“Reindeer herding is not just a job. It is the backbone of the indigenous Sami culture. Hunting our animals is out of the question.” – Eva-Lisa Myntti, mother of reindeer herder Niklas Jonsson
Shortly after the Budapest Beacon reported last week that Swedish reindeer herder Niklas Jonsson had filed a report with the police after he found out that Hungarian Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén might have shot one of his reindeer, Jonsson’s mother contacted us to provide further insights into the incident.
Ms. Eva-Lisa Myntti wanted to confirm that Semjén could not have shot a reindeer legally in Sweden, as every last Swedish reindeer is legally owned by someone. She also refuted the claims of Hungarian wildlife filmmaker Gábor Török, who had stated in a since-deleted Facebook post that sometimes Sami reindeer herders allow tourists to shoot some of their animals for a fee. “It is not something that is even considered here,” Ms. Myntti told us. “If some individual had sold a reindeer knowing it would be shot (…), that person would not be looked at with any respect among us.”
Married to an indigenous Sami reindeer herder, Ms. Myntti has been part of the Sami reindeer herding community for 26 years. Her family owns about 1,200 reindeer that wander the community’s territory, which stretches from the Norwegian mountain ranges to the Gulf of Bothnia. Reading Swedish tabloid daily Aftonbladet‘s review of the Magyar Nemzet report that revealed Semjén’s Swedish hunting trips, a family friend recognized Jonsson’s unique mark on the downed reindeer’s ear. All Swedish reindeer herders use a unique combination of ear cuts to mark their reindeer. All ear-marks and their respective owners are submitted to a public online database.
According to Ms. Myntti, it is indisputable that someone stole her son’s reindeer. The case is now being officially investigated by Swedish police. Ms. Myntti noted that Semjén and his hunting party might also have violated Swedish gun laws. As she pointed out, legally Semjén could only have downed game smaller than a reindeer, so by carrying larger caliber rifles the deputy PM might have violated the law.
The biggest question, according to Ms. Myntti, is who helped to arrange the illegal hunt and whether Semjén would take responsibility for the scandal. “Money can turn a lot of people around and there has to be some at our end too [who participated in arranging the killing of the reindeer].”
It was revealed in March by print and online daily Magyar Nemzet that Semjén has been going on hunting trips in Sweden since 2012, financed by businessman József Farkas whose companies fared quite well in state procurements in recent years. The deputy prime minister has rejected accusations of conflict of interests.