• Becci Pigeon

Speak out for captive reindeer this Christmas!

Updated: Jan 20

You might hope that with COVID putting the stops on many of our typical holiday plans, we could avoid our annual abuse of reindeer. Apparently this isn't the case: as Freedom for Animals points out, some places are still insisting upon subjecting these highly sensitive, semi-wild prey animals to bright lights, noise and crowds of people--exploiting them even as we suffer from a wholly predictable pandemic that was caused by exploitation of animals.

Accompanying the chaos of being on display is the travel; being trucked around for different events in our mild climate is stressful for reindeer, and their well-being is severely affected. The Veterinary Reindeer Society advocates against the use of the animals at festive events, stating that they are particularly ill-suited for captivity and that the majority of health issues seen in captive reindeer are stress-related. And research from the Veterinary Laboratory Agency showed that, not surprisingly, transporting these non-native animals makes them susceptible to a wide variety of diseases and pathogens (enough said in the era of COVID!) and that their health suffers 'dramatically'. Common conditions reported by specialist deer vets in UK include, among other issues, weight loss (or lack of weight gain) diarrhoea, poor muscle development, poor antler growth or malformed antlers, and low fertility and high mortality for calves.

Freedom for Animals has put together a handy map of all the places in the UK that have reindeer displays, along with their contact information. (Not surprisingly, there are fewer than last year.) We urge you to email them and to look for other similar events, as they can be added to the map. The organisation is also holding a Run for Reindeer fundraiser event on 12 December, and there's still time to register!

Animal Aid has also addressed the issue with their fine article Covid-19, reindeer displays and alternative ways to spread Christmas cheer.

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