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Should Reindeer Be Banned From Pulling Santa?
In a recent open letter from 11 animal welfare charities to 225 organizations, a suggestion was made to ban the use of live reindeer at Christmas celebrations. The letter was also sent to local authorities across the UK, urging them to reconsider their policies on using reindeer at events. However, do the experts agree with these claims?
Tilly Smith, from the Cairngorms’ reindeer herd in Rothiemurchus, responded to the concerns raised by the animal welfare charities. Smith argues that reindeer are domesticated animals, contrary to the charities’ claim that they are stressed by being close to people. Smith explains that reindeer have developed a unique relationship with humans, similar to dogs seeking human company. She states that the reindeer in her herd are comfortable around people and willingly interact with them, even when roaming freely in the mountains.
Smith also asserts that the reindeer in her herd are docile and calm, as a result of domestication. She argues that they are used to traveling and are at ease in the events they participate in. Smith compares taking a trained and habituated reindeer to an event to taking a domestic dog under the same circumstances.
The campaign to end live reindeer shows in the UK is being led by animal welfare charities such as OneKind, Animal Aid, Born Free, and Freedom for Animals. These organizations claim that reindeer used in Christmas events can suffer from psychological distress and poor welfare. They urge people to boycott events that exploit animals and instead support animal-friendly celebrations.
The charities’ concerns include the unnatural environment and lack of agency associated with these events, which can lead to problems and poor welfare conditions for reindeer. They also argue that constant, unfamiliar, and unexpected interactions with people through petting and feeding can cause stress for the animals.
The open letter calls on venues and local authorities to stop using live reindeer at Christmas events. A recent report on the welfare requirements of captive reindeer used for entertainment programs supports this call, highlighting the potential negative welfare effects of using reindeer in these events.
Dr. Tayla Hammond, the author of the report, explains that reindeer are more challenging to keep in captivity compared to other ruminants. Veterinarians have expressed concern about the suitability of reindeer as pets, particularly for use in entertainment events. Common problems observed in captive reindeer include poor body weight, weight loss, muscle atrophy, and general malaise.
The report also raises welfare concerns for captive deer in general, emphasizing that these animals have limited opportunities for natural behavioral interactions with the environment and other animals.
In conclusion, Tilly Smith argues that the concerns raised by animal welfare charities are based on a misunderstanding of reindeer. She asserts that the reindeer in her herd are happy and well cared for, enjoying their interactions with humans. However, the animal welfare charities argue that the use of live reindeer in events can lead to poor welfare conditions for these animals. The debate continues on whether reindeer should be allowed to participate in Christmas celebrations.