Norway was right to kill the walrus Freya, PM says Norway

Norway’s prime minister said it was “right” Freya, a 600kg female walrus, to be euthanized in the Oslofjord on Sunday, as animal rights activists attacked the decision but a top zoologist insisted it was inevitable.

“I support the decision to put Freya to sleep,” Jonas Gahr Støre told public broadcaster NRK on Monday. “It was the right decision. I am not surprised that this has provoked a lot of international reactions. Sometimes we have to make unpopular decisions.”

Freya, named after the Norse goddess of beauty and love, had become a popular attraction since arriving in the waters off the Norwegian capital on July 17, where crowds converged to watch her bask in the sun or on boats dozed.

The Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries said the walrus was euthanized “based on an overall human security threat assessment” after the public ignored warnings not to get too close to it, often with young children to pose for photos.

Other reports showed people swimming with the walrus, throwing things at them and surrounding them in large numbers. On one occasion, police had to evacuate and cordon off a bathing area after Freya chased a woman into the sea.

The agency concluded that “the possibility of potential harm to humans was high and animal welfare was not upheld”. Its director, Frank Bakke-Jensen, said other solutions, including moving Freya elsewhere, could not guarantee her safety.

“There were too many dangerous situations,” he told Norwegian tabloid VG, adding that while the agency understands the decision “may provoke reactions from the public,” he “strongly believes this is the right call.” was. Animal welfare is very important to us, but human lives and safety must come first.”

Walruses typically live much further north in arctic waters, but Freya has previously been sighted in the UK, the Netherlands and Denmark. Opponents of the decision to euthanize her, which caused an uproar on social media, said more should have been done to avoid it.

Siri Martinsen of animal rights group NOAH said viewers should have been fined first, and biologist Rune Aae told the Norwegian news agency it was “infinitely sad” that an animal had been euthanized “simply because we didn’t get along properly with it.” have behaved towards him”.

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Christian Steel of environmental group Sabima told NRK it was important that the directorate released full documentation on who made the decision to euthanize Freya and why.

“Management can’t keep this a secret just for convenience,” Steel said. “You have a reason for it. There must have been professionals in the picture who made an assessment that this animal was stressed.”

Eivind Trædal, a member of Oslo City Council, told VG the decision to kill the walrus was “a collective failure”, while conservation group Truls Gulowsen described the decision as “embarrassing”.

People “acted like idiots in the face of nature,” Gulowsen said. “Elsewhere, authorities have managed to keep them out and people have managed to be considerate. But here in the Oslofjord it couldn’t bother anyone – so we kill it instead.”

However, zoologist Per Espen Fjeld told VG on Monday it was “obvious” that Freya would eventually need to be euthanized, adding that the decision was entirely justifiable and had no consequences for the future of the species.

“You can’t expect 1.6 million people not to swim in the Oslofjord,” he said. “People were swimming outside and suddenly there it was, a meter away. If even a little bit of 1,000 pounds of muscle and flab hits you, everyone knows what happens.”

Espen Fjeld, a senior adviser to the Norwegian Environment Agency and Nature Inspectorate, said animals can be dangerous and it is sometimes necessary to kill them “as long as it doesn’t endanger the survival of the population. There are 30,000 walruses in the North Atlantic.”

He said taking care of a species’ habitat — for example, by halting oil and gas exploration in the Barents Sea — was far more important than trying to care for a single animal that strayed far from its homeland have .

Espen Fjeld said Freya created a “Bambi effect”. “It becomes a concern, it gets a name, it gets labeled in human terms,” ​​he said. “But caring for this individual really has nothing to do with caring for the walrus population.”