All 400 Reindeer Discarded In Annual Slaughter
Sep. 22, 1988
STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) _ Lapp reindeer herdsmen in villages hit by fallout from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident have thrown out all the animals killed this week because radiation levels were many times higher than allowed, a Swedish daily said Thursday.
The Ostersunds Post said 400 reindeer were discarded in the northern province of Jamtland after the annual slaughter when tests on the meat disclosed cesium levels ranging up to 4,500 Becquerels per pound.
A Becquerel is a unit to describe the activity of radioactive substance. The approved government limit for the meat for consumption is about 680 Becquerels per pound.
''I'm beginning to lose faith that there is a future in raising reindeer,'' said Thomas Ahstrand, 22, a herder reached by telephone in his village of Frostviken.
About 10 percent of Sweden's total reindeer slaughter was banned for eating, the Ostersunds Post said.
''We raise reindeer for the garbage dumps. There is no sign that the cesium levels are being reduced by even a few Becquerels,'' said Ahstrand, who bought his first herd of 50 animals just before the Chernobyl nuclear plant in the Soviet Ukraine sent up a cloud of radioactivity in April 1986.
Thirty-one people died in the world's worst nuclear plant disaster.
Sweden was badly affected by fallout because of a freak wind that carried the radioactive isotope cesium 137 over a belt of the northern and central regions. Sweden's 300,000 reindeer were particularly vulnerable because they feed on lichen, which soaks up cesium and is slow to dispose of the contamination.
The Swedish government compensates the herders at market prices for the destroyed meat, but the semi-nomadic Lapps, or Samis as they prefer to call themselves, say their lifestyle has been threatened.
''We ask ourselves how long will the government keep on supporting us,'' said Ahstrand.
Last year Ahstrand and other herdsmen rescued part of their reindeer by moving them 250 miles south to graze in an uncontaminated region. But the move was costly and difficult, and the herdsmen stayed home this year.
''We felt that we didn't belong there. We have lived in the mountains for so many centuries tending our herds among these fields, it is more than an occupation. It's a way of life,'' said Ahstrand.