Wednesday 13 January 2020

Working towards a more just and fair world for animals can often be an exhausting one, writes Festive Events Campaigner Rehana Jomeen.

At times, progress doesn’t seem possible as advocates are met with more and more resistance. However, even during the midst of a pandemic, a truly difficult and dark period for most of society, there can still be tiny twinkles of exquisite hope. These keep us plodding on for the animals and moving towards the type of ecosystem that would prioritise the wellbeing of all, including our animal friends, not only the select and privileged few.

It is traditional for Oldham City Council to host a live Reindeer Parade Trail each year in the name of festive fun, however this year those plans could not go ahead. As a result of this, the Council launched an animal alternative reindeer parade trail in December and showed everyone how festive cheer can be achieved on the flip-side. The trail of ten reindeer, designed by primary schools, community groups and cultural organisations showcased a beautiful array of colour, diversity and spirit. Each five foot reindeer had its very own name and theme, with a story explaining its birth and background. They were placed in well-known and prime locations, from the Market Hall entrance to Gallery Oldham gardens.

This brilliant initiative encouraged the community to get stuck in and be creative, but most importantly, to come up with fun Christmas ideas that did not involve the use of live reindeer for entertainment purposes. It’s more than clear that this alternative reindeer parade trail mustered more community spirit and goodwill than Oldham’s usual and more traditional live Reindeer Parade Trail, which was not able to go ahead this year due to the pandemic. Covid-19 has challenged communities across the UK, but one clear positive has been the drop in live reindeer bookings. When Councils can come up with such inventive alternative ideas however, I have to ask, is it ever truly necessary to use live animals at all?

Oldham Council leader, Councillor Sean Fielding, said:

As we approach the end of what has been an incredibly tough year for our residents, it is very important to us that everyone in Oldham can still enjoy some much-needed festive cheer this Christmas.

Over the last few months our teams have been working incredibly hard to come up with new and exciting ideas for us all to safely still celebrate this wonderful occasion in some shape or form.

Oldham Council has done a cracking job of proving how very possible it is to celebrate the festive period without using any animals. Let’s hope this thinking will be extended long after the pandemic, well into 2021 and beyond.