Reindeer on the Menu: Vegetarians on the Hunt…

December 4, 2008 • Philip BurgessReindeer

It being the festive season, it was probably only a  matter of time before the eating of reindeer, without which life for indigenous peoples and the settlers that followed them would not have been possible, would become an issue worth targetting for actvist vegetarians. A media release by the UK based Vegetarian International Voice for Animals (VIVA) has decided to take on the Swedish giant IKEA in the UK (and by extension, Sami reindeer husbandry) because they sell reindeer salami in their stores. From their release

“We are very concerned about the exploitation of wild animals for meat. As well as being chased from the land and air, once they are caught, their misery doesn’t end there. In Sweden, some reindeer face a gruelling journey of up to 1,000km to the slaughterhouse where they face anything but a humane end. More than 70 per cent of reindeer slaughtered for meat are calves that have grazed during the summer, which means they never even get to see snow.” (italics added)

VIVA even have a problem with lassoing, which they claim (according to quoted scientific research) causes stress in the animal, so much so that they can ‘waste away’. IKEA, to their credit haven’t yet dropped the salami (yet), responding,

“Modern equipment such as snowmobiles, motorcycles and helicopters are used because of the large size of the reindeer herding area (half the size of Sweden), which makes gathering the animals more difficult. The vehicles keep the reindeer safe from predators. In terms of transporting reindeer to the abattoir, our supplier follows the same law applying to all other domestic animals in Sweden which sets maximum transport time and breaks, access to water and so on.”

The release has generated a lot of mainstream media attention in the UK and is covered in the Guardian, the Independent and the Daily Telegraph.  It hardly needs pointing out, but still should be said, that readily available land based protein sources in the Arctic are on four legs and without them, life would be neither possible nor sustainable in a vast parts of the Northern world. It would appear that VIVA have not contacted any Sami reindeer herding organisations in Sweden or elsewhere before making these claims. Expect this story to have legs…..