By Laura Tomlinson, Campaigner

Last Saturday I went along to an event in a town centre in Huyton, Liverpool. This was an event to bring the people of this town together to celebrate Christmas time. What I saw was very much the opposite. 

The event itself was on a small pedestrianised strip in the local shopping area. There were two reindeer, on display in a small pen. I don’t know their names, their handlers didn’t say. I guess when they are just used as decorative props, it doesn’t necessarily matter to everyone what their names are. 

One of the reindeer was shedding their antlers. This is a painful experience for the animals as they first lose the fur on the outside of the antler, making their antlers very delicate. To me, I could see the discomfort in his face as people put their hands over the fence to grab at him. 

The second reindeer was thin and spent a lot of time trying to eat the straw that had been used to somewhat cover the cold, hard concrete floor. 

The pen was so small, and the reindeer looked sad and frustrated. They were restrained on head collars with not much room to be able to move in the small pen they were given. 

This event ran for four hours, meaning these animals could have been in this poor set up for all that time. How many of these events have they been forced to attend this festive season? How many hours on the road travelling between venues? How many strangers have prodded and poked them? 

The supplier of this event was the Reindeer Lodge, who were exposed last year as part of an undercover investigation by Animal Aid, for having reindeer with exposed ribs living in a barren yard. 

This felt like it was so out of place in the town centre and there was no kind of explanation as to why they were there except for the handlers who were dressed in elf clothing. I guess this was the attempt to make it look like Christmas time.

I’m sure the children of Huyton would have much preferred to have spent their time visiting Santa than to have met these reindeer.

On a whole this is one of the most depressing things I have seen in a long time and not one I wish to see again. 

I hope that my Christmas wish comes true and this doesn’t happen again!