90% of Minke Whales Killed in Norway Are Female and 'Almost All' Pregnant
Ninety percent of the minke whales hunted and killed each year in Norwegian waters are female and " almost all" of them are pregnant, according to a documentary aired earlier this month on NRK, a government-owned public broadcasting company.
The release of the documentary has sparked intense outcry from conservation groups in light of Norway's long-standing objection to the International Whaling Commission's (IWC) 1986 ban on commercial whaling.
"On the one hand because it's in violation of an international ban but also because ... it's indefensible from the point of view of the animal's well-being to hunt them during an advanced stage of gestation."
The estimated present population of minke whales is more than one million.
Norway is the world's top whaling nation, and has a quota to kill 999 minke whales during the 2017 hunting season, up from its quota of 880 whales in 2016.
Norway clings to its #whaling past: https://t.co/yyfmDyIvUh @AWIOnline @ShiftingValues @Greenpeace @WHALES_org https://t.co/f7LeZupkJC— OceanCare (@OceanCare)1465803071.0
"We have a professional approach and therefore we don't think about it," said Dag Myklebust, the captain and harpoonist on the Norwegian fishing vessel Kato.
He added that the fact that they are pregnant "is a sign of good health," Myklebust added.
An expert told NRK that the killing of pregnant animals is common.
"Lots of slaughtered animals are sent to the slaughterhouse when they are pregnant," said Egil Ole Oen, a veterinarian who specializes in whale hunting.
Norway and Iceland are the only countries that continue to hunt whales despite the IWC's moratorium. Japan also conducts whaling for "research" reasons.
Last year, Japan faced similar scrutiny after its whaling fleet came back with 333 dead minke whales, including 230 that were female and 90 percent of the mature females pregnant.
Japan Kills 333 Minke Whales Including 200 Pregnant Females https://t.co/m1qFN2U5od @Sailorsforsea @SolimanAdam— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1458867618.0
Animal rights groups remarked that the killing of pregnant whales is especially egregious because it affects the next generation.
"It is horrific to learn that such a high rate of the whales killed in Norway are female and pregnant," OceanCare said in a statement to AFP.
"The whalers are not only killing the current but also part of the next generation of whales," it added.
Astrid Fuchs, the program lead at Whale and Dolphin Conservation said that "the revelations of the film are absolutely shocking."
"Given the fact that a vast majority of the whales is pregnant, the minister's proposed doubling of the quota would mean close to 4,000 whales could be slaughtered each year in European waters," Fuchs noted about Norway's fisheries minister, Per Sandberg, who proposed to double the number of minke whales killed to nearly 2,000 and sell the meat to the European Union.
So how can you help stop this gruesome practice?
In an email to EcoWatch, Gulowsen of Greenpeace Norway suggested contacting the Norwegian Seafood Council (NSC) about your opposition to the slaughtering of pregnant minke whales. The state-owned NSC is the world's largest generic marketing company for seafood and works to "safeguard" the Norwegian fisheries "positive image"—meaning they probably do not want the negative PR about its whaling industry.
"Although whale products are not exported, the seafood business is part of one large state/private operations, where they are all mutually responsible for each others practices," Gulowsen pointed out.
The Animal Welfare Institute is also urging its supporters to write to Kåre R. Aas, Norway's ambassador to the U.S., "to let him know that you are opposed to his country's continued killing of minke whales" and to "encourage him to support responsible whale watching instead."
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Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
Low Vitamin D, Severe COVID-19 Disease?<p>A research study carried out <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364620300067?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">at the University of Hohenheim</a> has now established a link between vitamin D deficiency, certain previous diseases, and severe cases of COVID-19.</p><p>According to the study, "there is a lot of evidence that several non-communicable diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome) are associated with low vitamin D plasma levels. These comorbidities, together with the often accompanying vitamin D deficiency, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 events."</p><p>"This statement is completely correct," said Martin Fassnacht, head of endocrinology at the University Hospital of Würzburg. However, he qualifies that it is a pure association, "i.e. a mere observation that these events occur together.</p><p>Dr. Fassnacht is very critical of the hype surrounding vitamin D, but not because he denies the vitamin serves important functions. However, studies on humans have not been able to show that vitamin D has the healing powers many often propagate.</p><p>Fassnacht says, "If you take a closer look, the hopes that the administration of vitamin D has a healing effect have not been confirmed so far."</p>
Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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