Norwegian prime minister Jonas Gahr Støre has backed the decision to euthanise the celebrity walrus Freya at the weekend.
Global media and social media users from around the world have reacted with disgust to Norway’s decision to put down Freya on Sunday morning. The walrus had moved in to the inner Oslofjord, spending time sunbathing on boats, sinking some.
Freya quickly became popular with locals who wanted to get a glimpse of the 600kg walrus.
Despite continued warnings, people continued to get too close to Freya, which authorities said put themselves and the animal at risk. On one occasion, police blocked off a bathing area after Freya chased a woman into the water.
Due to the continued crowds, the Directorate of Fisheries decided that putting down Freya was the best move for both “human and animal welfare.” On Sunday morning, the Directorate confirmed Freya’s death.
Støre on Freya
Now, despite the global criticism, the Norwegian prime minister has spoken out in support of the controversial decision: “I support the decision to euthanise Freya. It was the right decision,” Støre told NRK.
He added that he was not all surprised by the negative reaction from around the world: “Norway is a maritime nation, sometimes we have to make unpopular decisions. I myself have been in discussions about minke whales and seals. These reactions are not new.”
Not all politicians were so positive, however. Deputy chair of the Norwegian Green Party (MDG) Ingrid Liland called the killing “a tragedy”. She wants to change the law to prevent other wild animals suffering the same fate.
“The killing of Freya is a tragedy that shows that protected animals have far too little protection. If Norway is unable to live with wild animals and predators, we will become a poorer and sadder country,” said Liland.
Head of the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries Frank Bakke-Jensen said they considered all possible solutions carefully, including the possibility of moving the animal. “We concluded that we could not ensure the animal’s welfare through any means available,” said Bakke-Jensen.
Newspapers in the UK, USA and France among others were quick to pick up the story, which has sparked outrage around the world. Many people took to Life in Norway’s social media channels to share their outrage:
Unfortunately, some of the criticism spilled over into threats. Both Frank Bakke-Jensen and his wife have received death threats. Comments posted to his wife’s social media accounts said she was “married to a killer” and a “murderer who must die in hell.”
Couldn’t move Freya
On Monday, the Directorate of Fisheries gave more in-depth information about the controversial decision. Among other things they covered why moving Freya was not possible.
The Institute of Marine Research came up with three options for moving Freya: To stun her, catch her in nets under the boats she was on, or to take control of her and put her in an underwater cage.
The institute recommended the last option as the most gentle. However, they said all solutions would be expensive and have little chance of success. “It was decided not to implement this on the basis of great uncertainty about the feasibility and the significant costs associated with such an operation,” they stated.
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