Supermarkets in Britain under fire for selling reindeer meat

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A supermarket chain was under fire Monday for selling reindeer meat in its British stores in the run-up to Christmas.

German discount chain Lidl is selling frozen Siberian reindeer leg steaks at six pounds (9.60 dollars, seven euros) for a 350-gramme pack as part of its deluxe range.

Reindeer are traditionally associated with the festive season -- the story going that Father Christmas travels around the world delivering presents on a sleigh pulled by a team of flying reindeer.

Animal rights campaigners blasted Lidl, which defended its decision to sell the unusual meat by saying the reindeer had been well treated.

"Lidl is destroying the magic of Christmas by selling dead reindeer," said Justin Kerswell, the campaigns manager for Vegetarians International Voice for Animals.

"What they term 'luxury cuisine' belies the truth behind an industry that exists to exploit wild animals," he told trade magazine The Grocer.

Siberian reindeer were often herded by snowmobiles and in some cases by helicopters and motorbikes, Kerswell said.

"This and lassoing them cause huge stress. They can become so distraught their muscle can waste away."

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said: "The idea of 'Rudolph' being slaughtered and sliced into steaks for a novelty Christmas dinner is revolting.

"Christmas is supposed to remind us of peace and goodwill -- and the rest of the animal kingdom could do with a taste of it, rather than being tasted."

Lidl, which has more than 530 stores in Britain, said the reindeer were fed on "local aromatic herbs and grass.

"They live in their natural habitat and have plenty of space to move around," a spokeswoman said.

The supermarket is also selling pheasant, venison and springbok in the Christmas build-up.

© 2010 AFP

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