The Sami people are allowed ritual slaughter

With thanks to Kjell who provided this link in a comment to previous article on recreational hunting.

In order to prevent any misunderstanding, this article is not for or against the Sami people’s right to slaughter animals in accordance with their tradition, but to explore how the authorities go to great lengths to ensure that ethnic groups can live in accordance with their traditions, when said authorities so want to.

Sami people can use curved knife on Reindeer

The Food safety Authorities is opening up for allowing Sami people to continue to slaughter reindeer with knife. Sami reindeer herders are satisfied.


Publisert 06.02.2008 08:30. Oppdatert 06.02.2008 12:19.

According to Sami tradition, reindeer are put to death and butchered for own consumption with a curved knife. The curved knife is used to pith the brain as a stunning method, whereupon the main artery on the neck is cut and the animal bleeds to death.

Nils Henrik Sara is the leader of the Sami Reindeer Herder Association in Norway (NRL). He does not dare to celebrate too much just yet.

The NRL has worked on this matter for a long time, and now others too have realized that this is not an irresponsible way to slaughter reindeer. If the Food Safety Authorities had not permitted this, it would have become much more difficult and expensive to put reindeer to death. I hope that others too will accept this, says Sara.


This method of slaughter has caused reactions, among others, the EU Surveillance Authority, ESA [in fact it is the surveillance authority of the EFTA, M.McG], who wanted to abolish the practice. But the Food Safety Authorities have now found a loop hole in the EU directive, VG writes.

– This directive allows for discretionary powers for killing methods which can be said to be a part of cultural or sport events. Spanish bull fighting is allowed in the EU according to these rules. Our argument is that the Sami practice can be included in this definition of culture, section manager Torunn Knævelsrud says.

In force from August 1 [article originally appeared in 2008 M. McG]

She tells NRK Sami Radio that the Food Safety Authorities now wish to regulate a practice that has been accepted.

The Food Safety Authorities have now finished a draft for a new regulation where knife can be used when reindeer are slaughtered outside abattoirs. The Authorities require that the butcher has been adequately trained and that the right type of curved knife is being used.

Our aim is that the new regulations shall come into force on August 1 this year [2008]. We cannot predict now what ESA may do at a later inspection.


This article illustrates two things.

1. Norwegian Authorities do understand the value and importance of exercising discretionary powers in matters of  domestic affairs.

2. Norwegian Authorities show at the same time an amazing reluctance to allow a similarly fundamental cultural trait for another group of Norwegians, even when said practice is specifically permitted in the EU.

It borders on the incomprehensible, not to say the inconsistent to the extreme, to deem ritual slaughter for the Sami people permissible by torpedoing paragraph 12 in our Animal Welfare act:

Animals shall not be killed as an independent form of entertainment or competition.