Each year at Freedom for Animals, we conduct a campaign to raise awareness about the hardships faced by live animals used in festive events. The majority of these events concern reindeer, who are subjected to long journeys, cramped environments, large crowds, and loud noises. There are a handful of centres across the UK that breed and supply the reindeer for these depressing displays, and Kent Reindeer Centre is one of them.

Kent Reindeer Centre is a perfect example of how shamelessly this industry exploits the animals they claim to care for. 15 years ago, this business imported “a few” reindeer from their native Sweden, and now boast over 100 in their herd. They have been bred for one purpose: profit.

Kent Reindeer Centre’s website happily proclaims that they are willing to transport reindeer from Kent to “anywhere in the UK”. Clearly the discomfort of a long journey is no deterrent to them when they have the opportunity to make money.

They will rent out reindeer in pairs, a distressingly small number for a herd animal. They also shamelessly state that they will hire out “young baby reindeers”, just imagine how stressful a Christmas event would be for a small calf whose evolutionary programming requires a herd of their own kind to feel safe, not a supermarket car park, a pub beer garden, or a shopping centre.

Pictures on their website show horrifically small enclosures used at events with nowhere for them to escape the crowds, and public manhandling the reindeer. If these are the kinds of conditions that Kent Reindeer Centre think constitute good publicity shots, imagine the conditions the animals are subjected to when there are no cameras, and no witnesses.

Well, we've seen what these reindeer suffer when there are no cameras and no witnesses, thanks to Animal Aid’s 2018 investigation, in which you can see handlers from this very centre physically abusing and shouting at the reindeer. Inexplicably, despite this, Kent Reindeer Centre continues to actively trade, surviving through profits made from public visits to their location, and to unscrupulous event organisers’ continued rental of these poor, exploited animals.

Rachel King at Animal Aid provided this comment on the business:

Animal Aid’s undercover investigations into several reindeer farms revealed shocking suffering of these gentle animals. By far the worst place was Kent Reindeer Centre, where we filmed deliberate abuse, including a reindeer being shouted at and kicked. We were also horrified to find poorly looking reindeer with raw, exposed skin, diarrhoea and skeletal abnormalities.

Event organisers and the public are often unaware of the suffering that may be experienced by captive reindeer, behind the scenes. However, we can all help prevent this misery by refusing to support these unnecessary events and by finding animal-friendly ways to enjoy the festive period.  

Behind the sleigh bells and the lights, this is the reality of reindeer events. Every reindeer hire company claims to uphold the highest welfare standards for their animals, but nonetheless it is all to easy to get away with abuse and neglect. All major animal rights and animal welfare organisations have called for an end to these harmful practices. The only groups that continue to promote them are those who stand to make money from them. What does that tell you?

Not all reindeer hire companies have a history of physically abusing their animals or neglecting their illnesses, but the case study of Kent Reindeer Centre is evidence than it is all too easy within this industry to get away with this kind of behaviour. This is a poorly regulated and exploitative industry, and although there are organisations that have arguably higher welfare standards than Kent Reindeer Centre, any organisation that subjects animals to stressful and unnecessary displays is not doing their very best for their animals' wellbeing. It's simply not good enough.

Help us stand up for reindeer:

  • See our event map showing the events we’re currently aware of that plan to exploit animals. You can contact the organisers to politely ask that they change their plans and opt for a compassionate, animal-free celebration instead.
  • Use our online form to report an event that you know of that plans to use hired animals.
  • Scroll down to subscribe to our mailing list to receive further updates on this campaign and the rest of our work to stop the exploitation of animals in the UK and beyond.