Eleven animal welfare organisations have signed an open letter to 225 organisations, including event organisers, local authorities, NHS Trusts, care home groups, garden centres, and pub chains to ask them to cease the use of live reindeer in their Christmas celebrations.

Reindeer pulling Santas sleigh on Christmas parade.

The open letter was also sent to local authorities across the UK to ask that they review their policy on the use of reindeer in events. 

The open letter, co-ordinated by OneKind, comes following the release of a new report that highlights the negative welfare impacts of these events on reindeer. 

‘The Welfare Needs of Captive Reindeer Used for Entertainment Events in the UK: a review’, written by Dr Tayla Hammond and commissioned by OneKind, establishes the welfare needs of captive reindeer in the UK, explores the impact of captivity and entertainment events on reindeer welfare and provides recommendations to improve captive reindeer welfare. 

Read the letter

The letter states: 

"As we approach the festive season, preparations for the Christmas celebrations will begin to take place throughout the UK. Sadly, a number of festive events will feature live reindeer despite the detrimental effects this will have on the animals’ welfare

"We, the undersigned, urge venues and local authorities to cease using reindeer in their Christmas events, following the release of a new report that highlights the negative welfare impacts of these events on reindeer". 

In the letter, the charities outlined the following concerns as raised in the report:

  • The unnatural environment and lack of agency associated with these events are likely to lead to distress and a state of poor welfare.
  • Lack of agency and exposure to unrelenting stressors may lead to the development of learned helplessness (a psychological condition which is associated with depression in humans and a wide range of non-human animals, including horses and sheep).
  • The constant, unfamiliar and unpredictable interaction with the public through petting and feeding has the potential to be stressful for reindeer.
  • The event environment presents a variety of stimuli that may be perceived as threats, including loud noises, human ‘predators’ and other animals. While reindeer may express vigilance in response to these threats, they have limited agency to act upon them, thus leading to a state of fear.
  • Long distance travel, repeated loading and unloading and pulling Santa’s sleigh can cause physical and mental fatigue.
  • The stress of transportation and the event environment can compromise immune system function, making them more susceptible to disease and infection.
  • Limited opportunities are presented to conduct natural behavioural interactions with the environment and other animals. 

Charity signatories 

Eleven animal welfare organisations added their name to the open letter: OneKind, Animal Aid, Animal Defenders International, Born Free, Crustacean Compassion, Freedom for Animals, Humane Society International, League Against Cruel Sports, Mahavair Trust, PETA and Wild Futures. 

Take action 

We are working with Animal Aid, Born Free and Freedom for Animals to put an end to the exploitation of reindeer in Christmas events throughout the UK.  

Please write to any local venues/councils that are hosting live reindeer displays in your area to ask that they reconsider. You can use our template letter, and our interactive map of reindeer displays, but please try to use your own wording as much as possible. The more personalised the letter, the greater the impact.