2021 was a year characterised by uncertainty from the beginning. The ongoing Coronavirus pandemic saw us face fluctuating restrictions, new variants, vaccinations, and widespread unease and doubt about how the situation was going to unfold. As we turned the corner into the last few months of the year there was a sense that everyone wanted to just have a ‘normal Christmas’, having had last year’s hampered by the nationwide multi-tier restriction system and the last-minute change to Christmas plans mandated by the government.

We could see that businesses too were trying to make up for the Christmas of 2020 being disappointing both socially and financially, and many were planning more public events not only to try and lift spirits, but to try to bring in some much-needed revenue after a difficult couple of years. Unfortunately, every year a number of these events organisers choose to use animals as marketing tools to draw in customers. This leaves us with hundreds of events to contact to confirm whether they plan to exploit animals in their celebrations, and to inform them of the ethical and welfare implications of subjecting animals such as reindeer, camels, donkeys, and birds of prey, to busy and cramped environments.

We tracked 252 events.  Many were events that we were aware had in previous years chosen to use live animals in the past. We contacted them, and although not all of them replied, we were pleased to conclude that 51 of them were not planning to use live animals this year – a strong statement that the tide is turning against animal exploitation at festive events. 61 events didn’t go ahead at all, whether due to Covid concerns, venue closure or other obstacles, and there were 3 events that we simply couldn’t ascertain if they planned to use live animals or not! Over the course of the campaign you, our wonderful supporters, alerted us to 54 events and by the time we reached Christmas we had identified 137 events that were planning to use live animals.

Every event that we had confirmed was planning to use live animals was contacted, politely informing them of the often unseen or unthought of effects of subjecting sensitive animals to loud noises, parades, crowds, public manhandling, and transit. Many events organisers chose to bury their heads in the sand and ignore our contact, and many responded with emails that had clearly been copied and pasted from the animal hire company’s own carefully crafted statements. One of the most difficult parts of this campaign trying to get through events organisers who have already been exposed to and taken in by the propaganda of the animal hire industry. But where we have no motivation to mislead anybody on the truth behind this industry, the industry itself does: profit.

In a number of instances, we put out a call to action, asking our supporters to contact event organisers to politely request that they reconsider their plans and opt for animal-free festivities instead. Over 2,000 emails were sent to event organisers from our supporters using our online forms, and many took to social media to tweet, comment, and share posts, and as a result, 13* of the 15 events we targeted for these online actions cancelled their use of live animals. This includes the Tesco brand Jack’s Stores who opted for animal-free entertainment instead of their ‘Meet the Reindeer’ plans. In addition to this one of our incredible supporters, Caroline, set up a change.org petition which attracted almost 50,000 signatures and led to Silcock’s Winter Wonderland in Manchester, the UK’s largest Indoor Christmas Theme Park, announcing that “the organisers have made the decision to remove live reindeers from Winter Wonderland Manchester”. What a fantastic result for Caroline, for the campaign, and most importantly for reindeer.

Although this year’s campaign has been overwhelmingly positive, we have also had some disappointment with our online actions. Despite the rallying efforts of our supporters, Baguley Football Club and Salisbury Cathedral chose to ignore the hundreds of emails sent by our supporters asking them to cancel their use of live animals. They chose to barely engage with us at all, and we received only a belligerent tag on Twitter from the chair of Baguley Football Club, and an extremely dismissive reply from the acting Bishop of Salisbury. It’s very disheartening to know that people in such high positions of influence can be so dismissive of widespread public concern for animal welfare. We truly hope that they rethink not only their attitude towards the public, but their use of animals ahead of this year’s festive season.

This Christmas may seem a lifetime away this time of year, but here at Freedom for Animals we’ve already begun preparations for the 2022 campaign. Our goal is to see an end to the animal hire industries that trade in misery and exploitation for profit. 2021 saw a multitude of examples of animal exploitation, but it was but a drop in the ocean compared to the vast majority of enlightened, compassionate, animal-free events that took place across the country. The tide is turning, and the balance is shifting towards cruelty-free Christmases, and Freedom for Animals will be there every step of the way until we reach a future free from animal exploitation.

Subscribe, volunteerdonate, or become a Freedom Champion to be part of the movement.


*One event cancelled following our online action but claiming another reason for cancellation.