Norway issues pre-Christmas reindeer slaughter threat

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Photo: Heiko Junge/Scanpix (File)
11:00 CET+01:00
Norway’s agriculture minister has threatened to enforce a mass cull of tens of thousands of reindeer unless the Sami authority tasked with herding the animals steps up its efforts to cut the burgeoning population.

According to the Norwegian Reindeer Herders’ Association (NRL), the move would entail the slaughter of as much as a fifth of the reindeer population in the vast Finnmark region, newspaper Aftenposten reports.

“The state is calling for the compulsory slaughter of 60,000 reindeer. They have no right to intervene with such force,” said NRL chief Nils Henrik Sara.

He accused the state of repeatedly changing the rules governing reindeer husbandry without any forewarning or the provision of guidelines, and said the NRL would take a case to the international courts if necessary.

The state has long been on a collision course with reindeer herders from the indigenous Sami minority, and the comments made by Agriculture Minister Lars Peder Brekk when presenting the new strategy last week have done little to ease tensions.

“The high reindeer population is a threat to reindeer husbandry and the entire culture surrounding reindeer herding,” said Brekk (Centre Party).

The minister believes the current reindeer population is unsustainable and implored reindeer herders to take steps to impose a ceiling on the number of animals they keep.

Brekk’s department wants the herders to reduce their financial losses and increase production.

The authorities are also seeking to avoid a repeat of last winter’s scenes, when police received a worryingly high number of reports of dead reindeer thought to have starved to the death amid a grazing shortage on the Finnmark plateau.

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