Norway was right to put down Freya the walrus, prime minister says

Norway’s prime minister says it was “right” to put down Freya, a 600 kg (1,300 lb) female walrus. He was euthanized on Sunday In Oslo Fjord, animal rights campaigners attacked the decision but leading zoologists insisted it was inevitable.

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

Freya was named after the Norse goddess of beauty and love A popular attraction Since arriving in the waters outside the Norwegian capital on July 17, crowds flocked to watch her bask in the sun or on a boat.

Norway’s fisheries directorate said the walrus was euthanised “based on an overall assessment of the threat to human safety” after people ignored warnings not to approach it, often including children, to pose for photographs.

Other reports have seen people swimming with the walrus, throwing objects at it and surrounding it in large numbers. Once Freya chased a woman into the sea and the police had to evacuate and close the bathing area.

The agency concluded that “potential harm to people was high and animal welfare was not maintained”. Its director, Frank Bakke-Jensen, said other measures, including relocating Freya, could not guarantee her safety.

“Many dangerous situations have arisen,” he said Norwegian tabloid VGthe agency acknowledged that the decision “could cause public backlash” and was adamant that “it was the right call. We value the welfare of animals, but human life and safety must come first.

Walruses typically live further north, in Arctic waters, but Freya has previously been spotted in the UK, The Netherlands and Denmark. Opponents of her euthanasia decision, which sparked an uproar on social media, say more should have been done to prevent it.

Siri Martinsen of the animal rights group NOAH said bystanders should be penalized first, and biologist Rune A told a Norwegian news agency that it was “endlessly sad” that “an animal was put down because we didn’t treat it properly”.

Christian Steel Environmental Group Sabima told NRK, The directorate was required to release full documentation of who made the decision to euthanize Freya and for what reasons.

“The directorate can’t keep it a secret just to make things convenient for themselves,” Steele said. “They have a reason for this. There should have been professionals in the picture who assessed the animal as stressed.”

Eivind Tradel, member of the Oslo City Council, told VG The decision to put the walrus down represents a “collective failure”, while Trolls Gulosen of the Nature Conservancy called the decision “shameful”.

People “behaved like fools in the face of nature”, Gulosen said. “In other places, the authorities managed to keep them at bay and people managed to think. But here in Oslo Fjord no one can be bothered – so we kill instead.”

However, zoologist Per Espen Fjeld told VG On Monday it was “clear” that Freya would eventually have to be put down, adding that the decision was completely justified and had no consequences for the future of the species.

“You can’t expect 1.6 million people not to swim in the Oslo fjord,” he said. “People were swimming and suddenly they were a meter away. Everyone knows what happens if you get hit with 600 kilograms of muscle and even a little bit of blubber.”

Espen Fjeld, a senior adviser to Norway’s environment agency and nature watchdog, said animals can be dangerous and sometimes need to be put down, “unless the survival of the population is threatened.” There are 30,000 walruses in the North Atlantic.

He said it is more important to care for a species’ habitat – for example, by stopping oil and gas exploration in the Barents Sea – than trying to care for an animal that has strayed far from home. .

Espen Fjeld said Freya triggered the “Bambi effect”. “It becomes a concern, it gets a name, it’s referred to in human terms,” ​​he said. “But taking care of this individual really has nothing to do with taking care of the walrus population.”

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