Animal welfare charities OneKind, Animal Aid, Born Free and Freedom for Animals are urging the British public to boycott Christmas celebrations that feature live reindeer. The charities are concerned for the welfare of the reindeer, who are semi-wild animals that belong roaming the Artic Tundra.  

The charities, and their concerned supporters, have reached out to 58 of the organisers of live reindeer displays in the UK highlighting the welfare issues associated with these displays. Disappointingly, the majority of the venues have ignored the charities. 

Reindeer are native to the Artic Tundra, where they often roam for thousands of miles. Indeed, some populations travel up to 3000 miles a year - the longest documented movement of any terrestrial mammal. They are adapted to the quiet of the wilderness, the open space and cool temperatures. 

And yet this month, venues across the UK will have these beautiful animals penned in enclosures at busy, bright and noisy events. They will even be transported to schools and people’s homes for photo opportunities. It is a far cry from their natural habitat. 

OneKind Campaigner, Eve Massie Bishop, said:  

“It is much more valuable to educate the public about the fascinating, varied and complex lives of animals in the wild than to promote a voyeuristic experience in which public see confined animals who may be suffering. Reindeer are semi-wild animals that do not belong in captivity. 

“We would urge people not to visit any events with live animals used for entertainment and celebrate the festivities at one of the many animal-friendly events instead. Reindeer are sentient beings with complex needs, not Christmas props to be used for our entertainment. 

“Christmas is a time of kindness, generosity and joy. Let’s extend this sentiment to non-human animals too.” 

Chris Lewis, Captivity Research Officer at the Born Free Foundation, stated; 

“After decades of sustained pressure, the use of wild animals in travelling circuses was banned in England, Scotland and Wales and left in the past where it belongs. Yet year after year the same commercial exploitation of wild animals occurs across the nation; including during the weeks before Christmas to the detriment of hundreds of reindeer. 

There are many alternative ways to provide entertainment and engage children and adults without exploiting captive wild animals. Their continued use for public entertainment should provoke the same critical response as the use of wild animals in travelling circuses. The UK claims to be a nation of animal lovers. If we truly are, it is time to leave this outdated and immoral practice in the past too. 

We urge the public to not attend such events this year and for organisers to put the welfare of the reindeer used at these events ahead of potential profits. By reducing the demand for these live wild animals to perform, members of the public and event organisers can play an important role in reducing the scale of this significant welfare issue.” 

Isobel McNally, Festive Events Campaigner at Freedom for Animals said: 

“Every year we campaign against the exploitation of reindeer and other animals who are used in parades and simply as props for Christmas promotional events. We are seeing a shift in ethics year-on-year as an increasing number of events organisers heed the warnings of animal protection charities and opt for compassionate, animal-free celebrations. So far this year 41 events that have previously used live animals have directly confirmed to us that they will not be doing so this year, and a further 65 have advertised events with no mention this time of live animal attractions. Despite this, the reindeer hire industry clings on, and we have also identified dozens of events that are exploiting reindeer this year. We are contacting each one to ask that they stop exploiting these sensitive animals who belong in the wild with their herds, not in shopping centres, markets, and town squares.” 

Rachel King, Animal Aid’s Campaigns Officer for Animals in Festive Events 

Reindeer are sensitive animals who are adapted to live in a cold climate. In the wild they would roam freely, migrate huge distances and have a very specialised diet. These important elements cannot be provided for them in captivity. To make matters worse, reindeer displayed to the public must endure bright lights and loud noises often with nowhere to hide. Reindeer kept in the UK are reported to suffer weight loss, diarrhoea and high death rates in their calves. All of this can be avoided if people choose compassionate events, without live reindeer, this Christmas.  

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Notes to editor 

  1. View our joint letter to those organising live reindeer displays.  
  2. If you wish to know if there is a live reindeer display in your area of operation please get in touch.
  3. OneKind is a Scottish animal protection charity based in Edinburgh.
  4. For further information please contact Eve Massie Bishop on 0131 285 9859 or [email protected]

About OneKind 

OneKind is Scotland’s leading campaigns animal welfare charity, founded in 1911.  We work to end cruelty to not only Scotland’s animals, but also to end animal cruelty on a global scale, through our collaboration with like-minded international animal welfare organisations. We are unique in that we campaign on behalf of all animals - wild animals, farmed animals, companion animals and animals used in experimentation - through high-profile public campaigns, political lobbying, investigations, research and public education. 

About Born Free Foundation 

Born Free was founded by Bill Travers MBE and Virginia McKenna OBE, who starred in the movie classic, Born Free (1966), together with their eldest son, Will. Born Free’s mission is to ensure that all wild animals, whether living in captivity or in the wild, are treated with compassion and respect and are able to live their lives according to their needs. Born Free opposes the exploitation of wild animals in captivity and campaigns to keep wildlife in the wild. Born Free promotes Compassionate Conservation which strives to enhance the survival of threatened species in the wild and protect natural habitats while respecting the needs of and safeguarding the welfare of individual animals. Born Free seeks to have a positive impact on animals in the wild and protect their ecosystems in perpetuity, for their own intrinsic value and for the critical roles they play within the natural world. 

About Freedom for Animals 

Freedom For Animals was founded in 1957 by Irene Heaton, a retired schoolteacher who felt compelled to speak out against the misery animals were suffering in zoos and circuses. Then named Captive Animals’ Protection Society, the charity started out tackling animal abuse for entertainment purposes both at grassroots level with information stalls and demonstrations, and by taking bills to protect animals to Parliament. In our 65 years of campaigning we have contributed to the closure of infamous zoos and circuses as well as the banning of the use of wild animals in circuses in the UK. We continue to speak out for the animals still trapped in businesses that exploit them as props and exhibits in zoos, aquariums and performances, as well as continuing to investigate the truth behind these industries’ welfare claims. Freedom for Animals remains true to its founder’s objective: that all animals are able to live freely, that wild animals remain in the wild, and that those who are unable to live there find sanctuary, not enslavement. 

About Animal Aid 

Established in 1977, Animal Aid is one of the UK’s longest established animal protection organisations. We campaign on a multitude of issues relating to animal cruelty, including factory farming, bloodspots, animal experiments, and the use of animals in entertainment, by conducting undercover investigations and engaging in political lobbying as well as public awareness activities. Animal Aid also promotes a cruelty-free lifestyle.