Animal Aid’s Investigations into UK Reindeer Farms

Animal Aid carried out extensive investigations at UK reindeer farms throughout 2018 and uncovered shocking suffering.

Animal Aid found:

  • Deliberate animal abuse including reindeer being kicked and shouted at.
  • Poorly looking reindeer with raw, exposed skin, diarrhoea and skeletal abnormalities.
  • Animals displayed for hours on end under bright lights with significant noise, with nowhere for the reindeer to retreat to. This sort of environment is hugely stressful for these gentle creatures.

The following video shows a summary of our reindeer farm investigation in 2018. Please note that it contains scenes which some viewers may find upsetting.

Animal Aid filmed at three different reindeer farms from November 2017 and throughout 2018. 

Kent Reindeer Centre

The worst establishment in our investigation was Kent Reindeer Centre. Footage from hidden cameras revealed a worker kicking and shouting at a reindeer to move them away from a gate. Another incident involved a worker roughly pulling an animal into a pen by a head collar when he kicked the reindeer. On another occasion a gate was forcibly shut on a reindeer to keep them in a pen. 

Animal Aid were also horrified to find poorly looking reindeer with raw, exposed skin, diarrhoea and skeletal abnormalities.  

The Kent Reindeer Centre opens to the public from mid-November through the Christmas period, 7 days a week. This means the reindeer are subjected to constant demands for interaction from the public during this time. The Reindeer pen is next to a play area, so reindeer were unable to escape from the continuous noise of children playing.  

The findings of our investigation were reported to the relevant authorities. In January 2019 Animal Aid returned to the centre, to find out if conditions had improved for the reindeer. Sadly, we found that the misery and exploitation continued. Reindeer still appeared to be underweight and in poor condition and we saw several reindeer displaying heavy scour (diarrhoea), possibly due to being fed a poor-quality diet. 

Blithbury Reindeer Lodge

Our undercover, filming at Blithbury Reindeer Lodge in Staffordshire, revealed animals in cramped and dirty pens. Reindeer were seen with raw skin and fur loss. One had a skeletal abnormality and snapped antlers. 

Cheshire Reindeer Lodge

At Cheshire Reindeer Lodge, Animal Aid were faced with the pitiful sight of reindeer whose outdoor access appeared to consist of just a barren yard. The reindeer had little to do, and we filmed empty feed buckets. Several animals appeared to be underweight with their ribs visible. Others had extensive fur loss. 

Cheshire Reindeer Lodge

Cheshire Reindeer Lodge

John Fletcher, founder and president of the Veterinary Deer Society and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons’ only registered deer specialist, made the following comments after watching Animal Aid’s footage: 

  • “I found the sequences taken by hidden cameras of the ways in which the reindeer were being handled particularly disturbing,”  
  • “The kicking of the animals as shown is completely inexcusable and shouting and swearing demonstrates a lack of comprehension and affinity with the reindeer which I found distressing.” 
  • “Hearing swearing would be stressful for them because of the tenor of the worker’s voice and mammals could sense aggression” 
  • He described those with ribs visible as “very thin to the point of emaciation” and said the dirty rumps were signs of diarrhoea. 
  • Mr Fletcher believed the raw skin patches were caused by biting or kicking when animals were bullied – a consequence of being kept confined rather than roaming, as in the wild. 
  • Straw appeared to form a large part of their diet. Mr Fletcher said this was unsuitable as feed and that hay would be better if lichen was not available. 
  • “The Veterinary Deer Society considers England is not a suitable place to keep deer. When confined they don’t seem to thrive. There may be exceptions but I’m not aware of them.” 

 

Read more about Animal Aid’s investigation into UK reindeer farms in this exclusive piece in the Independent online.

There are many companies around the UK that hire out reindeer. All claim to have high animal welfare standards. Whilst we would not want to claim that abuse and neglect occur on all reindeer farms, our undercover investigations have shown that abuse and neglect can take place. We can all help to stop this suffering by refusing to support events which use live animals.  

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