Just updating this blog in the light of the article that was published in the Harrogate Advertiser about our petition and request to the council to cancel the reindeer event. The article is extremely biased as you may read for yourselves, and all of the scientific facts and references to cases of neglect/dangerous situations involving captive reindeer omitted. (See photo below). This is only the beginning though, and now the work really begins! 


There’s a lot I’ve learned about Reindeer, both whilst researching for this blog and helping to put together Happi’s latest petition to Harrogate Council to cancel the use of live reindeer at this and future Christmas markets (see link below). Did you know for example that during migration Reindeer can cover over 3000 miles and run up to speeds of 50 mph? You probably were aware, like me, that Reindeer are native to very cold, wild places, such as the Arctic Tundra and woodland, and that these are naturally flight animals. This is the main reason why for the past two years, when walking through the Harrogate Christmas market (usually held the last weekend in November), I have felt only sadness at seeing the reindeer in their tiny pen with no escape from the public eye, surrounded by bright lights, noise and an endless train of people, excitable children and curious dogs, literally in their faces. They remain like this from morning til night, until the market closes, for four days running (and that’s just one attraction).

Now I adore Christmas and am the last person to want to put a ‘grinchy downer’ on things, but shouldn’t it be a time for compassion towards all beings and in particular should we not be avoiding the use of animals, particularly semi-wild ones, as props and for entertainment as we see fit? This is an issue that has raised a great deal of controversy in recent months, and will continue to do so, with the Government’s recent shaky pledge to phase out the use of wild animals in circuses in England.

Reindeer copy
The reindeer at Harrogate’s Christmas market 2014

As someone who works in conservation education, I find this sort of attraction sad and uneducational. What educational purpose are the reindeer actually serving? What is fun about seeing a miserable looking animal sit on a pile of straw for hours because that is all they can do? And reindeer aren’t the only non-native animal that has fallen victim to the ever elaborate Christmas attraction. Penguins have recently been used in shopping centre attractions in the UK, giving out the message that these animals can live in that sort of an environment (and probably adding to the desire to keep them as pets, which may have lead to the recent spate of penguins being stolen from zoos).

What children should be learning is that Reindeer migrate vast distances through the tundra and can survive conditions of up to -30 degrees C due to their amazingly adaptable coats and hooves. How about that feeling of myth and magic in knowing that these were the animals chosen to guide Santa’s sleigh, just once a year, on Christmas Eve? In other words, this doesn’t mean that we want our children to see them at every opportunity and in such sad conditions at markets and other attractions, something which along with seeing Santa popping up everywhere for at least two months before Christmas, can only help to diminish the magic, not increase it!

Reindeer farming craze, for both meat and entertainment, has taken off in recent years in the UK, but according to the Veterinary Laboratories Agency, a poor diet combined with an exposure to diseases carried by other farm animals and being kept in unnatural conditions has contributed to an increase in deaths in captive Reindeer in the UK. Poor husbandry as well as a misunderstanding of their nature can also lead to dangerous conditions and unnecessary injury and death. In 2009 a Bull Reindeer named Frosty trampled and gorged his owner at a farm in Cambridgeshire, causing her to require surgery. Frosty was caught and killed, but in actual fact he was probably only carrying out normal behaviour for a solitary Bull Reindeer during the rutting season. Unlike the true herdsmen such as Inuit and Sami, who have been evolving alongside these creatures for milennia, there is relatively little good husbandry practised in the UK and many experts question that our temperatures are even suitable for these animals to live in.

Photo courtesy of Captive Animal Protection Society

Following the success of our still-open petition (link below), we would like to enter into dialogue with Harrogate Council regarding taking the humane decision to commit to not using live animals as props at this and future Christmas markets and similar events. We would like to propose an alternative to the Reindeer stand such as Christmas story reading sessions or workshops on ‘Christmassy’ animals and how they live in the wild. If the Reindeer used at these kinds of attraction could have one wish this Christmas, I am sure it would not be to be stared and shouted at in close proximity to people and sniffed by dogs. Let’s leave wild animals in the wild and continue to educate our children about their true natures. When I was a kid at Christmas, Rudolph was an exciting part of the whole magical shebang IN MY IMAGINATION (and yes I probably will be leaving a carrot out for him again this year).

Please sign out petition: https://www.change.org/p/harrogate-council-save-the-reindeer-harrogate-christmas-market?recruiter=463343&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=share_page&utm_term=des-lg-no_src-custom_msg

Maddy Taylor, Campaigns Officer at the Captive Animals Protection Society says “The Captive Animals’ Protection Society would like to see Harrogate Council join other councils and businesses in the decision to hold an animal free event this Christmas. Christmas should be a time where compassion is shown towards all beings, yet animals are transported all over the country at Christmas for events at shopping centres and noisy displays. It is widely accepted that animals suffer stress during events such as the Harrogate Christmas Market. The public have spoken out against such events as many feel that these events are an inappropriate place for animals.”








Are we just Christmas killjoys, or is there a deeper truth behind the rejection of animals at Christmas attractions?