Whale meat withdrawn from sale at Iceland airport

Published Thursday, 03 November 2011
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Conservationists and UK Foreign Office claim victory after authorities remove the food from Keflavik airport shops

It isn't quite the cod war, but conservationists and the UK Foreign Office can claim a significant victory over Iceland without even sending a gunboat.

Within hours of the Foreign Office updating its travel advice to British tourists, warning that they faced possible imprisonment or fines of up to £5,000 if they brought home whale meat, authorities withdrew the food from sale at Keflavik airport.

Anti-whaling campaigners on the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society(WDCS) and Animal Welfare Institute had raised the issue with signatories to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), which makes it illegal to import the meat into the EU and other countries. Its removal from sale at the airport began on Wednesday night, a spokeswoman for Visit Iceland said on Thursday. It would be informing the Foreign Office of its action.

About 70,000 Britons a year visit Iceland and the WCDS is also alerting tourists to the part they may play in keeping Icelandic whaling alive, claiming that up to 40% of minke whale meat from local waters is eaten by visitors in local restaurants. Local whalers are also trying to win tourists over by offering them trips out to sea.

A WCDS spokesperson said: "We ask people who are thinking of going to Iceland to resist the temptation to give the meat a try despite what you may be told by local whale hunters. The fact is that only a small percentage of Icelandic people eat the meat these days. The whales suffer a long and slow death, they are not suitable as a species for human harvesting and, contrary to myth, they are not responsible for reducing local fish stocks."

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2011
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