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Freya the walrus killed, social media erupts

Freya: Large walrus, with humans behind her, one taking a picture.
Freya had captured many hearts this summer, prior to being killed by Norway’s fisheries directorate on August 14. She was a young female walrus, of a species normally found in the Arctic. Female walruses generally give birth at around age 9 or 10. The animals can live to be about 40. Image via Aislinglouaaa (@Aislinglouyt on Twitter)

Norway’s decision to kill the young female walrus named Freya on Sunday, August 14, 2022 has caused a backlash on social media that’s extended into this week. Prior to the killing, Freya’s summer of lounging in a Norwegian fjord had warmed hearts and spawned media reports around the world, including one at this website. Freya was a young female walrus, of a species normally found in the Arctic. And there was something about Freya’s “hot-girl summer” that apparently delighted many people. But Norway’s fisheries directorate “euthanized” (some social media reports are now saying “shot”) the 1,300-pound walrus early on Sunday morning. The directorate said the decision came after the public ignored repeated warnings to keep their distance from Freya.

Frank Bakke-Jensen, a Norwegian politician for the Conservative Party, is currently the head of Norway’s fisheries directorate. He also served as Norway’s minister of defense from 2017 to 2021. He said in a statement on Sunday:

I am firm that this was the right call. We have great regard for animal welfare, but human life and safety must take precedence.

Many are now questioning why crowds couldn’t have been better controlled, or Freya moved.

Last half-hour’s tweets about Freya

The tweets below are from the last half hour on Twitter, as of this writing on Monday, August 15.

Freya’s hot-girl summer

Freya was named named for the Norse goddess of love and beauty. Walruses like her normally live in the Arctic, in ice-covered waters of Canada, Greenland, Norway, Russia and Alaska. They typically rest on sea ice when not feeding. But this young female had been sighted further south on the globe, in the UK, the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden. Finally, she chose Norway as her summer home. She was first sighted around July 17, climbing onto boats in Kragero, a small coastal town in southern Norway. Then – her big mistake – she moved to a fjord in Oslo, Norway’s capital.

Freya weighed in at about 1,300 pounds (600 kg). Sometimes, when she climbed onto boats, the boats sank. She also chased a duck and killed a swan, prompting Rolf Harald Jensen, a fisheries official in Norway, to comment during a TV interview in July:

It’s a pity about the material damage. But that’s the way it is when you have wild animals.

Norway’s decision made people mad

Authorities claimed Freya was becoming increasingly distressed by the many humans around her. Still, her killing came as a surprise – a shock, even – to her fans around the globe.

Norway’s fisheries directorate said on August 14 it had “thoroughly considered” the decision. It said Freya’s behavior was becoming more erratic, and that the potential for human harm was increasing.

But many people are now denouncing Norway’s decision to kill Freya. Some are pointing out that the idea that “human life must take precedence” is perhaps worthy of deep thought. Others are calling Norway’s decision “a national shame.” And many have asked why authorities couldn’t move the walrus to a safer area.

Frank Bakke-Jensen said experts at the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research were included in the decision-making process. He said moving Freya “was not a viable option” and that that there were “several animal welfare concerns associated with a possible relocation.”

He did not provide detail about those concerns, however.

Freya the walrus, basking in the sun on a dock.
Freya in Norway, in July, doing what she did best: sleeping. Walruses like Freya sleep about 20 hours each day. Image via Wild Geerters (@steinkobbe on Twitter).

Bottom line: Freya, a young female walrus, had been lounging in the sun in an Oslo, Norway fjord for some weeks. But, on Sunday, August 14, 2022, Norway’s fisheries directorate killed her. An outcry erupted on social media on Sunday that has extended into this week.

August 15, 2022

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Deborah Byrd

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