SPAR Norway – a part of the international SPAR convenience store chain – is a major enabler and supporter of Norway's struggling whaling industry says the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).
Meat products from the hunts of protected minke whales killed in Norwegian waters are sold in SPAR Norway stores as well as in other retail outlets also owned by parent company NorgesGruppen.
There are currently 276 SPAR and EuroSPAR stores in Norway and investigations this summer found a variety of whale products on sale.
A coalition of environmental groups comprising Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), CarbonFix Foundation, OceanCare, Pro Wildlife and Robin Des Bois today released the new briefing 'Convenience Kills', detailing the company's whale meat sales and calling on it to stop.
The six have also launched a public campaign urging SPAR customers to protest directly to SPAR's senior management in Norway, to SPAR International's HQ in The Netherlands and to SPAR regional chains around the world.
"Whaling belongs in the history books and but for the belligerent activities of a handful of nations it would be," said Clare Perry, EIA Oceans Campaign team leader. "SPAR shops are a familiar sight in communities around the world and a company with such an international profile has a responsibility to ensure its policies do not directly supporting a dying industry characterised by cruelty and exploitation of a protected species."
Susan Millward, Executive Director of AWI, said: "For far too long, Norway has managed to get away with slaughtering whales with impunity, killing more than Iceland and Japan combined in 2014. A 2014 poll showed 80 per cent of people would be unlikely to buy seafood from companies linked to whaling – alarm bells should be ringing for SPAR, knowing that it is contributing to this practice and that the vast majority of its customer base do not want their purchasing choices stained with the blood of whales."
Norway's whaling has escalated in recent years, raising its self-allocated quotas from 549 in 2001 to 1,286 today. The 2015 minke whale season opened on April 1 and, as of July 6, 534 whales had been killed.
The country can whale legally due to its objection to the global moratorium on commercial whaling and its reservation to the ban on international trade in minke whales, although its quotas are not approved by the International Whaling Commission (IWC).
The Norwegian Government and private entities have created marketing campaigns to boost dwindling domestic whale meat sales and SPAR Norway, the country's fourth biggest food retailer, is in the vanguard of these efforts.
Whale meat is widely available throughout the SPAR/EuroSPAR chains. Investigators documented whale meat sales in various locations with prices ranging from 64.90kr/kg (€7.35/kg) for whale meat "strips" and 89.90kr/kg (€10.18/kg) for packaged fillets of whale beef to 99kr/kg (€11.21/kg) for fresh whale meat at the butchery counter.
In 2005, an undercover investigation by EIA and others documented the harpooning of a minke whale by a Norwegian whaling vessel. The whale's last visible movement was observed 14m 30s after it was first struck. The Norwegian Government's official data shows at least one in five whales suffer such prolonged and painful deaths.
Paul Thompson, Founder of CarbonFix Foundation, said: "Whale species are increasingly recognised as essential components of healthy, productive marine ecosystems and fish stocks. To see nations such as Norway pointlessly destroying the very species that will help ensure the sustainability of their fishing industries is sheer madness and must end."