Animal rights groups have hailed an initiative by Norwegian police to fight animal cruelty using a dedicated police force.

Police in Norway's western county of Sor-Trondelag will reportedly appoint a three-person force comprising of an investigator, a legal expert and a co-ordinator.

Describing animals as "defenceless", Agriculture Minister Sylvi Listhaug told AFP News: "First of all, it's important to take care of our animals, so that they enjoy the rights they have and that there be a follow-up when their rights are violated."

Listhaug hopes the pilot project that is set to be tested out over three years, "can also help fight crime and attacks against people, since studies show that some of those people who commit crimes and misdemeanors against animals also do the same to people."

"This is a great day for everyone concerned with animal rights, and efforts to fight crime against animals," said Listhaug.

The initiative is a co-operation between the state agricultural ministry and the state police.

Under the Norwegian Animal Welfare Act, anyone who finds an animal injured or sick has the responsibility to help the animal with the state covering the necessary expenses.

"Anyone who has reason to believe that an animal is exposed to mistreatment or serious neglect regarding the environment, supervision and care, shall as soon as possible alert the Food Safety Authority or the police," says the Animal Welfare Act.

Anyone who becomes aware that a large number of wild or stray animals are exposed to sickness, injury or other abnormal suffering shall as soon as possible inform the Food Safety Authority or the police.

The law forbids abandoning animals, sexual interaction with animals and using live animals for feed or bait.

Yet, farm animals are often killed and processed for commercial sale in Norway with whale meat commonly sold in supermarkets, according to a research.