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Holiday cruelty: investigation exposes reindeer mistreatment

Dec 6, 2010

Recent WSPA video footage shows massive herds of reindeer being rounded up, transported and slaughtered for their meat in Sweden and Finland. Visuals from the investigation detail the reindeers’ extreme suffering at every stage of the commercial process.

WARNING: This video is graphic and may be disturbing to some viewers.

Whether or not you choose to watch the horrific cruelty, you can take action to help end the suffering by writing to the Nordic Council of Ministers and asking them to uphold existing animal welfare laws in both Sweden and Finland, as well as the Växjö Declaration of 2008. This Declaration states the Council’s support for the belief that animals are sentient beings with their own intrinsic value and that they should be respected as such.

“This footage may appear particularly disturbing – especially at this time of year –but it is a stark portrayal of what the reindeer suffer,” says Roger Petterson, Country Director for WSPA Sweden. “Reindeer husbandry is an exclusive right for the Sami population in Sweden, but the entry of commercial players has dramatically altered the way these gentle animals are treated today, and not for the better.”

Unacceptable cruelty

Traditionally, reindeer husbandry – or the act of raising reindeer for their meat, hides and antlers – is done on a small scale in these regions for purposes of sustainability, with minimum distress to the animals involved. However, over the past decades, the process has become largely commercial and increasingly detrimental to the animals’ welfare.

Hunters now use extensive commercial methods such as snowmobiles, motorcycles and helicopters to herd massive numbers of frightened reindeer onto crowded loading trucks. During the commute, and then at the slaughterhouse, many reindeer face further suffering such as starvation, illness or mishandling.

The footage obtained by WSPA shows the reindeer visibly panicked as they attempt to flee the herders. Their distress continues as they are forced, by the hundreds, into corrals and – in more than one instance in the film – are mishandled as they resist being loaded onto trucks for transport to slaughterhouses.

Transport and slaughter contravene legislation

“Once on these densely-packed loading trucks, reindeers’ iconic antlers become potentially lethal as they get entangled, trapping their heads against the side of the truck or accidentally goring each other,” says Petterson.

“Then, at the slaughterhouse, the suffering continues. We’ve captured visuals of two slaughter methods – one using a knife and one using a bolt gun – where animals are kicking and struggling frantically to get away,” he adds. “Irrespective of which method they use, it is clear that operators are in violation of existing legislation in Sweden and Finland, which explicitly states that no undue distress, pain or suffering be caused to animals at slaughterhouses. This cannot be allowed to continue.”

Please write to the Nordic Council of Ministers today and ask them to uphold existing animal welfare laws in both countries, as well as the Växjö Declaration of 2008.

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