Norway’s fisheries minister Otto Gregussen has slammed a decision by SAS airlines to refuse to transport whale products.

The airline explained that its position was reached on ethical grounds. Altogether, 21 of the world’s major airlines, including British Airways and Sabena, have made similar decisions.

Gregussen insists SAS is guilty of betrayal however, as the decision “gives symbolic support to an international slander campaign against Norway”.

Norway contravened a global moratorium banning the hunting of whales earlier this year, and it is expecting to export whale meat and blubber to the lucrative Japanese market soon. The county has found itself the focus of an international anti-whaling campaign, which has seen some activists call for a complete boycott of Norwegian goods.

Gregussen said that so far 540 minke whales have been killed “in the course of a short summer season” and stressed that SAS’ decision would have no practical effect because exporters would simply transport whale meat by ship.