Norway issues pre-Christmas reindeer slaughter threat

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.

Norway issues pre-Christmas reindeer slaughter threat
Photo: Heiko Junge/Scanpix (File)

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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Could Christmas in Norway be affected by new Covid-19 measures?

Norway’s government has in the last two days announced tightened rules relating to Covid-19 isolation and face masks. Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre sought to reassure the public over plans for the Christmas holidays.

Norway's PM Jonas Gahr Støre expects the country's residents to be able to celebrate Christmas normally but cannot rule out new Covid-19 measures before December 24th.
Norway's PM Jonas Gahr Støre expects the country's residents to be able to celebrate Christmas normally but cannot rule out new Covid-19 measures before December 24th. Photo by Chad Madden on Unsplash

The government on Tuesday announced new measures relating to quarantine rules for confirmed Covid-19 cases and face mask guidelines.

The measures, which are being introduced in response to increasing infection numbers, include more stringent isolation rules, face mask recommendations and a push to vaccinate over 65s with booster jabs as soon as possible.

“On one side, we must avoid full hospitals and strain on the health system. On the other side we must live as normally as possible. We must keep finding the right balance in the measures,” Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said in a statement.

Tighter quarantine rules for suspected cases with the new Omicron variant were meanwhile launched on Monday. People who test positive for or are believed to be infected with the Omicron variant will need to isolate for longer than others with the virus.


In comments during a briefing to press on Tuesday, Støre sought to reassure the public over plans to spend Christmas with loved ones.

“The measures we have introduced are settings that make it possible to celebrate a good Christmas while keeping in mind what you can do with your loved ones,” the PM said in comments reported by newspaper VG.

“We can plan to be with our families at Christmas,” he added.

Last year saw Christmas in Norway significantly impacted by restrictions on the number of people who could meet and mixing between households.

Such far-reaching restrictions are not expected in 2021. Støre did not however rule out additional measures being introduced before December 24th.

“What we have presented today is based on the knowledge we already have,” he said.

“It is the total restrictions that count. If we are in the same situation (as now) when we get to December 24th, you can celebrate Christmas normally,” Støre said, but noted the virus would be present throughout the winter.

The aim of any measures is to keep the pandemic under control throughout the winter, he added.