STOCKHOLM- Sweden said Wednesday it would give its reindeer herders millions of euros (dollars) in emergency aid to help them feed their animals, which are starving because of thick ice that is preventing them from reaching the lichen they eat.

"You can't just stand by and watch animals starve," Agriculture Minister Eskil Erlandsson said in a statement as his ministry earmarked 37 million kronor (4.06 million euros, 5.3 million dollars) in aid.

Sweden has some 230,000 reindeer, raised by Sami, the indigenous people of the Arctic region. The reindeer are used primarily for meat production, a delicacy consumed mostly in the Nordic countries, while the skins and horns are used for clothing and handicrafts.

In January, authorities representing the Sami people had asked the Swedish government for emergency funds to help their starving herds.

"Wet snow during the autumn that later froze means that the reindeer are unable to reach their food," the agriculture ministry said in a statement.