Morality of Eating in Iceland

Reykjavik Iceland statue

I like animals. A review of my posts will reveal a certain propensity towards engaging in animal related travel experiences and copious amounts of photos featuring cute wildlife. I try to be careful though when I travel, selecting what I hope and believe to be responsible animal activities that help rather than harm. I’ve learned my lesson in the past when I did not choose wisely and it’s my mission to not only practice sustainable tourism practices but to help other people figure out what is and what is not responsible travel. That’s why I was somewhat flummoxed when I visited Iceland.

Iceland is a popular travel destination for any number of reasons. For Europeans and North Americans it’s very easy to get to and thanks to some great airline promotions, it’s fairly inexpensive to visit. It’s also a beautiful country with improbably dramatic landscapes and terrain that seem to come straight out of a George R. R. Martin novel. It’s also an isolated island, located in the chilly North Atlantic and traditionally ignored by everyone except for some Vikings and opportunistic Danish sailors. This isolation created a unique and undeniably hearty food culture that at times can be at odds with the rest of Western society.

Humpback whale, Iceland

I have no problem accepting that other cultures find certain foods attractive which I may find repugnant. For all I know there’s a group of people out there retching every time I talk about grilled cheese sandwiches. (Although come on, who doesn’t love a good grilled cheese?) That’s fine, I get it. The problem for me is that in Iceland, most of the preparation of ‘exotic’ foods seems to be geared in part if not completely towards the tourist sector.

There are three foods in particular to which I refer: Minke whale, horse and puffin. I mentioned my abhorrence to whale consumption in one of my first posts about Iceland and a number of Icelanders commented saying that it was an important part of their heritage. That’s fine, I get it as I just acknowledged. My problem is the marketing of the whale meat to tourists. Food purveyors in Iceland know that tourists will find whale meat to be exotic and almost impossible to find anywhere else in the world thanks to international bans on the hunting and consumption of whale. Therefore these same proprietors know that they will almost always be able to sell whale meat to curious tourists. Yet, in spite of the global distaste towards consuming whale, tourist restaurants in the middle of downtown Reykjavik feature whale prominently and in several ways on menus.

The presence of this controversial protein in tourist centers seems to fly in the face of people who say that mostly Icelanders consume whale meat as part of a normal diet. While I’m sure that’s true, there is no reason then to try to promote it to non-local diners. The same can be said of puffin and of the incredibly cute Icelandic horse.

Icelandic horses are a unique breed, smaller than most horses, almost pony-like, hearty and long lived, and are an important feature of the Icelandic landscape. Eating horse isn’t endemic to Iceland, it happens around the world, but for many people this is an area of moral ambiguity. I can’t imagine after encountering an Icelandic horse for the first time that you’d then want to consume this cute and cuddly creature, but that’s just me.

Which brings me to the main point (finally!) of this post, the morality of eating in Iceland. From my point of view, the issue of whale consumption is a no brainer. If the Icelandic people want to eat whales, fine, let them. There are only 300,000 people living in Iceland and really, how much could they possibly eat? The problem comes with the tourist trade. If we as tourists want to help protect whale populations, then we must not eat whale in Iceland. It’s as simple as that. As demand decreases so will the hunting until, hopefully, one day it will stop completely. I’m not basing this on any empirical evidence, but my instinct tells me that if every tourist stopped eating whale meat in Iceland, whale hunting would disappear within a few years.

 

Puffin and horse are more ambiguous areas of digestive etiquette. Although puffins are not an endangered species, their numbers have been steadily declining in recent years both in North America as well as Northern Europe. That’s why I’m a little confused as to why anyone would choose to eat them. This isn’t the 14th century; there are plenty of protein choices out there and if it means helping to preserve a species then I think I’ll opt for the chicken with my next meal. But that’s just me and if someone can make a strong argument in favor of eating puffin, I will listen.

Finally, the poor Icelandic horse. A friend of mine recently returned from Iceland proudly displaying photos of a horse steak he consumed in Reykjavik. I was shocked and a little disgusted. He quickly tried to calm me by saying that some of the horses are specifically bred for food. That didn’t help. I do acknowledge though that this is very much a cultural issue and eating horsemeat is acceptable in many parts of the world. In North America it tends to be considered very taboo, and the very thought disgusts me. I did a little research though and found that a big problem with the former horse butchering industry here in the United States was the preponderance of slaughter-related cruelties that happened during the butchering process. That simply fed into an already well-established taboo and led to the banning of the practice in the U.S. Still, it ruffles my ethical feathers to see anyone eating horse.

Reykjavik, Iceland

And that’s ultimately the issue here, isn’t it? The ethics and morality of eating whale seems to be fairly black and white, but that’s only because most of the world has accepted the fact that we need to preserve all species of whale. When we start talking about puffins and horses though, this coalition begins to fracture along strict cultural lines.

Ultimately, the best that we as tourists can do is to always stay true to our own individual sets of moral and ethical guidelines. If we want to stop whale consumption, then we need to first stop consuming whale. I’m also not saying that I’m a better person because I don’t eat cute diminutive horses, I’m not, I’m just different. But regardless of your cultural taboos, I do think it’s important to think about these things before traveling and to know where your moral center lies well before the waitress first asks if you want whale or horse for dinner.

What do you think? Is this a big deal or am I a little too sensitive today?

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By: Matt Long

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47 Responses

  1. Lauren Schaad

    Matt, thank you for this informative article. I’m preparing for a trip to Iceland in November, and the heads up about exotic foods potentially targeted to tourists is helpful! I don’t know if I could bring myself to eat horse, but it’s not a big deal to other people. The bottom line, as you stated, is that this is a highly individual decision to make.

    Reply
  2. Andi of My Beautiful Adventures

    Personally eating a whale is like eating a cow is like eating a dog. They are all living beings that can feel pain when being slaughtered…

    Reply
  3. Beth Yost

    I couldn’t agree more. I spent a week in Iceland last fall and was disappointed to see whale (and horse) on the menus right downtown. I don’t think exploiting a tradition at the expense of an endangered creature is exotic. With that said, I enjoyed my time in Iceland and recommend it wholeheartedly, but if you’re hell-bent on eating a meaty and traditional meal, try the lamb soup!

    Reply
    • David

      The minke whales served are not endangered.

      Reply
      • Matt Long

        Whaling is a globally abhorred practice.

      • Captain Pants

        So don’t eat it so you fit in?
        That’s a pretty crappy moral argument. If you can prove it’s ethically worse than eating any other non threatened mammal we eat daily you’re on pretty shaky ground.

      • James

        The issue with eating whales is that there is no sustainable way to fish them commercially. They take 8 years to reach maturity and can live up to 60 years (other species of whale than the minke are known to have lived over 150 years) and the fishing process doesn’t discriminate as to age (i.e. take only the older whales). Cows, by comparison, reach maturity after just two years, and live only for around 15 years if not slaughtered before. That means that it takes much longer for stocks of minke whales to recover from (over)fishing than it does for cattle. It is extremely difficult to measure the stock structure of minke whales and there are no definitive data on the subject of their numbers, so we don’t know what a sustainable rate to fish them at would be. As a result, they are nothing like cattle as suggested above and their status as an endangered species or not is not a definitive measure of the morality of eating them.We cannot accurately determine the level of threat they face, we know that the challenge of slaughtering them with minimal suffering is much greater than any other mammal that we eat on a daily basis (‘fishermen’ use a harpoon with a grenade on it fired at a moving whale from a moving ship in a moving sea) and we believe that they have a higher level of intelligence and/or consciousness than those mammals as well, so it is at best ethically ambiguous to eat them and by common measure used to assess the ethics of food types, it is ethically worse to do so than to eat, for example, beef.

    • kristina nieves

      Minke whales are not endangered and horses are a large domestic animal used for meat like a cow. Puffins are close to being endangered partly because of a dwindling fish supply. Maybe we should stop eating fish so their numbers bounce back or become vegetarians to save all the aforementioned animals. We in the US consume blue fin by the ton, have over fished salmon nearly hunted Buffalo to extinction yet we eat them all. I really think this has less to do with these animal populations or how the Icelandic people market them and more with the author being uncomfortableness with something so foreign to him.

      Reply
    • Dat

      You guys act like local Icelanders aren’t in Reykjavik. Maybe restaurants just have a variety of food so they can serve everyone.

      Reply
  4. www.travelwithkevinandruth.com

    We just finished up five days in Iceland this past Monday. Totally agree with Beth regarding the lamb soup. That is of course if you can bring yourself to eat those fuzzy little baby sheep! Yes, we also saw the whale and horse meat on the menus downtown. No, we didn’t eat any.

    Reply
  5. Agness (@Agnesstramp)

    After living and working in China eating bees, dog’s meat (I didn’t actually know it was dog’s meat), rabbit, bugs, grasshoppers I’m ready for a horse and whale dishes :-). I’ve heard Iceland is super expensive when it comes to eating. Is that true?

    Reply
    • Matt Long

      In general Iceland is not necessary expensive to GET to, but it can be pricey once you’re there, yes.

      Reply
  6. Emily in Chile

    I would never eat horse because I grew up riding, and to me that would be like eating any other household pet, but I don’t know that I find it so much immoral as I do gross. I am definitely with you on whale though – I hope more tourists really consider the impact of their dinner choices beyond “ooh, this will make a good story!”

    Reply
    • Matt Long

      Exactly. We have to be more responsible and get past the whole shock and awe aspect of it.

      Reply
      • Captain Pants

        Once you get past the shock and eww aspect, there’s no reason not to eat it unless you’re a vegetarian/vegan. I’d argue it’s immoral to chose to consume one meat over another due to your personal bias. Why slaughter the pig to spare the whale?

  7. Katja

    As Andi says above, if you eat one form of meat you can’t then get squeamish about eating another. Either it’s morally acceptable to eat animals or it’s not – drawing a dividing line between the ones you think are cute and the ones that you don’t is hypocritical.

    Eating endangered species is a different argument and I disagree with your opinion that it’s fine for the Icelandic people to eat whale, but not for tourists. Again, it’s sending out mixed messages. If whale hunting is to be stopped, then it needs to be stopped everywhere.

    Reply
  8. Dave T

    I think you need to be more precise in this – the original whale ban was due to the large numbers of all species being caught and eaten. The ban has largely stopped that which is of course a good thing. Yet minke whales are not and have never been threatened [http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/2474/0] so why not eat a few of them? If you argue that it will make it easier or more acceptable to catch other whales, I would point to the existing situation where other species are well off limits despite continued capture of minkes, and doubt this will worsen. If you argue that tourists consume far more than Icelanders would (which you deem acceptable) I think we’d need some figures – given the tiny amounts that are on the menus, the ability to freeze the meat and the weight of one whale, I’d suggest that the tourist trade may not have such a great impact compared to Icelanders themselves. Against this you weigh the benefits to the tourist economy of Iceland which is small and remote and has few sources of income: clearly there IS a “reason then to try to promote it to non-local diners.”

    All that said, I don’t think the tourist economy of Iceland would collapse without whale meat or puffin and it’s not necessarily a bad thing to try to get it dropped from tourist menus. But I do think we need to be careful about the assumptions we’re making…allowing cultural diversity to other groups despite your own misgivings (e.g. horse) is fine and an important step along the path towards being a responsible tourist, but then take the next step and turn that gaze inwards to work out whether your own prejudices are well-founded or not.

    Reply
  9. Tim

    I understand and agree with much of what you’re saying here.
    Yes, it’s true that whale is easy to come across and try in Reykjavík. But I wouldn’t say that it’s thrown right in the face of tourists.
    I’ve spent a considerable amount of time in Iceland over the past 12 years, and what you say about whale appearing on menus all over the center city and at most trendy tourist-friendly restaurants is true.
    But I just don’t want anyone to think that the Icelanders exploit it. You certainly do not see it advertised in any prominent way. There are no billboards on the way into the city depicting whale meals, there are no flashing neon signs in front of restaurants saying “Get’cher whale here!!”, and I don’t even think I’ve even seen as much of a sandwich board outside of a restaurant mentioning whale in chalk handwriting.
    Nobody will stop you on the street and ask, “Have you had any whale yet??”.

    Like your third photo depicts, it’s just subtly there on the menu. So is puffin, so is the rotted shark, and the lamb (there are more sheep on the island than there are people), etc.
    It’s certainly available and for centuries was a significant part of their economy. What people make of the fact that it’s still being eaten in 2013 is one matter, I just don’t want anyone who hasn’t been there to get the idea that you’re entering a tourist trap in Reykjavík where they are praying on the curiosities out out-of-towners.

    It’s just there on a menu as an indigenous food much like seafood is on the menus of restaurants in the Greek Islands, or fish and chips in an English pub, or falafel in Lebanon.

    Nice job on the well-written and thought provoking piece, though, I do want to make that clear!!

    Reply
    • Matt Long

      Thanks Tim I appreciate that and I do agree with your points. Maybe I’m just too sensitive to the issue.

      Reply
  10. Ian Rhodes

    An interesting post and I certainly wouldn’t argue that you should have to eat any of these foods, but a couple of points if I may.
    Firstly, it is the process of over-hunting and the cruel way in which it is done which makes whaling so abhorrent. I would certainly want to know how the animal was killed and if all parts of it were used rather than large parts being wasted before I ate it. However, if the whale had not been part of a huge cull and was ‘farmed’ responsibly, I would not object to eating it. No different from a cow.
    I certainly don’t agree that if tourists stopped eating whale in Iceland, the whole whale hunting industry would disappear (but I can’t point to any evidence on that either).
    As for not eating animals because they are ‘too cute’, I can’t really agree. You are either a vegetarian or not. Chickens can be pretty cute (especially chicks), so can sheep (especially lambs), but would that stop you?
    Finally, I believe that eating what the locals do is part of the travel experience (i.e… guinea pig (certainly cute!) in Peru).
    It’s good to have your ethics though and you should stick by them. Ultimately, as you say, it is a matter for each individual traveller.
    Thanks again for the post.

    Reply
  11. nicole | the wondernuts

    We plan to try a little horse meat in the form of a horseburger, while on our trip in Eastern Europe. When we go to Iceland, we will plan NOT to partake in eating meat that we find to be distasteful or morally wrong. But, I can’t stop others from trying it. That’s their business.

    Reply
  12. Glenn

    Normally I never reply on opinion columns, but reading yours got me quite annoyed. I think you’re quite ignorant and looking at things in a very stereotypical way.
    First of all, minke whale is not endangere and the quota on catching minke whale is very strict. Cod and tuna for instance are far more endangered if they don’t change today’s quota on them soon. Also the minke whale is not only sold in tourist restaurants. You can find it in local restaurants and supermarkets all around the country as well.

    My other remark is about the puffin. The population of puffins in Iceland has indeed decreased dramatically over the past ten years, but this is due to global warming, not because of hunting them. The temperature of the waters surrounding Iceland has risen so much that the favourite food of puffins, a fish that feeds of cold water algae has emigrated much more north. Hence less food for the puffin, less breeding, smaller population.

    Third fact is that I get so tired of Americans in particular being so shocked about eating horse all the time. Why is a horse better than a cow, a deer, a rabbit, a duck,a pig, a lamb and so on? The horses bred for consumption aren’t domesticated and are in my opinion just as cute as any other animal, but either you eat meat or you don’t.
    I would much prefer if people would eat more horse meat than beef. For one pound of beef the ecological footprint is much bigger than for one pound of horse meat, for various reasons, plus horse meat contains much less fat and cholesterol levels than beef so in the long run it would save the health economics millions.

    By the way, I’m a Belgian living in Iceland so I’m not even defending my own culture. I’m just so sick of tourists commenting on the local cuisine and habits anywhere in the world. Just embrace cultural differences please, if they aren’t violating any human or animal rights that is of course, and stop Americanizing this beautiful world.

    Reply
    • Matt Long

      That being said, I’m allowed to have my own opinion, as are you.

      Reply
    • Andrea

      The article isn’t attempting to “Americanize” anything. It’s a perspective, and it happens to be American because the writer is – although not all Americans believe or think the same things; we are all individuals in the world, please remember that. Yes, it’s a common American perspective as you’ve seen, but everyone comes from a culture that has certain beliefs and perspectives, and expressing them in an article doesn’t mean one is attempting to homogenize the world. He’s not saying his view is better than anyone else’s, it’s just his own. The article comes across more to me like an attempt to reconcile personal cultural beliefs & feelings with those (often conflicting) of others than an admonition. Perhaps your own inability to accept the opinions and cultures of people from other countries also can be considered stereotyping. Like this: “Third fact is that I get so tired of Americans in particular being so shocked about eating horse all the time.” Sorry you’re tired of it, but it’s a reflection of one aspect of American culture. Maybe it doesn’t make sense to you but it IS cultural, and no less valid than Icelandic (or any other) culture. People can express whatever they want in a free society. So what? Why does it bother you so much that someone is shocked? Who cares?

      Reply
  13. Maryta Henderson

    Perhaps it is people in Iceland who need to be more sensitive to other cultures. On a recent visit I made it known that I would rather pay to watch whales at sea than eat them. I went pony riding and let it be known that I would not eat foals but that I do eat lamb. Thus it is not necessary to be offensive when talking about differences. I am amazed at the Beglian, above, who is “sick of tourists commenting”. Since Iceland fell into the Banking Black Hole the country is becoming more reliant on tourism. Most people accept that it is better to cull some reindeer every year than seeing them starve due to overpopulation. However, we no longer NEED whale protein or oils, we can easily get them them elsewhere. I would like Iceland to tread more carefully in being sensitive to OTHER cultures, which they experience through tourists. A few well-placed articles could easily start a tourism boycott – and no one wants Iceland to fail again.

    Reply
    • Angela

      Your comment is really out of touch with reality. Are you seriously threatening the entire population of Iceland with a media campaign to end tourism in their country? You speak as if you are sitting atop the tourism throne, ready to throw them before the wolves with a wave of your magic wand.

      If you personally disagree with eating certain animals because you think they are “cute” or otherwise differentiated from other animals, as the author of this article does, which in my opinion is hypocritical unless you’re a vegetarian (excluding those animals which are endangered), then you are free to not eat those animals. Being sensitive to other cultures, as in showing everyone basic human decency wherever you encounter them, respecting their right to believe what they want to believe and make their own choices, is more than reasonable. But to demand that a country you’re voluntarily a visitor of, stop eating or selling certain animals at restaurants because you don’t like it, and you think it’s insensitive to yourself, is really ridiculous, not to mention self-centered. Like, seriously do you not realize how silly that is?

      The fact that you are entitled to an opinion, does not mean other people have to respect it. Good luck with starting that boycott of Iceland, in the meantime I’ll continue to enjoy local delicacies wherever I encounter them, including in Iceland, given that they aren’t contributing to the endangerment of any species, or brought to the table in an unusually cruel way.

      Reply
      • Matt Long

        Um, I never called for a boycott, that would be kind of crazy.

      • Angela

        My comment was not directly a response to the article but to the comment it is posted to as a reply, which is why it says “your comment” in the very first sentence. Maryta Henderson said in her comment “A few well-placed articles could easily start a tourism boycott – and no one wants Iceland to fail again.” This is what I was referring to.

  14. gary

    You would think that a person who has traveled as much as you would have a less ethnocentric view of the world.
    Puffins have a conservation status of least concern. So that is to say that it is not yet even considered near threatened.
    Minke whales are also of least concern and the purpose of the ban of hunting whales was not due to an abhorrence of the practice but was meant to allow whale stocks to replenish. The ban was put in place by the IWC not PETA.
    I can understand why some people might not want to eat horse just as I understand how a billion Hindus find beef repulsive and a billion Muslims find pork disgusting. But I wonder if they would think that you eat beef or pork just “for the whole shock and awe aspect of it”.

    Reply
  15. Sabrina Drake

    Well, way I look at it. You can be a vegetarian or do scales and feathers, personally, I can kill those if I had to to eat. Now animals with eyelashes~ no way. Whether it be a goat, pig, lamb, horse, dog, cow, rat, etc. If you travel and eat the local “meat”, if you were in Africa, or New Guinea, would you eat human babies? Meat is meat. all baby animals are cute, calves, lambs, infants… hey, just saying. I few up in Nl, own a horse and would not eat horse meat, even though I know many people who have and do. I would not eat a dog, or a puppy. But those who say lets try it all, go for the monkey brains and babies who do not test have primary dentition. Supposedly they taste better, like veal and lamb and foals.. 😉 Yummy! Not so much. that is just my opinion. The beauty of that is, we are all entitled to out opinions, and Japanese, French, Arican, you and me… we may differ in what we like to consume. If I were starving, I believe I would eat anything… having said that, I find eating meat a little barbaric for the 21st Century…

    Reply
  16. Sabrina Drake

    … few typos, but you can read in between. Test is yet, etc. I am not desensitized by “pretty” packages in the grocery store. Would I want to know how the animal was fed, raised and killed, heck yes, it all transfers to the meat. A stressed out goat at slaughter tastes different than a non-stressed out goat, although I would be pretty stressed getting killed. Guys from my ranch slapped a couple on the grill and told me that, in any case. They are cute, used to ride by them, first there were 3 goats, then 2 and then all gone. Had a good little life in the field. I am on the fence with this all, and see both extremes, I think we all have out own likes and tastes (literally & figuratively). My husband is perfectly fine killing a cow or even our dog he said, if he had to. Even eat another human…If starving like the people who ate their frozen friends. It just takes getting used to the idea. To each his or her own. 😉

    Reply
  17. Merike

    I am very much disappointed. Icelandic horse are so cute. How could anyone kill and eat them? It is very sad to me to hear that this kind nation in their beautiful land can be so cruel. I intended to visit Iceland and may be stay there forever. This will be hard to me 🙁 Actually people kill and eat animals everywhere, they don´t have mercy. I would never eat a whale, horse, lamb, pig, cow or what ever mammal. I would ever eat a bird that shows some kind of intelligence. I would eat only fish and invertebrates, except squids and octopods who are also thinking animals. And what human being could kill and eat cats and dogs??? I think they are not humans, but some kind of mutants.

    Reply
  18. Ludwig

    It is all about cultural differences. We eat what we have around. Snails in France, insects in China, horses in Iceland, tunas in Japan. What is the deal to argue if it is correct or not? Ultimately, eating is needed.

    Reply
  19. Ticking the Bucketlist

    We are vegetarians. Do you think we will be able to find restaurants that have a few veg dishes? Or are we better off cooking the hostel kitchen?

    Reply
    • Matt Long

      oh no you’ll find things to eat, especially in Reykjavik which has a little bit of everything.

      Reply
  20. Maryta henderson

    Angela did you actually read my comment? I did not call for a boycott of Iceland, I did not say that anyone should not eat whale, or foals. I said that I let it be known that I would rather see whales at sea, or ride ponies, not eat them. Perhaps you do not understand English, but I really do not see how I could have out my views more plainly. What is your problem?

    Reply
  21. Mark Alexander

    Because the northern Minke Whale is not endangered it seems to me that killing one animal and ending up with thousands of servings is more moral than killing thousands of chickens. My wife and I have had servings of whale at Tapas and the Grill and the meat seems just like filet minion and you are served about three ounces. It seemed not be the least bit fatty. It’s not like eating a Big Mac at all. It also seems to me that “farming” these animals wouldn’t be a very nice thing for the whales at all. I think it’s much better to let the whales live in the most natural setting possible before you decide what kind of animal and how many you’d like to see killed to feed all the people. Perhaps us Americans should decide how many people we are willing to see our military kill to be sure we are acting in a morale way before we worry about Minke whales.

    Reply
  22. Ronald from Holland

    So, if the Icelanders are hunting whales, wich WE like. AND they offer puffin to the tourists, AND those cute little horses, i say: ‘EAT THE ICELANDERS’!
    That will solve all problems and will still be an exotic dish…

    Reply
  23. Peter

    A very interesting set of comments.
    I personally would not eat whales or puffins if they were on the menu and I would probably not dine at a restaurant that sold them, just like I would not eat at a restaurant that sold foie gras.
    It depends on your moral compass and what you think is important to you. If you care about where your food comes from , how it has been reared and slaughtered (if farmed) and how sustainable it is for future generations, then you would probably not eat it.
    The ‘tradition’ argument to my mind is very wrong. As humans, we used to do horrible things to animals, but have evolved to a point where most now consider practices such as cock fighting, bear bating and hunting for pleasure wrong. Education shows us that the environment is fragile and that it needs protecting. Just because it is historically part of a nations culture does not make it right in the 21st century.
    I think it is very sad that tourists choose to eat whales and puffins for the novelty value. Irrespective of whether they are endangered or not, just ask yourself if you think it is right to each such beautiful wild mammals/birds when there are sustainably sourced fish and responsibly farmed and slaughtered protein alternatives available.
    If you choose to eat whales and puffins, then your moral compass is very different from mine.

    Reply
  24. Kate Wagner

    “The preponderance of slaughter-related cruelties that happened during the butchering process.” This applies to all the meat you are eating in the United States unless you are always getting your meat (beef, chicken, pork) from providers who raise their animals in quality conditions and humanely slaughter them. If not you have no reason to object to the cooked flesh you eat in other countries.

    Reply
  25. Patricia Betts

    Have just returned from Iceland and what a magical country it is. Did a tour of the whole island and yes I was devastated to see horse and foal meat in restaurants, not to mention puffin which everybody wants to see in its natural state on the cliffs. The Icelanders really treasure their horses and so strict regarding rules of them not to enter back into the country if they leave for a riding event elsewhere. Why they could eat them I cannot fathom.

    Reply
  26. Cathy L

    I just returned from Iceland and loved it. My only disappointment was to see horse, whale and Puffin on the menu’s. The horses were lovely, and I can’t imagine slaughtering them.

    Reply
  27. Mc Fly

    Whale meat is really good!

    Reply
  28. Holly

    Am currently in Iceland and thought I’d do a big of research before I actually went and ate anything.
    I might not be able to stomach a whale but horse and puffin I have no problem with. What’s wrong with eating something if it’s not harming the population levels? And why are people going on about cuteness of horses?
    I get really annoyed when people judge me for eating rabbit and dear, but I know where that meat is coming from and I know when, where, who shot/caught it. Yet people will eat beef, which causes all sorts of environmental issues, and chickens, which are farmed barbarically, lamb shipped from the other side of the world. That is weirder to me.

    Reply
  29. Ty

    Since recently learning on PBS about what’s on the Icelandic menu: puffin, a kind of whale, and Icelandic horse, I have crossed “Visit Iceland and ride a tall Icelandic horse” off my bucket list. FYI. they are breeding some to be taller and more muscular and they are quite beautiful. Well, after researching the web about what I learned on TV I found your article and now I second my own amendment to not visit Iceland. As it is I won’t visit most places due to questionable menu’s and so Iceland is now on a very long list of immoral places to tour. I’d rather stay home and donate my travel money to The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) (formerly World Wildlife Fund (WWF)
    Remember, you are what you eat – blubber, feathers and horses and who generally suffer horribly through torturous slaughter methods, so tourists can enjoy a certain exotic taste in their mouth. How would you like it if someone ripped off your arm and ate it? Bon Appétit!

    Reply
  30. Christina

    Hi,

    Perhaps there is an obvious answer I am missing, but I’m really struggling – can someone please help me understand the difference in eating horse and eating cow/sheep? The arguments against whale and puffin make logical sense to me (regardless of whether you agree or not, these arguments are based on facts about sustainability and secondary impacts and cruelty of hunting methods) — and vegetarianism / pescaterianism also make logical sense — but I’m really struggling to see the objective difference between eating a horse and eating a cow. Thanks for any insight you can share; genuinely curious as to what I’m missing.

    Christi

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  31. Cody

    We just returned from Iceland. Everything I read was that Icelanders typically don’t eat whale, puffin or horse and it’s marketed towards curious tourists–as was pointed out in the original blog post. We traveled all over Iceland–to remote areas in the West and North, and I only saw these items in the super touristy areas of Reykjavik, which I think tells you something. I also read that around 80-90% of Icelanders never eat whale in particular but most support whaling because they don’t want to be told what to do lol.

    This is obviously a value judgment but when I travel it’s important for me to try the local fare. What are locals eating? It seemed that locals in Iceland eat lamb, potatoes, fish, hamburgers and hot dogs lol. So we tried those things and they were good.

    Each time you put an animal in your mouth you are taking that animal’s life to help sustain your own. There are no two ways about it. The morality issue really comes into play (and I honestly think the author hit the nail on the head), when you are just eating that meat to satisfy your own curiosity at the cost of the animal. I sort of wonder if Icelanders are looking at all these tourists and just laughing all the way to the bank as we stuff our faces with something they would normally turn their noses up at–and we are going back–proudly talking about the great “local” experience we had!

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