Christmas cruelty: investigation exposes reindeer mistreatment

Recent WSPA video footage clearly shows the suffering inflicted on massive herds of reindeer as they are rounded up, transported and slaughtered for their meat in Sweden and Finland.

Visuals from the investigators’ report show in distressing detail the extreme suffering experienced by reindeer at every stage of the largely commercial process. (WSPA is cautioning viewers – the suffering visible in the video is not easy to watch, especially for those that care about animals.) You can write a letter to urge the Nordic Council of Ministers, an inter-parliamentary forum for cooperation in the Nordic countries, to uphold existing animal welfare laws in both countries and 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.

“These visuals may appear particularly disturbing at this festive time of the year, but it is a stark portrayal of what the reindeer suffer,” said 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

Despite legislation to the contrary, the footage obtained by WSPA shows how the reindeer are forced through a process that prohibits their natural behaviour in several ways. The reindeer, used to roaming free in the wilderness with no prior contact with human beings, panic visibly and attempt to flee as they are herded in massive groups of well over a hundred reindeer, by groups of men, some on snowmobiles.

The animals’ distress continues to increase as they are forced into corrals, have their ears mutilated and left to bleed, and in more than one instance visible on film, get mishandled as they desperately resist being loaded onto trucks for transport to slaughterhouses.

Transport and slaughter contravene legislation


“Densely packed into loading trucks, the reindeers’ iconic antlers become potentially lethal as they get entangled, trap the reindeer’s head against the side of the truck or accidentally gore each other to death even before they arrive at the slaughterhouse,” said Petterson.

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

Whether you choose to watch the horrific cruelty or not, you can take action to help end the suffering. Write to the Nordic Council of Ministers and call on them to uphold the Växjö Declaration and both Sweden and Finlands’ Animal Welfare Acts.

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