Loved to death

18 August 2022


To Born Free’s horror, Freya the walrus has been euthanised in Norway, after attracting crowds who refused to stay away.

Born Free is horrified by the news this week that walrus Freya, lovingly known to many after spending time on the coasts of several European countries since October 2021, has been killed by Norwegian authorities to ‘protect public safety’.

Freya, named after the Norse goddess of beauty and love, had been visited by crowds at the Oslo Fjord since her arrival in mid July and was a popular ‘attraction’ basking in the waters of Norway’s capital. Known for spending time hauled out on boats, footage of this beloved 600kg giant went viral. However, interested onlookers apparently got too close to Freya, reportedly causing a risk to both their safety and hers. Despite warnings to keep their distance, people continued to approach Freya in their droves. This allegedly (and perhaps unsurprisingly) caused her stress and was considered to be compromising her welfare and ability to properly rest.

Unfortunately, society can encourage us to believe wild animals are commodities to provide us with entertainment. Too often, their welfare is considered less important than people’s belief that they are entitled to see them at close quarters. In this case, it has had devastating consequences as the Directorate of Fisheries chose to euthanase Freya in response to people ignoring the warnings.

Will Travers, Born Free’s Co-Founder and Executive President spoke of the events, saying “The stupidity of the human race knows no bounds. Now an animal that many admired and loved is dead because they were so selfish. And, it would seem, the authorities failed in their duty. They could not persuade people to stay away from the animal. They lacked the authority. Another avoidable death.”

People ignoring the need to keep their distance from wild animals is nothing new, and there are well known cases of animals being approached and even handled unnecessarily for human entertainment. In 2017, an animal rescue organisation reported that a baby dolphin stuck in shallows at a Spanish beach died after being taken from the water and passed around for selfies.

While the Norwegian authorities are understandably being criticised, the fact that they acted in response to people choosing to ignore an animal’s needs and put their ‘right to be entertained’ above the life of another urgently needs addressing

If humans and non-humans are to coexist and live happily side-by-side a huge attitude shift is needed. Born Free continues to work to make the world a kinder place for wild animals, where individuals are given the respect they so deserve. But we need your help – please get involved!