To many foreigners at least, Norway has an unenviable reputation as one of the few countries in the world still hunting whales for commercial purposes. In so doing, the Norwegians ignore the worldwide ban on commercial whaling adopted by the International Whaling Commission in 1986. While Japan claims to kill whales for scientific reasons, Norway does not disguise its main reason for hunting – human consumption – and its fisheries department works out its own quota. In 2012, this was 1286 minke whales – the largest catch in a quarter of a century. Whale meat (hval) is considered a delicacy by many Norwegians and can still be found on many (north) Norwegian menus, though opinion polls indicate that about one in four Norwegians under thirty oppose the hunt. The method of killing the animals is also subject to bitter debate. Norwegian whalers invented the exploding harpoon and they still use it today. Activists claim there’s no humane way to kill a whale, but many abhor this particular method: one in five harpooned whales suffer a long and painful death. Ironically enough, the waters where thousands of tourists venture out on whale-watching safaris are the same as those used by the whale hunters. Indeed, in 2006 a whale was shot and dragged aboard a whaler right in front of a whaling safari boat, causing a real brouhaha.

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