In the northern side of New Riga’s Eighth District, a stone’s throw away from the Nereus Sea, sits a bustling immigrant community known as the Vaikelinn. In this seaside section of Eiria’s biggest port city, Solavanian immigrants have formed a vibrant, thriving ethnic enclave. Street vendors selling delicious smelling seafood stews sit right outside stores which offer a wide range of Solavanian delicacies (such as jellied eels). In this unique slice of cultural paradise, it’s easy to imagine that life here is idyllic, or that this would be the perfect place to adjust to life in a foreign nation.
However, for Solavanian immigrants to Eiria, certain traditional customs have become extremely difficult to preserve. In Solavan, it’s a common custom on holidays and special occasions to eat a very unique delicacy to many: Whale meat. This isn’t just a cultural practice, it’s primarily a religious custom. In Vanemodism(the worship of the Solavanian deity “The Matron”), whales are believed to be blessed by the Matron. As such, whale meat is considered holy food, and consuming whale products is considered a method of worship.
Unfortunately for Vanemodists, any hunting of whales is a felony in Eiria, facing steep fines and up to ten years in prison depending on the severity of the poaching. Even more unfortunate is the fact that under Eirian customs law, any item that is inherently illegal to produce in Eiria is also illegal to import, leaving large Solavanian immigrant communities without a crucial cultural practice.
Mother Onnela Vosu, the leader of one of the Vaikelinn’s biggest Vanemodist groups, sat down for an interview yesterday with the Harbor Journal. “It’s a struggle that many of the faithful here face everyday. It’s absurd that politicians think that they can deprive us of the gifts that the Matron intended for us, just because they think it’s inhumane. Now, thanks to their meddling, many are forced to use illegal means just to practice their faith.” Mother Vosu also pointed out how the prohibition of whale imports is a newer development compared to Solavanian immigration. “When our ancestors came here, they were still free to buy and import whale meat as much as they pleased! These restrictions are much newer attempts to tamper with our daily lives, and will not be tolerated lightly.”
This outrage over Eirian custom law prohibiting whale imports has stirred up passion in the political opinions of ethnic Solavanians as well. Elias Lauri, a New Rigan city councillor of Solavanian descent, and Saima Kallas, a mixed race Solavanian-Eirian activist, founded Lei Grupa dei Plādēsei Sōlavani (The Group of Solavanian Advocates) in May. LGPS has already worked to file lawsuits and stage protests against restrictive import laws, with varying success. A lawsuit in Nordjūra was struck down in a circuit court on Tuesday, but a similar lawsuit in Serenity Province yesterday resulted in Judge Charlotte Progetē putting the 1994 Foreign Imports Act under review, temporarily decriminalizing imports of Whale-derived products. These rulings effectively guarantee that the Supreme Court will review these lawsuits and deliver a definitive ruling.
Alexanders Zarins, a lawyer and Libertarian Politician who worked on the Serenity Province lawsuit, spoke out in a social media video published after his temporary victory. “We have a moral obligation to speak out and work to remove these laws. While I don’t believe that the makers of this law were malicious in their intent, their misguided attempts are limiting the constitutional rights of hapless Eirian citizens. We must stand up against this overreach and allow the Solavanian community to practice their faith freely again.”
This issue has proven to be divisive, with some Centrists and Moderate Right officials supporting the Solavanian Whale Rights, while many Greens and Progressives have spoken out against the proposed changes. Neither Chancellor Stendē nor the chief legislative officials of the Unity Alliance Coalition have taken a particular stance on the issue, however an anonymous aide of a prominent Senator has leaked internal emails and correspondence that showed large internal conflict in the Coalition behind closed doors.
Outside of the larger political world, the intensity of this debate has boiled over into everyday life as well. Protesters and Counter-Protesters filled the space outside Nordjūra’s Provincial Senate Building yesterday morning, some even breaking out into taunts and shoving. And early this morning, some Vaikelinn residents awoke to graffiti sprayed over their apartment facades and storefronts. One Vanemodist house of worship was painted with obscene phrases and a large message that read “Tuēsei dei Balēne” (Whale Killers). Police are investigating, but unfortunately, have not announced any progress.
More information will be published as it becomes available.