As we enter the holiday season, it is time to raise our voices again for captive reindeer who are exploited every year for entertainment in ‘displays’ across Scotland and the rest of the UK.

We’ve joined forces with leading UK animal welfare organisations Born Free Foundation, Freedom For Animals and Animal Aid to urge venues in Scotland to replace captive reindeer displays with forms of entertainment that do not exploit animals.

We know that venues can listen and respond to public pressure. Just last year, we were delighted to hear from Mercat Shopping Centre in Kirkcaldy, Fife, that the new management would no longer be hosting live reindeer displays due to animal welfare concerns. And three years ago, Aberdeen City Council pulled funding for live reindeer displays at the Aberdeen Trinity shopping centre.

So far, we have sent letters to 14 venues in Scotland hosting live reindeer displays. Below is a transcript of the main section of the letter outlining the main welfare issues of reindeer displays, and urging venues to instead use the existing alternative methods of animal-friendly entertainment.

"We are writing to you from animal welfare charities OneKind, Animal Aid, Born Free and Freedom for Animals as we are aware that you plan to use reindeer in your event this year.

Reindeer are wonderful animals, but sadly these displays are very poor for reindeer welfare.

Reindeer are native to the arctic tundra where they can roam hundreds of miles and perform their natural behaviours. They do not belong penned in enclosures for our entertainment.

There are many welfare implications of exhibiting live reindeer, including:

  • Transportation of the reindeer, which evidence suggests is highly stressful. [1]
  • Stress from exposure to loud noise, bright lights, music and unnatural environments.
  • Being exposed to handling by the public.
  • Being confined to a small area (pen) during the displays, where in order to avoid handling by the public reindeer may confine themselves to an even smaller area within the already restrictive pen.

Dr John Fletcher, founder of the Veterinary Reindeer Society, has also stated that reindeer are not able to cope with the stress of captivity, and that most diseases seen in reindeer in the UK are stress-related. [2] 

Reindeer are prey animals and so can be very good at hiding stress. Problems arising from this distress can actually manifest some time after the event.

We would urge you to please reconsider using reindeer in your Christmas displays and join the councils and venues around Scotland including North Ayrshire Council and Mercat Shopping Centre in Fife that have decided to no longer feature live animals in their Christmas events."

[1] Laaksonen, S., Jokelainen, P., Pusenius, J. et al. Is transport distance correlated with animal welfare and carcass quality of reindeer (Rangifer tarandus tarandus)?. Acta Vet Scand 59, 17 (2017).


We will await responses from the various venues and in the meantime plan our next campaign steps to finally put an to end reindeer displays in Scotland.