Reindeer events cancelled across England after abuse video

  • Published
Media caption,
Man caught on camera kicking reindeer

Eight live reindeer events have been cancelled in the run-up to Christmas, after an undercover investigation showed a worker kicking one of the animals.

Animal Aid used hidden cameras at The Reindeer Centre near Ashford, Kent, which it said showed "shocking" abuse.

The animal rights group said eight businesses have now vetoed using live reindeer in their festive events.

However, a reindeer lodge owner warned the boycott could hit reindeer numbers.

A spokeswoman for Animal Aid said "captive reindeer events" were "simply not in the best interests of the reindeer, who should be living wild lives".

"We will be looking to try and stop the importation of reindeer in the future."

However, Stephen Swinnerton, owner of Blithbury Reindeer Lodge in Rugeley, Staffordshire, warned boycotting reindeer events could prove fatal.

Image source, Animal Aid
Image caption,
Reindeer at the Kent Reindeer Centre were found with "raw, exposed skin"

Mr Swinnerton added: "Predators in Scandinavia are becoming a major issue, so we have been asked to help to protect 10 different bloodlines of reindeer by the Samis in Scandinavia, which would die out if they were not brought here.

"We obviously rely on income brought in from our Christmas trade to support our year-long work, so we would simply not be able to offer this kind of home to reindeer if people started boycotting the use of reindeer at festive events."

Animal Aid said the following companies and groups had ceased live reindeer entertainment:

  • Blue Reef Aquarium, Hastings, East Sussex
  • White Rose Shopping Centre, Leeds
  • Notcutts, across eight stores
  • Thurrock Garden Centre, Essex
  • Sevenoaks Town Council, Kent
  • Experience Guildford, Surrey
  • Leeds Castle, Kent
  • Champneys' Eastwell Manor, Kent

Sevenoaks council has previously hired live reindeer for its annual Christmas lights switch on but said it would not this year as it did "not want any activity which may be of concern to local residents".

The Ashford reindeer centre previously said the man who was filmed kicking the reindeer had been "dismissed as unsuitable".

A spokeswoman for the reindeer centre said all its animals were "much loved and well cared for", and added: "The person involved was one of several new part-time staff that we took on to help out.

"He was dismissed as unsuitable after a short period of time.

"These matters were discussed in full with the RSPCA and our vet back in the summer.

"We understand people's concerns and distress and I can only confirm we as a family care passionately about our animals."