Santa's Animal Rights Violations
Start writing a post
Lifestyle

Santa's Animal Rights Violations

Responsible Tourism: Dog Sleds vs Reindeer Sleighs

365
Santa's Animal Rights Violations
Karisa Poedjirahardjo

Not a lot happens in Rovaniemi, a little city in northern Finland and popular landing spot for Lapland vacationers. The city gets most of it’s revenue from tourists seeking a winter wonderland, boasting attractions such as a ski lodge, a small arctic zoo, and the ever-popular Santa Claus Village.

Most people who come to Rovaniemi seek a unique adventure. Tour companies offer safaris to go Northern Lights hunting, snowshoe hiking through the constant fluff of snow that coat the mountains, cross country skiing, and perhaps the must-see on everybody’s list: dog and reindeer sledding.

Our first day there, we enlisted the expertise of Bearhill Husky and took a 90 minute excursion through the wilderness with a team of huskies. Even before we had started the dogs were howling with excitement, tugging at the harnesses, they couldn’t wait to start running.

Talking to our guide, we found that they were in the process of building a fence to cover the perimeter of the acre of land owned by the kennel. This would allow the dogs to run around freely in the summer when they couldn’t get their exercise from mushing. All in all, the guides seemed to know what they were doing with the dogs, knew each of the hundred by name and personality, and seemed to care for their work and their animals.

After having a successful dog-sledding experience, we decided to see the reindeer sleighs the next day while we were at the Santa Claus Village. Throughout it, however, I couldn’t help but feel sick to my stomach.

With the huskies, we kept having to brake because the dogs were so excited and going too fast. The reindeer showed none of the excitement of the dogs. Our guide had keep pushing the reindeer onwards using his reins. Moreover, the skin on my reindeer had started to redden, as if raw and chafed from pulling the sleigh.

Its antlers had also broken off, but no one seemed to do anything about it. Now, I know reindeers shed their antlers every year, but I have to wonder about the state of these animals. This looked like a wound left untreated.

And then, as if adding insult to injury, they had left blankets made of reindeer fur for guests to wrap themselves in while in the sleigh.

The Lappish have a long history with reindeers, many owning reindeer farms inherited from their ancestors. I don’t doubt that there are many happy reindeers in Rovaniemi, but you’d have to show me a little bit more evidence before I’m convinced that these ones were.

I left feeling guilty for contributing to a system that perpetuated this treatment of animals. From the moment you entered the Santa Claus village, you can tell it's a total tourist trap. We should have known that this would mean their main goal is tourism and profit, and probably didn't care much for the quality of our interaction with the animals.

At the same time, I wasn't sure. Lots of people had come back from her with great experiences, none of the travel sites like TripAdvisor listed any complaints about the reindeer. After all, I was only a tourist, what did I know about raising reindeer? Or perhaps the entire industry was cruel and the happy huskies were merely a facade too.

The truth is I still don't know. But even though I can only say this with the narrow viewpoint of a tourist (so take it with a grain of salt), I know what I saw was a team of dogs much happier than the reindeer pulling sleighs, and I am reminded of a quote by Anna Lappé:

Every time you spend money, you're casting a vote for the kind of world you want.

Whether we benefit from it or not, there's no denying that in our consumerist world, people follow the money. As travelers as well as consumers, it's our job to be careful of where and how we spend that money, and that we are contributing to businesses and organizations that are using their resources responsibly.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Featured

Alone At The Met

I survive a day alone in NYC.

1956
Wikimedia Commons

It was six in the evening. I was sitting in the courtyard of a Renaissance-era Italian villa, glancing around at the statues, most notably one of a boy removing a thorn from his foot. Despite the supposedly relaxing setting, I was incredibly anxious. My phone was at less than 5 percent battery, and once it died I would be completely disconnected from my family and peers, alone in one of the largest art museums in the country.

Keep Reading... Show less
Student Life

College 101: How To Ease The Back To School Blues

Getting back into the school groove when you just can't seem to let go of summer.

6617
Beyond The States

With fall classes just beginning, many of us find ourselves struck with summer withdrawals. Especially for those who refrained from taking courses over the summer, it can be quite difficult to get back in the swing of things. Fortunately, there are various ways to help make the transition back to college as smooth as possible.

Keep Reading... Show less
Dating Apps

We Met At A Bar

Salvage what you can; if you can't, it's alright to walk away.

5130
We Met At A Bar
Anne Waldon

We met at a bar.

Keep Reading... Show less
Sports

The Mets And Me

They may be the worst sometimes, but this baseball team has given me more than I could ask for.

4305
Rich Schultz/Getty Images

On September 3rd, 2001, a sea of children littered my home's navy-carpeted den to watch baseball during my dad's 40th birthday extravaganza. A baseball game flickered on the TV, and a red and blue bubble of a scoreboard sat in the bottom right corner of the screen. The New York Mets and the Philadelphia Phillies were in a wild game at Veterans' Stadium. As I, a five-year-old boy with a jumble of curly blonde hair, sat in the back of the kid clump, I wondered which team I should root for. After a long debate with myself, I decided that I should root for the team that's winning (duh). But, as the ninth inning rolled around with the Phils maintaining a 7-5 lead, some magic occurred. The Mets put up five runs in one frame, stunning the Phillie fans in the room and winning the game 10-7.

Keep Reading... Show less
Featured

Which BTS Member You Are Based On Your Star Sign

If you love BTS, I'm sure you relate to one or many of them in several ways. This star test will help you learn more about which member you are most connected to.

3281
Which BTS Member You Are Based On Your Star Sign

Astrological signs tell a lot about a person. Do you ever wonder what your BTS bias star sign is? Is it the same as yours, or or are you more like one of the other amazing members? Take a look and find out what yours (and the members of Bangtan) says about you.

Keep Reading... Show less

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Facebook Comments