A restaurant has provoked anger from animal rights campaigners for serving reindeer as part of its Christmas menu.

The delicacy has been put on the menu at Northern Lights in Little East Street, Brighton.

The Scandinavian restaurant, which opened in the summer, is serving sauteed reindeer to its customers for £8.90 a dish.

Meat from the animal – made famous by the Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer Christmas song – is ordered direct from Lapland.

Pauliina Talvensaari, who owns the restaurant with her husband Manu Leppanen, said: “My family are from Lapland and have raised reindeer for years.

They send it direct to us.

“We were a bit hesitant to put it on the menu in England but we have a lot of Scandinavian customers and they have been asking for reindeer.

“It has been going down really well. The meat is very low fat and tastes quite gamey but it’s very distinctive.

“We appreciate it is a bit sensitive because of their link with Santa but it is one of the most ethical meats around because reindeer are allowed to roam free.”

Until eight years ago, few people outside of Lapland had had the chance to taste reindeer soup, reindeer calf kebab or roast reindeer with lingonberries, all traditional dishes of the Sami people.

But things are changing. Ikea is selling reindeer meat to the masses across Europe, with volumes going up each year.

But animal rights campaigners have hit out at the trade.

Denise Friend, of Brighton Animal Action, said: “I just don’t understand what sort of person would eat reindeer – especially at Christmas. Surely there is enough meat on the market without looking for more.

“Reindeer meat is obviously imported too so it is not exactly environmentally friendly. It’s an outrage.”

Justin Kerswell, campaigns manager for vegetarian group Viva!, said: “We are very concerned about the exploitation of wild animals for meat.

“More than 70% of reindeer slaughtered for meat are calves that have grazed during the summer, which means they never even get to see snow.”

However, as more and more people develop a taste for exotic meats, some say demand for reindeer steaks and sausages is only likely to go up.

Walter Murray, director of Scotland-based Kezie Foods, which supplies the exotic meat in the UK, said: “A lot of people are taking reindeer roasts at this time of year.

“We’ve been doing it for about four or five years but it’s growing year on year and this is the busiest we’ve been with it.

“Different things come in and out of fashion but overall, exotic meats are going up and up.”

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