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Whale Meat Beer From Icelandic Brewery Stirs Up Controversy, Outrages Conservationists

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From Mother Nature Network's Bryan Nelson:

It's a good time to be a beer drinker. A microbrew revolution is underway, and breweries worldwide seem to be constantly trying to outdo one another with new flavors and unique brewing techniques. There are beers brewed with everything from exotic grains and spices, to artificially flavored hops, fruits like apricots and pumpkins, moon dust (seriously), even whale meat.

Wait, what? Yes, you read that right: there is now even a beer brewed with whale meat, according to the Independent. And as you might have guessed, this hasn't exactly gone over too well with conservationists and animal rights activists... and probably for good reason. Anti-whaling efforts are at the foundation of the modern environmental movement. The idea of drinking beer flavored with whale meat seems downright archaic-- a cruel throwback to a barbaric era.

The Icelandic beer-maker responsible for the cetacean-flavored brew hasn't helped matters much by using the drink as a special promotional item for an upcoming mid-winter festival in honor of the Norse god Thor. Claims that the beer is a "healthier" option due to being high in protein and low in sugar are stirring up controversy. The ad campaign even suggests that those who drink the whale meat concoction will become "true Vikings."

The environmental group Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) has slammed the whaling company behind the beer, Hvalur, by calling the effort a "desperate hunt" for new markets for its "immoral" meat.

"Demand for this meat is in decline, with fewer and fewer people eating it," said Vanessa Williams-Grey, Icelandic whaling campaign leader. "Even so, reducing a beautiful, sentient whale to an ingredient on the side of a beer bottle is about as immoral and outrageous as it is possible to get."

"The brewery may claim that this is just a novelty product with a short shelf life, but what price is the life of an endangered whale which might have lived to be 90 years?"

Dagbjartur Ariliusson, the brewery's owner, has said that the beer will only be sold in Iceland during the midwinter months from January 4th to February 22nd, and that it will not be made for export. He said that the beer is meant to celebrate culture "as we've done for many centuries and eat cured food, including whale fat, and now we have the beer to drink with this food."

The beer has a 5.2 percent alcohol content and is produced when the whale meat is boiled down to extract oil. The remaining byproduct from the whale is to be dried, ground up and sold, likely as animal feed.

Iceland, along with Norway, Japan, the Danish Faeroe Islands, St. Lucia and St. Vincent & The Grenadines are the only nations in the world that still practice whaling in violation of the International Whaling Commission's 1986 ban against commercial whaling.

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