From Iceland — What Are Icelanders Talking About? Veganism, Sharks And Police Brutality

What Are Icelanders Talking About? Veganism, Sharks And Police Brutality

Published August 27, 2019

What Are Icelanders Talking About? Veganism, Sharks And Police Brutality
Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Chris 73/Wikimedia Commons

Apart from Israel/Palestine and penile circumcision, few topics are as contentious as veganism, as a recent discussion in Reykjavík City Council attests. Recently, the Icelandic Vegan Society issued a statement that pointed out what climate scientists have long been saying: the meat industry is directly linked to Earth’s greenhouse gases, and reducing the consumption of animal products would certainly help in the fight against the climate crisis. Ergo, the Society recommended that area primary schools begin taking steps to reducing animal products in school lunches. This has sparked a backlash, in particular from conservatives, who contend a a vegan diet would be bad for children (not true) and that a lack of meat in their diet would mean a lack of protein (also not true). The topic itself has prompted Icelanders across social media to offer their own hot takes on veganism, from all sides of the issue. Imagine getting mad about what people don’t eat.

Although it made international headlines when it was reported that Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir would be out of the country for US Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to Iceland next month, it has now come to light that Pence will probably stick around long enough to meet her. The fact that he is even coming at all is itself controversial. Protests are being planned, and the express purpose of his visit—the impending updates to be made at the military base in Keflavík—has certain attracted criticism. But it’s Pence’s politics, in particular his far-right attitudes towards queer people, that makes his arrival particularly galling for a country known for its progressive attitudes about sex and gender.

Lastly, the Reykjavík police are under criticism for the only arrest made at Reykjavík Pride: Elínborg Harpa Önundardóttir. This activist, who is also queer, was stopped by three police officers, slammed to the ground and arrested. The charge? “Being a known troublemaker”, to paraphrase the police, who suspected she was only attending Pride to protest. First of all, protesting is not only a respected tradition in Iceland; it’s also perfectly legal. Second, you can’t exactly arrest someone because you don’t like them (for context: Elínborg had previously gotten into a scuffle with police during a protest for refugee rights, where unprovoked police violence was recorded on video). The National Queer Organisation and Pirate Party councilperson and chair of the Reykjavik City Human Rights Council, Dóra Björt Guðjónsdóttir, have both requested a meeting with the police and are demanding an internal investigation of the matter.

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