Ikea under fire for selling reindeer meat

Furniture giant accused of condoning animal cruelty for stocking exotic salami

Ikea has been accused of condoning cruelty to animals by selling salami made from Santa's four-legged sleigh-pullers, reindeer.

Unlike a traditional reindeer hunt, modern ranchers buzz over the animals in helicopters, herd them with snowmobiles and truck them hundreds of miles, causing them mental and physical stress.

Around 70 per cent of Swedish reindeer slaughtered are calves, which means they die without seeing snow, claims the animal welfare group Viva!.

Ikea sells 130g of reindeer salami for £1.75 and 100g of reindeer slices for £2.25 in its Swedish food hall, which features other national dishes such as rye bread, meatballs, and almond cake.

Viva!, a vegetarian campaign group based in Bristol, said: "We are calling on the company to withdraw sales of the meat, due to the cruel exploitation these wild animals suffer at the hands of hunters."

Viva! has already persuaded supermarkets not to stock kangaroo and other exotic meats which can be reared and killed in ways that would be illegal in the UK.

In a letter to Ikea, it cited evidence from a study by Uppsala University in Sweden in 2005 that found reindeer hunting caused "considerable physical and mental stress".

In a paper, Claes Rehbinder and Jann Hau, of the Department of Neuroscience, wrote: "The increasing stress associated with herding, corralling, and physical restraint of less and less tame animals results in lesions and elevated blood cortisol concentrations."

Viva! campaigns manager, Justin Kerswell, said: "We are very concerned about the exploitation of wild animals for meat. As well as being chased from the land and air, once they are caught, their misery doesn't end there. In Sweden, some reindeer face a gruelling journey of up to 1,000km to the slaughterhouse where they face anything but a humane end.

"More than 70 per cent of reindeer slaughtered for meat are calves that have grazed during the summer, which means they never even get to see snow."

He added: "We urge the company to set an ethical example of goodwill by dropping the sale of reindeer meat, instead of supporting an industry spreading pain and suffering, not happiness this Christmas."

Ikea, which has 17 stores in the UK, denied it was cruel, saying it strove to meet animal welfare standards.

In a statement, it said: "Modern equipment such as snowmobiles, motorcycles and helicopters are used because of the large size of the reindeer herding area (half the size of Sweden), which makes gathering the animals more difficult. The vehicles keep the reindeer safe from predators.

"In terms of transporting reindeer to the abattoir, our supplier follows the same law applying to all other domestic animals in Sweden which sets maximum transport time and breaks, access to water and so on."

The statement said the claim that 70 per cent of the animals were calves was "a national figure for Sweden" and not specific to Ikea.

Reindeer meat is popular in the Scandinavian countries, where favourite dishes include reindeer meatballs and reindeer sausage.

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