Seal is for dinner…

26 04 2013
The Norwegians gave us some seal meat to try so we had a giant dinner. It is the meat from the back and is very much like steak. But very dark in color and 'gamey'.

The Norwegians gave us some seal meat to try so we had a giant dinner. It is the meat from the back and is very much like steak. But very dark in color and ‘gamey’.

Because these ‘cute little seals’ and ‘beautiful majestic whales’ are being used for the consumption of humans, the ‘civilised world’ often sees the hunting and killing of these creatures as barbaric. At first I was a little bit ‘iffy’ about the idea until I did some research to understand the Norwegian point of view. As seals and whales cannot be domesticated, like cows, they must be hunted in the wild. This enables the animals to have a wonderful life, free and happy without pens or genetically modified food, in their natural environment. Each year has a specific quota set by the industry to control numbers. The whalers and fishermen follow set guidelines in capturing and slaughtering, and also waste control (and if you know anything about Norway’s environmental and humane standards you will know that these animals are treated with the highest respect). Seals are actually considered quite pesky animals, similar to seagulls – they eat through fishermen’s nets and if their numbers aren’t controlled they can cause havoc on the environment. The Minke whales are not endangered or threatened. In fact, the whales have some of the highest numbers in the world.

Norwegian sealing currently receives state support. This is necessary to ensure sound regulation of seal stocks and to maintain traditional hunting skills so that seal populations can continue to be appropriately regulated. At the same time, purposeful efforts are being made to develop markets for new seal products, so that the industry can become independent of subsidies.

Norway has strict, detailed legislation governing sealing, including dates for the sealing season, quotas, methods of killing, mandatory training for sealers, approval of vessels and inspection.

According to the legislation, animals must be killed as quickly, humanely and painlessly as possible. The only types of equipment Norwegian sealers are allowed to use are rifles and the hakapik (a kind of gaff). The hakapik may look primitive, but is in fact an efficient tool that stuns an animal immediately and kills it quickly. Sealers are required to take a course and a shooting test every year before the sealing season. Each sealing vessel carries an inspector on board. The inspectors have veterinary qualifications or the equivalent, and report directly to the fisheries authorities.

Independent international studies show that in Norwegian seal hunting the killing is faster and more considerate than the game hunting on land.  This was confirmed in 2007 in a report by the European food safety agency.

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Norwegians don’t excessively eat whale or seal – it is a normal part of life that is good for a well balanced diet in Norway. In fact, seal is more valued for its fur and leather but Norwegians eat the seal meat not to be wasteful. The meat is also very high in unsaturated fats, even more so than fish oil. Omega 3 is especially important for living in an Arctic climate where there is six months of darkness every year.

The EU has banned import of seal products. Animal rights activists also have campaigned to halt the hunt… so this may be my only chance to try seal meat!

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