News Blog Sentient being not seasonal prop: stop the use of live reindeer at events 19-12-23 Flashing florescent lights. The chatter from a crowd of people. Familiar festive tunes playing loudly through speakers. The hustle and bustle of Christmas shoppers and partygoers. We know this is not a description of a reindeer’s natural environment, and yet, these sensitive, sentient animals are still being transported and used as props in festive displays across the UK in the 21st Century. An environment not akin to their native habitat In contrast, their native habitat is that of a true winter wonderland: reindeer are accustomed to soft snow under their hooves and crisp, chilly breeze through their fur as they roam the peaceful, vast landscape of the Arctic Tundra. Although at the likes of town centres, shopping malls, garden centres or other small enclosures, there are usually a few or a sparse group of reindeer on display or pulling Santa’s sleigh, reindeer are naturally herd animals and social beings who communicate between one another. Reindeer have even fled from festive events Worryingly, there have been several instances of reindeer fleeing festive displays over the years. In fact, in early December of this year, our fellow animal welfare campaigners and open letter co-signatory, Animal Aid, recently reported how two reindeer escaped from a Santa’s Grotto within a Christmas event in Suffolk, England. Despite facing real danger due to wandering onto the busy A11 road, the likely startled and stressed reindeer were described in the media as “runaway reindeer” and “antlered absconders”. Upon retrieval, both reindeer were physically unharmed but this an example of a captive, forced situation which the reindeer should not and did not have to be put in. 32 venues cease using live reindeer this year Whilst we are delighted and relieved that 32 venues (that previously used live reindeer between 2019-2022) have chosen compassion this Christmas by holding celebrations that will not feature reindeer as an attraction this year, there is still substantial work to be done and support needed to stop the exploitation of animals as entertainment. This was in response to our co-ordinated open letter with our friends at Animal Aid, Born Free and Freedom for Animals, that urged for the consideration of the welfare of reindeer and was sent to 370 venues and councils throughout the UK. Further aiding the efforts to stop the use of live reindeer, our incredible supporters wrote emails to their local authorities. Welfare concerns for captive reindeer used at events Earlier in the campaign, we commissioned a report; 'The Welfare Needs of Captive Reindeer Used for Entertainment Events in the UK: a review’ by Dr Tayla Hammond which outlined and concluded that the use of reindeer at such events must end. Following the report and throughout the campaign, we have continued to highlight the welfare concerns for captive reindeer which include: unnatural environment and lack of agency, exposure to unrelenting stressors like noises which they may perceive as threats, unfamiliar and unpredictable interaction - such as with young children or large groups of people - and limited opportunities to conduct natural behaviour, including the basic need to forage. Moreover, the report shone a spotlight on how long-distance travel to a Christmas event and the popular occurrence of the reindeer pulling Santa’s sleigh through streets can cause physical and mental fatigue. Let’s celebrate Christmas without cruelty There are many ways to celebrate Christmas without cruelty. With each festive season that comes around and goes by, we hope that event organisers and the public alike will reflect on the presence of live reindeer as props and instead opt for festive, fun entertainment that is free of exploitation.