After being deemed illegal only two weeks previous, Hvalbjór, an Icelandic beer which uses powdered whale bones, is now back on the market – thanks to the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture.
RÚV reports that Helgi Helgason, the managing director of the West Iceland Health Supervisory Authority, was surprised to learn the whale beer was back on the shelves again. Initially, it was his office which banned the sale barely a week after production began, citing the fact that by European law, you cannot use whale bones to make any food product, whether intended for humans or animals.
It came to light that Dagbjartur Arilíusson, the managing director of the beer’s brewery, Steðja, filed an appeal with the ministry after the ban was put in place. The ministry, in turn, came to the conclusion that most of the whale bone meal is filtered out of the beer, leaving only the flavour behind. Therefore, they believe, it is safe to allow for sale.
The Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture, Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson, issued a whale hunting permit last December, allowing a full quota of 229 minke whales and 154 fin whales to be culled this year.
The news of the beer spread through international media, sparking sharp criticism from many sources, including Vanessa Williams-Grey, who runs the Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) organisation. In a statement from the organisation, she said in part, “Demand for this meat is in decline with fewer and fewer people eating it. 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 the life of an endangered whale which might have lived to be 90 years?”
The whale beer is currently on the shelves in Icelandic alcohol shops.