Another Christmas, another series of reindeer abusing events in the name of family fun, writes Festive Events Campaigner Rehana Jomeen.

As Christmas approaches for another year and temperatures begin to drop, along come the lineup of festive events using live reindeer in garden centres, shopping malls and pubs.

While each of these venues is unnatural, unsuitable and downright bizarre for hosting semi-wild animals that are best suited to the tundra, each year there are a flood of reindeer events across the UK. An established event that uses reindeer each year and has done since 2018 is held at the Whitehall garden centres in Bristol and Wiltshire.

Reindeer are highly sensitive, unique, semi-wild animals who are adapted to the extreme climates of northern latitudes and, therefore, when imported to countries such as the UK, are expected to live in substantially different conditions to those in which they evolved.

Furthermore, when uprooted from their natural environment and dumped into a barren pen in a busy, bustling, noisy shopping centre, this undoubtedly causes the animals great levels of stress and can lead to health conditions, such as misshapen antlers, low fertility and high rates of calf mortality. Research by the Veterinary Laboratories Agency shows that these wonderful deer do suffer dramatically when placed in captivity.

The RSPCA has also strongly condemned the use of reindeer in Christmas events. Dr Ros Clubb, senior scientific manager at the RSPCA, said:

We understand that it must seem magical for people to see a reindeer at Christmas, but the reality is reindeer are not easy to keep well and need specialised care, they get stressed very easily and are very susceptible to many health and welfare problems.

Despite the fact that reindeer are protected by the Animal Welfare Act 2006, which makes it an offence to cause them unnecessary suffering or to fail to ensure their welfare needs are met, they are still viewed and used as a product here in the UK and rolled out each year in the name of Christmas cheer.

As the new Festive Events Campaigner, I find it shocking that the British public claim to be a nation of animal lovers, and yet, many do not bat an eyelid at reindeer been held in small concrete pens in garden centres or outside pubs in the name of entertainment. It really leaves a sour taste in my mouth about how much compassion this country is capable of. Not much, it seems.

I’m unsure as to how much COVID-19 will affect Christmas events this year and their use of live reindeer, but I’ve found a number that have in fact been cancelled. This feels apt, given that we’re living through a zoonotic pandemic caused by our use of animals.

While we may still be a long way from animal liberation, let us all here at Freedom for Animals reiterate once more: animals are here with us, not for us.


  1. Take action against events taking place this December (scroll to the bottom of the page for our action map!)
  2. Join our Run for Reindeer!
  3. Donate to our Release Rudolph appeal