Reindeer used in Festive Events

Reindeer have traditionally been associated with Christmas for almost two hundred years; with tales of Rudolf and his friends pulling Santa’s sleigh through the night sky to deliver gifts to children on Christmas Eve.

However, in recent years this enjoyable folk story has led to the exploitation of these beautiful animals. Reindeer are frequently displayed in pens, in garden centres or shopping precincts, or led along busy streets as part of a Christmas parade, for the ‘entertainment’ of the crowds.

Problems with using reindeer at festive events: 

  • Reindeer are sensitive semi-wild animals who are adapted to live in a cold climate, foraging for lichen, herbs and other plants. They have a natural desire to roam and, as herding animals, some species migrate up to 3,000 miles a year. This is a hugely different existence to that of the reindeer kept in captivity who cannot roam freely and are often fed an inappropriate diet.
  • Reindeer are social creatures, who naturally live in large herds for protection. They can feel nervous being kept in small groups, such as when they are transported to events.
  • At festive events, these shy animals can be on display for hours, or exposed to bright lights and noisy crowds, with nowhere to hide. They are often transported long distances and can be “on tour” for weeks at a time over the festive season. These conditions can be hugely stressful and can have severe impacts on the health and welfare of these gentle creatures.
  • In the wild reindeer are prey animals, so they naturally hide their illnesses. This means it can be extremely difficult to identify when reindeer are unwell, and when it is discovered, it is often too late.
  • Reindeer are specially adapted to enable them to survive the incredibly challenging Arctic weather. In the UK we have hugely different environmental conditions to those for which these animals are adapted, and specialist deer vets have reported a range of health problems for reindeer kept in the UK. These include weight loss, a lack of weight gain, diarrhoea, poor muscle development, malformed antlers, poor antler growth, low fertility, and high calf mortality.
  • Festive events can be stressful; however, the suffering does not always end after Christmas for reindeer. Animal Aid’s undercover investigations into UK reindeer farms has revealed appalling suffering behind the scenes, including deliberate abuse.
Report A Festive Event using Live Animals

Reindeer are highly specialised Arctic deer. The recent fashion of keeping them in captive situations many degrees south of their normal range is fraught with health and welfare issues.

Dr. Aidan Foster, veterinary authority on reindeer

The RSPCA, the world’s oldest and largest animal welfare charity, voices concerns each year about the welfare of reindeer used in festive events. They ask the public to look for events which do not include live animals. Read their latest statement here.

We understand that it must seem magical for people to see a reindeer at Christmas, but the reality is reindeer are not easy to keep well and need specialised care - they get stressed very easily and are very susceptible to many health and welfare problems.

Dr Ros Clubb, RSPCA Senior Scientific Manager in wildlife

Find out more about Reindeer in our Reindeer FAQ’s.

Please do not support events which use live reindeer or other animals. Find out how you can help our campaign against animals used in festive events: 

Take Action for Reindeer

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