New Report Confirms Reindeer Suffering at Xmas Events

Posted on the 6th October 2023

A recently published report commissioned by OneKind highlights the various welfare issues of captive reindeer used in festive events.

The report (‘The welfare needs of captive reindeer used for entertainment events in the UK’), by Dr Tayla Hammond, looks at nutrition, physical environment, health, and behavioural interactions – and how these impact an animal’s underlying emotional or mental state. The evidence shows us that the wild conditions that reindeer are genetically built for are incredibly difficult to replicate in captivity, leading to a host of health and welfare issues.

Animal Aid have campaigned for years to end the cruel use of reindeer and other live animals in Christmas events. This new report confirms that festive celebrations are no place for these beautiful animals, who suffer greatly. Reindeer are adapted to roam for miles, snack on lichen and herbs, exist in cold climates and live in herds. These behaviours are very different to those of reindeer kept in captivity and taken to events– fed an unnatural diet, confined to small spaces, transported long distances and limited to one or two reindeer by their side at events.

Key findings from the report include:

  • Reindeer are selective snackers on a variety of plants, lichen, and herbs. These feeding habits, and types of food, are hard to imitate in captivity and can lead to poor body weight, muscle wastage and general discomfort.

 

  • Sudden changes of diet – as can occur during transportation and festive events – can cause severe digestive problems and even death. Additionally, the stress of these experiences can lead to reindeers not eating or drinking ‘normally’.

 

  • Reindeers require cold conditions and space to roam freely away from other species. Are these experienced in hot, crowded shopping centres?

 

  • Captive reindeer are vulnerable to lots of diseases. Risk of infection can be decreased by good care and provision, however “incorrect management has been reported as the primary cause of poor health and death in the UK”.

 

  • Factors such as loud noises and excitable people demanding interaction can all appear as threats to reindeer. Unable to escape anything which they don’t like, this leads to the experience of fear.

 

  • As of 23rdJune 2023, the UK has placed a ban on the import of live cervids (a mammal of the deer family). However, there is no statutory control over their breeding, so the reindeer population in the UK is likely to increase.
reindeer in a pen

Ultimately, the report concludes with the recommendation to:

Cease the use of reindeer in entertainment events. The
use of reindeer in Christmas events, often involving travel,
exposure to crowds, and unfamiliar settings, raises significant
welfare concerns. Ultimately it is the lack of ability of
reindeer to act with agency that compromises their welfare.

*Agency is the power an animal has to influence their own actions, decisions and general life experience. Animals living in captivity often have little to no agency because their freedoms have been taken away. They often live under strict regimes, confined rules and have their lives dictated to them. Their lives are governed by human wants and desires, so they have little room to express their own preferences.

Use Freedom for Animals’ interactive map to track which events are using reindeer. If an event decides to stop using reindeer, their pin will go from red to green!

Help turn those pins green by contacting event organisers! Simply click on a red pin to find the appropriate e-mail address to contact. For help with letter and e-mail templates, click here:

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