(Photo: A Nenets tribesman and his herd of reindeers on the Yamal peninsula, north of the polar circle, August 4, 2009/Denis Sinyakov)
When rival energy producers Russia and Qatar talk business, it’s no longer only about natural gas — they’re talking reindeer meat, which Russia has promised to export and butcher according to Muslim dietary law. The prospect of Russia exporting halal reindeer meat products to the desert kingdom first came up last month when the governor of Russia’s Arctic Yamal Nenets region, where most of Russia’s gas is produced, was in Qatar for investment talks.
“We told the Qatari leadership that we don’t only have oil and gas. We also have reindeer. And then a Sheikh asked, ‘Is reindeer halal? Can Muslims eat it?’ It turns out they can,” Yamal’s governor Dmitry Kobylkin told Reuters in an interview. “They were so surprised to learn there exists another kind of meat that they haven’t tried and that it can be halal. Gold mining is interesting for them, gas, infrastructure, and now investment in halal reindeer meat processing,” Kobylkin said.
After consulting with the imam of the Salekhard Mosque in Yamal’s capital, the state-owned Yamal Reindeer Cmpany that will produce the meat decided it should also market halal canned reindeer within Russia.
“There is a huge demand among Russia’s Muslim community for halal products. Until two-three years ago, you didn’t see any halal stores. Now they’re opening everywhere,” said Imam Abdullah Hazrat of the Salekhard Mosque.