raping expeditions. This often involved cloisters where the inhabitants could put the deeds down in writing, sealing the Viking's bad reputation in history.

Allegedly it all began in the year 793 with the attack on Lindisfarne monastery, a cultural center at that time. It ended in 1066 when king Harald Hardraade of Norway tried to conquer England, but was defeated and killed at Stamford Bridge. (Nineteen days later a presumably Viking descendant from Normandy did conquer England – remember The Battle of Hastings?)

The Vikings were obviously brave men. Fancy the young boys listening to the narratives from those men, telling about the fights, the treasures, the girls, all those beautiful girls... I suppose recruitment was no problem. Curiously, typical of today's Scandinavia, the traditional masculine traits are no longer encouraged.

Artist (photo): Nic Tucker

Artist (photo):
Nic Tucker

Whale meat is excellent, just don't fry it too long, that results in this taste of train oil. Seals eat an enormous amount of the fish that we want to catch and eat or export, and when there is not enough fish in the ocean, they invade the coast, get caught and drown in the fish nets, destroying the nets in the process. Even worse, the seals infect the cod with an intestinal worm, making it inedible. And, of course, the meat, fat, and skin of the seals are valuable. So we hunt on them. Like we always did. Well, not quite as much as we would prefer to do, see below.

This World is a wonderful place with all those cultures with all those different rules of what to do and what not to do. We kill the whales and the seals and eat them. In some countries they kill dogs and eat them. In some countries the authorities even kill human beings. If I were from India I would also comment that in many countries cows are regularly killed. Our friends in the US seem to be shocked because we eat (wild and domestic) reindeer, but then Rudolph doesn't pull the sledge of our Santa Claus.

Artist: Jim Warren

Jim Warren

A lot of people express concern for the whales (and seals), more so than for other wild mammals on this Earth. Admittedly, the dolphins (including the killer whale) are beautiful, intelligent, and playful, and may seem to take a fancy to humans. But what about those enormous baleen whales out there? They surely have a very large brain, but if their intelligence were in proportion to the brain size, they would be bored to death, literally. Continuing this very unscientific argumentation about whale intelligence, this autumn (2002) the famous killer whale Keiko swam to – of all places – Norway! (The fjord where Keiko arrived is not far from my old farm, and when we went there to pick apples we stopped to see the whale, the result is the Keiko in Norway page.)

We do understand the concern about killing baby seals (because of their nice fur), they appeal indeed to a universal parental instinct. Therefore suckling seal babies are not killed any more. Yea, our reputation is bad enough anyway.

Artist: Friedensreich Hundertwasser

Friedensreich Hundertwasser

There are about 70 species of toothed whales (including the beloved dolphins) and 10 species of baleen whales. Many of these are endangered, and for some species Norway shares the blame. In Norway hunting endangered species has for decades been prohibited. Actually, hunting any species is prohibited, unless explicitly permitted.

We all mean that we should strive to save all endangered species. Save the endangered whale species! Why do Greenpeace and other organizations (in effect) omit that important word?

Maybe I'm making the common mistake of thinking that man is a rational being.

Greenpeace, The Brigitte Bardot Foundation, and similar organizations do wonderful jobs trying to save our environment and reduce animal suffering. However, it's probably inevitable that some of their goals are rather irrational, reflecting the feelings – and sometimes ignorance – of their contributors.

Charles Wysocki: The Whalers

Charles Wysocki:
The Whalers

Man has in many ways upset the balance of Nature and has thus made himself responsible for remedying the consequences. For example overfishing because of lack of international rules and because of breaking of rules has resulted in the seal problems mentioned above (second window) – and seal suffering. Humane principles (and even laws) demand that we kill suffering animals that cannot be helped in other ways. The question is, should we let starvation regulate the animal population, or should we control it by hunting? Hunting is an old tradition, and this harvesting of natural resources has never before been a controversial issue when done properly.

The brave (or terrible) Norwegian authorities now permit hunting on the minke whale, the smallest baleen whale. The 2002 quota is 674 animals. The estimated population in the North-East Atlantic is 120,000 minke whales.

We also hunt harp seals and hooded seals. The 2002 quotas are 20,000 and 10,300 respectively. The population in the North Atlantic is several millions, and the reproduction is probably an order of magnitude higher than the number harvested. The fast population increase is really worrying, and the fishermen up north curse those animal welfare organizations.

Pablo Picasso: Wounded bird and cat (1938)

Pablo Picasso:
Wounded bird and cat (1938)

(Oct. 2004): Announcement, for all bloodthirsty men and women here and abroad:

The 2004 seal hunting quota is 2100 animals. As this number has not been met by local hunters, the Ministry of Fisheries has decided that seal hunting shall be opened to tourists, starting January 2005. You'll have to be accompanied by a certified seal hunter, though. Don't you believe this? I swear, it's true!

Artist: Sandra Kuck

Sandra Kuck

Apart from the cases mentioned, we behave like saints. More or less, of course, we are like all other humans. And since we are not attacked (except by some animal welfare organizations!) or oppressed by authorities or other countries, we can afford to be relaxed and peaceable. Internationally we strive to keep up the reputation originating from Fridjof Nansen and the Nobel Peace Price. That's good for international trade and cultural exchange, somewhat counteracting the bad reputation described above. Surely it is also good for our national self-esteem.