February 12, 2009

Animal Activists Protest Modern Method Of Reindeer Herding

The indigenous Samis in Sweden's far north, once known for rounding up their reindeer on skis, have apparently traded in their skis for snowmobiles.

"Everything progresses in this world. We have to hang on and follow the development," Jaavna Allas, a 30-year-old Sami reindeer herder, told AFP.

"It wouldn't be possible to herd reindeer today on skis. The grazing areas are so few and far between."

They have used modern techniques of rounding up reindeer for decades now, but recently have faced pressure from animal welfare group Viva (Vegetarians International Voice for Animals), which recently launched a campaign to boycott Swedish furniture maker Ikea for selling products that contained reindeer meet at stores in Britain.

"We suddenly realized there was a movement in the UK with more people eating reindeer for Christmas ... as an ironic holiday dish," Viva spokesman Justin Kerswell told AFP.

Viva said a 2004 study conducted by researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden found that reindeer herding can result in "considerable physical and metal stress" for the animals.

"They can become so distraught that their muscle can literally waste away," the group claimed in a statement.

"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," the statement goes on to state.

Ikea responded to the campaign insisting that consuming reindeer meat "is a Swedish tradition and a part of our identity as a Swedish company."

"Reindeer herding and traditional meat production as carried out by the Sami people are a natural part of the sustainable use of natural resources and in line with (animal conservation group) WWF principles," the company said in a statement.

"Of course, all machines stress the animals, but they don't really suffer from it," said Ingemar Blind, who referred to Viva's campaign as "ignorant."

"If you really want to stress a reindeer, send in a man on skis with a dog. Now that's a sight they don't see very often and that really gets their hearts racing," he said.

The Sami people came to Europe's Arctic about 9,000 years ago. Their nation now boasts some 70,000 people across four countries.

Last week, the Sami people held their national day, marking the first Sami national congress, when about 100 herders gathered in Trondheim, Norway, in 1917.

Also, the royal palace launched a Sami-language version of its Internet site on Friday.


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