In Finland there are about 200 000 reindeer living in the northern part of the country. The reindeer husbandry area covers about 36 % of Finland’s total area and reindeer may graze freely in that area regardless of landownership.
Reindeer herding is based on traditional knowledge and skill. This semi-domesticated animal provided meat and milk and raw materials for clothes and tools, which has enabled people to live in the northernmost parts of Finland since hundreds of years.
The reindeer herder’s profession involves adapting to the environment and a rhythm of life set by the reindeer in harmony with the seasons, weather and grazing grounds. Reindeer may only be owned by citizens of the countries belonging to the EU who have permanent residence in the reindeer herding area.
Each Spring around 120 000 calves are being born. In order to keep the balance between reindeer herding and nature, each Fall approximately 100 000 animal are slaughtered in slaughter houses owned by cooperatives of reindeer farmers.
Reindeer herders earn most of their income from sales of reindeer meat and they get additional income from sales of other reindeer products like hides. In Finland reindeer owners are permitted to own a maximum of 300 reindeer in the southern part of the reindeer husbandry area and 500 in the north. Purpose is to insure livelihood for as many people in the north as possible.
Of all the primary production sectors, reindeer husbandry is the most socially sustainable livelihood. It provides living for large number of people in the harsh North. Today reindeer husbandry is a modern livelihood that is passed down from generation to generation.