Reindeer Display Launches at Covent Garden Despite Warning

Posted by on December 14, 2010 | Permalink

© iStockPhoto / GlobalP

In the run-up to Christmas, London’s Covent Garden Market is displaying live reindeer for people to visit and touch, touting the animals as “Rudolph and his mates“. Reindeer who are used in seasonal displays become easily stressed and afraid when they are jostled and herded into trucks and transported for display around the country.

Reindeer are not domestic animals – they avoid people and retain their wild instincts in captivity. Reindeer who are used as props are denied the ability to engage in natural behaviour. They can’t hide from the stares of hordes of humans and are likely to suffer from depressed immune systems as a result of constant stress.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is the world’s leading authority on zoonotic diseases (those transmitted between humans and other animals), has issued warnings that animal displays put the public’s health at risk. Reindeer are capable of passing on many diseases – including contagious ecthyma, brucellosis, anthrax, salmonellosis, rabies, toxoplasmosis, sarcoptic mange and ringworm – to human children and adults. Just last year, four UK petting zoos closed because of an outbreak of E. coli, and a prominent microbiologist called on parents to stop allowing their children to touch animals who are used in displays.

Covent Garden has plenty of ways to attract and entertain holiday visitors without harassing animals. During this season of goodwill, Covent Garden should follow the lead of Hamleys and cancel the display. This would set an example for children, letting them know that animals should be treated with respect and not hauled around and put on display in busy and frightening surroundings. If you see any displays that use animals, please contact us right away.