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The supermarket started selling frozen reindeer steaks – priced at £5.99 for a 350g pack – last week under its premium Deluxe label, alongside other ‘luxury’ ingredients such as pheasant, venison and springbok.
Although the meat is available from some speciality stores, Lidl , which has over 500 stores across the UK, has become the first multiple retailer in the UK to sell it during the Christmas period.
The company’s decision has been criticised by vegetarian group Viva!, which claims reindeers are often herded in unethical ways. Campaigns manager Justin Kerswell told The Grocer: “Lidl is destroying the magic of Christmas by selling dead reindeer. What they term ‘luxury cuisine’ belies the truth behind an industry that exists to exploit wild animals.”
According to Mr Kerswell, Siberian reindeer are often herded by snowmobile, motorbikes and sometimes even helicopters, which causes them high levels of anxiety. However, Lidl has stood by its decision to sell the meat, saying the animals live happily in their natural habitat and are well fed on ‘local aromatic herbs and grass’.
Alan Paton, owner of A.D Paton butchers in Ayrshire, sells a variety of exotic meats, but isn’t tempted to trade reindeer during the crucial Christmas period. “We sell wild boar, kangaroo and even crocodile meat, so our customers aren’t exactly squeamish. However, I think putting Rudolph on the menu might be a step too far!” said Mr Paton.
“I do think the backlash is a bit over-dramatic; people are happy to eat venison, which is a very similar product, so reindeer shouldn’t be any different. However, if we do start stocking the meat it won’t be until after the new year. We’ve got a special seasonal sausage called Rudolph’s Revenge, but I think selling actual reindeer meat at Christmas would be too much for most of our customers!,” he adds.