Christmas is fast approaching and celebrations across the UK are in full swing. Unfortunately, a number of these celebrations have used live animals, such as reindeer, donkeys, and even birds of prey, as props and marketing tools. But this year we have also seen a fantastic array of inventive, inclusive, and interesting festive events that prove that animal-free is not only a viable option, but the best option there is to celebrate Christmas.

Visit Aylesbury’s Santa’s Sunday Spectacular saw a procession of stilt-walkers, musicians, beloved cartoon characters, and incredible puppetry to kick off their festive season. As well as this they have utilised the latest technology to create a fun and free augmented reality trail. This attraction invites families to take a tour of the town centre’s shop windows: a much needed boost for the high street, fun for all the family, and no animals harmed in the process. Everybody wins!

Fun Street is an indoor play centre for children in Glasgow that had considered hiring reindeer for their Winter Wonderland event, but told us in November that "We have cancelled our reindeers for this event due to this being unfair on the animals." They’re quite right! It is unfair to enclose reindeer in a busy play centre, and it’s also completely unnecessary, as proven by the fantastic animal-free party that the organisers ended up throwing. With snow machines, arts and crafts, and Christmas treats and songs, Fun Street proved that everyone can enjoy the festivities without the need to exploit animals!

Tesco brand, Jack’s Stores, had planned a series of ‘Meet the Reindeer’ events at twelve of their stores across the country. We asked our supporters to take to social media to voice their objection, and after a few days enough of you had spoken out to demonstrate that the public simply doesn’t want to see animals used as props, and Jack’s Stores changed their plans. They opted for a choir, festive food, and face painters rather than confining innocent, sensitive creatures to tiny pens in stressful environments. 

This festive season animal lovers got one of the greatest gifts we could wish for when Silcock’s Winter Wonderland in Manchester, the UK’s largest Indoor Christmas Theme Park, announced that “the organisers have made the decision to remove live reindeers from Winter Wonderland Manchester” following a change.org petition set up by one of our supporters. Caroline’s petition attracted almost 50,000 signatures, a true testament to just how much opposition there is to using reindeer at festive events. It’s also a wonderful example of what a difference individuals can make: Caroline made this petition simply as a concerned member of the public trying to make a difference, thousands of individuals who also wanted to make a difference took part, and a huge difference was made in the end. Reindeer will no longer have to endure the unsuitable environment of this event, but attendees will still be able to use rides, enjoy an array of food and drink, meet Father Christmas, and see fabulous stage shows, without having to witness the suffering of reindeer who have no choice but to suffer the crowds, noise, and commotion of a busy theme park.

With events all over the country proving just how much mirth and merriment can be spread in so many inventive and inclusive ways, there really is no excuse for exploiting animals as props at Christmas, or ever. Our festive events campaign draws to a close as the big day arrives, but we will be preparing for next year, the year after, and every year, until the sight of stressed-out animals, penned-in and terrified, is gone from the UK’s Christmas celebrations for good.

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