Why Rudolph Doesn’t Belong in a Shopping Centre
It’s common sense, really – a crowded shopping centre at the busiest time of year is no place for a wild animal. Yet across the UK, a number of towns have plans to use reindeer as holiday “props” in Christmas displays.
Reindeer belong in the Arctic and subarctic regions of the world, where they can live in herds and roam freely over vast open ranges. Being carted around from one display to another, housed in tiny sheds and pens, forced to pull sleighs and exposed to bright lights and loud noises, prevents them from engaging in any of their natural behaviour.
According to research from the Veterinary Laboratories Agency, a poor diet, exposure to diseases carried by other animals and the stress of being removed from their natural environment have contributed to an increase in deaths among young reindeer used in the UK. When they’re denied the opportunity to roam for long distances, their hooves can grow too long, a serious condition that can be debilitating. They can also contract parasites carried by domestic animals.
Reindeer are large, strong animals who tend to be skittish and unpredictable, and they don’t enjoy being harnessed and petted, either. They can inflict serious injuries on humans. Consequently, male reindeer are commonly castrated to make them easier to handle – which is hardly in the Christmas spirit.
Along with many concerned supporters, we’ve been writing to councils up and down the country asking that they cancel any plans to use reindeer and implement policies against live-animal displays.
You can help! If you learn about any events in your local area that will feature live animals, please write to the organisers and ask them to rethink their plans. Here’s a template letter if you’re not certain what to say. Ending the exploitation of reindeer and other animals would do nothing to diminish children’s sense of the magic of the holiday season. For these animals, though, it would make a world of difference.