Norway fears EU ban on reindeer meat

Wild Reindeer herds chronic wasting disease CWDReindeer. Photo:

Norway fears EU ban on reindeer meat

Minister for Agriculture, Jon Georg Dale, is worried that the EU will introduce a ban on imports of Norwegian reindeer meat to prevent the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).


Hunters have already culled hundreds of wild reindeer in Nordfjella to stop the dreaded disease.

Now the EU is considering measures to prevent CWD from spreading to other areas. The situation was the main issue when Minister for Agriculture, Jon Georg Dale, (Progress Party) was visited by EU Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis in Oslo on Friday.

Dale’s concern is that the EU will go too far.

– We have imposed export restrictions from the areas where we have detected CWD. It seems that the European Commission wants to go further. We think that is inappropriate, he says.

Prion disease

CWD is a so-called prion disease. It affects deer and reminds of scrapie in sheep and mad cow disease in cattle.

The disease causes the brain to slowly be eaten away. Eventually, the animals begin to tremble, stumble and fall .In the end they die.

The first finding in Norway was made in 2016. It was the first time the disease was detected in Europe. Since then, the Veterinary Institute has examined 37,000 samples – from reindeer, moose, deer and ree. A total of 14 animals with CWD have been found, all in wild reindeer at Nordfjella.

Additionally three moose and one deer have tested positive, but Norwegian experts believe that those were affected by a different variant of the disease that occurs sporadically in older animals. This variant is probably not as contagious.

Culls all animals

To be on the safe side, the state has decided to cull the entire Nordfjella stock. So far, hunters have shot 778 animals, while around 900 remain.

Dale believes Norway has made a unique effort to map and stop the disease. He says that Andriukaitis commended Norway for this.

– I feel that the Commissioner is very responsive to the input we provides, and the challenges that EU’s proposals  might pose to Norway, he says.

Concerned about Finnmark

What worries him is that the European Commission is considering banning the import of meat from reindeer and other deer from all counties in Norway, where there have been findings of CWD – including counties where the more sporadic variant of the disease has been found.

That Dale believes will be disproportionately strict.

The proposal implies that all of the Sami reindeer industry in Finnmark can be affected if one discovery of the sporadic variant of CWD is found.

There have already been taken a lot of samples in Finnmark, but so far without any findings.

Is to test animals in the EU

The EU member states have, in turn, done little to check whether the disease is also present there, Dale believes.

For better control, the EU is now applying a three-year monitoring program. Animals will be tested in Sweden, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland.

– It is not excluded that CWD can be present in Norway’s neighbouring countries in the coming months and years, says spokesperson for the EU commission, Anca Paduraru.

When the disease has first been detected, it is extremely difficult to eradicate, she points out.

– The Commission has therefore been very keen to act quickly and efficiently.


© NTB Scanpix / Norway Today