By Nina Berglund
The ongoing battle between those trying to preserve Norway’s wolf population and farmers wanting to preserve free-grazing traditions for their sheep and lambs has moved into grocery stores. Wolf supporters are joining a boycott rooted in social media against the purchase of all meat caught in conflicts.
Free-grazing sheep in Norway are now being rounded up at the end of the summer season, but not everyone is willing to buy the meat they can yield. They don’t like the farmers’ constant demands to kill more wolves, to protect their livestock.
Sausage made from sheep meat in Norway (called fårepølse) and Norway’s classic dried sheep meat called fenalår are no longer being bought by Geir Lorentsen of the Greens Party. He claims his party is not behind the Facebook page called Boikott konfliktkjøtt, which challenges the sale of chicken and farmed salmon in addition to sheep products, but he supports it.
“I want the farmers’ organizations (which have long advocated shooting wolves and other predators) and the sheep business to recognize the need for a sustainable population of predators in Norway,” Lorentsen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Friday. He’s therefore decided not to buy meat from sheep and lambs, as his personal contribution to efforts to protect wolves.
‘Negligence kills more sheep than wolves’
Contributors posting notices on the Norwegian Facebook boycott page claim that the deaths of more than 90 percent of all sheep and lambs in Norway are attributed to illness and injuries often sustained after being released, usually from mid-May to September, to wander freely in grazing areas in both the mountains and forested hills. They object to how most of the attention on dead sheep and lambs, both politically and in the media, is directed at the relatively small percentage attacked by predators.
Lorentsen believes the major reason for fatalities among Norwegian livestock is due to neglect by the farmers themselves, several of whom have been cited recently for negligence and poor conditions also in barns and on farm property. Some have been banned by state authorities from continuing to raise livestock.
The leader of sheep owners in Hurdal in Akershus County, Ketil Melvold, says he can’t even understand the thinking behind those urging the meat boycott. “It’s physically impossible to have wolves in the same area as small livestock (like sheep),” he told NRK. “Those of us who have had to clear up cadavers (of sheep and lamb killed by predators) understand that it can’t be combined.”
Melvold was referring to last summer’s large losses of free-grazing sheep in the border areas between Hurdal in Akershus and Gran in Oppland County. Sheep have also been killed by dogs that haven’t been on a leash and other predators, but it’s the wolves that normally get most of the blame.
Bloody conflict sharpens
The boycott campaign, launched last year, seems to be picking up just as the literally bloody conflict between advocates of predators and grazing animals is reaching a new climax as well. Wildlife authorities in charge of controlling the wolf population decided just before the summer holiday to allow a new hunt for 12 more wolves roaming outside the zones where they’re supposed to be allowed, in addition to three wolf packs that roam partially within zones set aside for wolves in Akershus, Hedmark and Østfold.
More than 20 organizatons have protested the hunt, scheduled for this winter when snow allows hunters to track wolves more easily. Farmers’- and forest owners’ organizations, meanwhile, want the authorities to allow even more wolves to be shot. The appeals on both sides are due to be evaluated at a meeting next week.
Nortura, the large poulty and meat coop in Norway that also plays a big role in setting prices for both, claimed it had not noticed any effects from the boycott. It has noted that it has large amounts of sheep and lamb meat in storage, but that’s because of overproduction and an unwillingness to lower prices despite the excess supply compared to demand.