For most of us when we hear the word reindeer we have fond memories of being glued to the TV sipping vegan hot coco while watching Rudolph.
Sadly the cute cuddly mental picture we have held most of our lives is now being replaced with the horrific images of frightened reindeer being herded by snow mobiles, motorcycles and helicopters. Unfortunately these are just a few of the methods being used to force these helpless, disoriented animals onto trucks for transport to slaughterhouses.
Recently an investigation conducted by the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) exposed the grim reality of the suffering reindeer are forced to endure in Sweden and Finland.
"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."
Once they arrive to slaughterhouse the animals are starved and suffer from illness due to severe neglect.
"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," adds Petterson. "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."
According to Sweden's Animal Welfare Act 1988 and Finland's Animal Welfare Act 1996 both decree a high level of welfare for all animals domestic, laboratory and in captivity. As a result WSPA and its supporters are calling on members of the Nordic Council of Ministers, an inter-parliamentary forum which includes countries such as Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden, as well as the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Aland, for cooperation to uphold the Vaxjo Declaration of 2008, which states the Council's belief that animals are sentient beings with their own intrinsic value and should be respected as such.