OSLO Eat a whale and save the planet, a Norwegian pro-whaling lobby said on Monday of a study showing that harpooning the giant mammals is less damaging to the climate than farming livestock.
Environmental group Greenpeace dismissed the survey, saying almost every kind of food was more climate friendly than meat.
The survey, focused on whale boats' fuel use, showed that a kilo (2.2 lbs) of whale meat represented just 1.9 kilo (4.2 lbs) of greenhouse gases against 15.8 for beef, 6.4 for pork and 4.6 for chicken.
"Basically it turns out that the best thing you can do for the planet is to eat whale meat compared to other types of meat," said Rune Froevik of the High North Alliance, which represents the interests of coastal communities in the Arctic.
"Greenhouse gas emissions caused by one meal of beef are the equivalent of eight meals of whale meat," the study said.
The Norwegian-based Alliance said it was the first to measure the "carbon footprint" of whaling. Fish and seafood was comparable to whale meat with relatively low emissions.
Norway and Japan, the two main whaling nations, are seeking new arguments to promote whale meat after years of condemnation from anti-whaling nations for breaking with a 1986 moratorium on all hunts meant to save many whale species from extinction.
Oslo says, for instance, that the small minke whales it hunts are plentiful in the North Atlantic and that a 2008 Norwegian quota of 1,052 animals will not harm stocks. The meat is eaten mostly as steaks or in stews.
Greenpeace said the threat of extinction was more important.
"The survival of a species is more important than lower greenhouse gas emissions from eating it," said Truls Gulowsen of Greenpeace. "Almost every food is more climate friendly than meat. Most fish and seafood has similarly low emissions."
The Alliance survey, covering eight of Norway's 30 whaling vessels, said they emitted 885 tons of carbon dioxide in 2007 by burning diesel fuel and landed 461 tons of whale meat. That meant an average of 1.9 kilos of emissions per kilo of meat.
By contrast, raising cows in developed nations requires use of tractors, ploughs and fertilizers to produce feed. The animals themselves generate methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, in their digestive tracts.
The Alliance said that the "carbon footprint" was up to the first sale -- for whales the landing point and for livestock the farm gate. Neither included processing or transport costs to shops.
The International Whaling Commission (IWC) will hold a special meeting in London this week to review deadlock between pro- and anti-whaling nations.
Froevik said the IWC had turned into a group devoted to banning whaling rather than allowing hunts under strict controls. "We compare it to a soccer club where the only rule is that soccer is forbidden," he said.
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(Editing by Charles Dick)