“If you’re brave enough to touch a sheep, you can compete”

The 16th annual Ram Inspecting Competition took place last weekend at the Sheep Farming Museum in the Westfjords, RÚV reports. The roughly 50 competitors were separated into two categories: experienced ram inspectors and “inexperienced and scared” ram inspectors. Ragnar Bragason from Heydalsá emerged as the Icelandic champion.

But what exatly is ram inspecting? Called hrútaþukl in Icelandic, the practice is one of the ways farmers determine which rams to use for breeding in the coming winter. Hrútaþukl essentially consists in a hands-on inspection of rams to assess their physical prowess.

At the Ram Inspecting Competition, a jury selected four rams and assigned them points based on factors like leg length and muscle size. Competitors then assessed the rams according to a system used by farmers, aiming to reach the same conclusion as the jury. Competitors in the inexperienced group simply had to rank the animals.

The competition is open to all, said jury member Sigríður Ólafsdóttir. “If you’re brave enough to touch a sheep, you can compete.” Sigríður said competition was close in the inexperienced group, as many competitors ranked the rams in the correct order. The tied competitors then had to explain their decision and were judged both on their reasoning and how entertaining their explanations were. Sigríður recounted that one year, a competitor won the inexperienced group without touching a single ram. He ranked the animals in the correct order, then wrote and recited an ode to each one.

Trump Appoints US Ambassador to Iceland

United States President Donald Trump has appointed Jeffrey Ross Gunter as ambassador to Iceland, RÚV reports. The post has been unoccupied for one and a half years since the departure of Robert Barber.

Gunter is a doctor and speaks Spanish, French, and Dutch in addition to English. He has been a strong supporter of Donald Trump, contributing financial donations to his election campaign. Gunter is also on the Board of Directors of the Republican Jewish Coalition.

The United States Senate has yet to approve the appointment. A new home for the embassy is currently under construction in Reykjavík, complete with bullet-proof glass and thick security walls around the property. The building is projected to cost ISK 6.7 billion ($62m/€55m).

Pregnant Fin Whale Killed by Hvalur hf.

whale Iceland hvalur

Whaling company Hvalur hf. killed a pregnant fin whale earlier this week.

The fin whale killed by whaling company Hvalur hf. on Monday was pregnant, Vísir reports. Pictures of the dead foetus were posted to social media by animal rights advocacy group Hard to Port. “We hope that our revelation will kickstart a much needed public and political debate here in Iceland about the ethical defensibility of these operations,” the post stated.

Gísli Víkingsson, a specialist at the Marine and Freshwater Research Institute (MFRI) says it is common that whaling operations kill pregnant fin whales, who are often in the last few months of their pregnancy during whaling season. “It’s a sort of rule that fin whale cows bear offspring every other year. The calves are born around the beginning of the year, and the cow is weaning the calf around the middle of the year,” Gísli stated.

“It’s illegal to shoot a [fin whale] cow with a breastfeeding calf here in the country, and quite common for cows that have reached puberty to be pregnant,” Gísli says.

The Icelandic Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Dýraverndarsamband Íslands) has taken a stance against whaling in Iceland, calling it unjustifiable. “It cannot be acceptable to shoot pregnant animals, that would not be allowed in reindeer hunting, for example,” Hallgerður Hauksdóttir, chairperson of the society stated.

Hallgerður added that it is not known how long hunted whales may suffer before they die. “Here we are talking about hot-blooded mammals and it’s been shown the animals have intelligence and feelings like other mammals. It is impossible to justify this hunting.”

In 2013, a Norwegian expert accompanied a Hvalur hf. boat during a whale hunt and submitted a report that is believed to contain information on how long the animals remain alive when hunted. Then Minister of Fisheries Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson said the results would not be made public in response to an inquiry from Katrín Jakobsdóttir, now Prime Minister of Iceland.

Composer Hildur Guðnadóttir Hired for “The Joker” Film

Icelandic composer Hildur Guðnadóttir will be writing the music for The Joker, set to release in October 2019, RÚV reports. Joaquin Pheonix will star in the title role, making him the fourth actor to portray the well-known character on film, following Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger, and Jared Leto. The movie will focus on the Joker’s origin story.

Hildur was a long-time collaborator of late composer Johann Jóhannsson, working with him on the music for Sicario (2015) and Arrival (2016), among many other projects. Hildur’s music has also appeared in The Revenant (2015). She has won two Edda Awards for her work in Icelandic film and television.

Sexual Harassment Bill Forthcoming

Lilja Alfreðsdóttir is one of the people nominated for Person of the Year.

Minister of Education and Culture Lilja Alfreðsdóttir plans to introduce a bill on measures against sexual harassment in sports and youth groups this autumn, RÚV reports. A task force appointed by the Minister in response to the #metoo declaration of Icelandic women in sports presented their suggestions regarding the matter yesterday.

Last winter, many stories of sexual harassment and violence in sports and youth organisations came to light. “It happens to me when I am 16 years old that I’m raped by a handball player on the men’s national team at the time,” Hafdís Inga Hinriksdóttir recounted in a television interview in January.

The task force recommendations include banning the hiring of those with previous convictions for sexual assault, as well as ensuring all staff in sports and youth clubs have a basic knowledge of how to respond when sexual assault cases arise. The recommendations also suggest providing state and municipal funding to support gender equality issues in youth organisations and sports clubs.

“Some of these suggestions have already been implemented in collaboration with UMFÍ (The Youth Group Association of Iceland) and ÍSÍ (The National Olympic and Sports Association of Iceland),” the Minister stated.

“This of course just raises awareness. It means that it’s possible to deal with such matters in a professional and organized manner. And though this is often very difficult and sensitive, it’s possible to deal with, and these suggestions really do,” Lilja stated.

Stefán Karl Stefánsson Passes Away

Actor Stefán Karl Stefánsson has passed away after a two year battle with bile duct cancer, Morgunblaðið reports. His wife, actress Steinunn Ólina Þorsteinsdóttir, revealed his death yesterday. Stefán leaves behind four children.

Stefán was born on July 10, 1975, and died at the age of 43. He is known internationally for his role in Lazytown, where he played the villain Robbie Rotten. He had been dubbed the Icelandic Jim Carrey, as he had a penchant for physical acting. Stefán played the Grinch in a successful play, which was brought to the United States with great fanfare. He also had a storied career in Icelandic theatre and film.

His legacy is not only in the world of acting, as Stefán led anti-bullying incentives in Iceland. A victim of childhood bullying himself, Stefán started the campaign Regnbogabörn (Rainbow Children) to combat bullying and assist bullying victims. Countless times he sat down with children who were in danger of committing suicide, to talk to them about their problems and assist them. He received the Icelandic Order of the Falcon, the highest honour for Icelandic citizens, in 2018 for his contribution to Icelandic acting as well as to Icelandic society.

Stefán has long been an inspiration to many, as his never-say-die attitude helped people tackle problems in their daily lives. His battle with cancer had been in the public eye, and Stefán always employed a healthy dose of humour in his problem solving. Stefán hosted the comedy show Stefán Karl grefur sína eigin gröf not long ago, which can be translated as ‘Stefán Karl digs his own grave.’

Stefán Karl is remembered all over the world, and fans have sent Stefán and his family supportive messages on social media.

“It’s not until they tell you you’re going to die soon that you realize how short life is. Time is the most valuable thing in life because it never comes back. And whether you spend it in the arms of a loved one or alone in a prison cell, life is what you make of it. Dream big,” he Tweeted recently.