Activists are calling for the end of Lincoln’s annual reindeer parade because they say it causes the animals stress.
Animal Aid, which recently released footage showing abuse of reindeer at a centre in Kent, has successfully campaigned for the cancellation of several reindeer events across the country.
While the Lincoln parade and its reindeer are not in any way implicated by the footage, the animal rights group are calling for all events that use reindeer to be cancelled.
“Reindeer are sensitive semi-wild animals that evolved to roam the tundra and subjecting them to the noise and bright lights of crowded Christmas events causes them enormous stress,” said Isobel Hutchinson, Director of Animal Aid.
A Free-Ranging Herd
Organisers say reindeer used for Lincoln’s parade are from a free-ranging herd transported from the Cairngorms in the Highlands of Scotland. They insist the animals are well cared for throughout the process.
“Whilst on tour, the reindeer stay at farm bases overnight, which reduces travelling time,” said the Lincoln Business Improvement Group, which organised the parade with St Marks Shopping Centre.
“These bases always allow plenty of space to exercise, a comfortable place to sleep and access to grazing. When being transported we use trucks with specially designed livestock boxes. These have two sections bedded with straw allowing the reindeer space to lie down and turn around.”
The herd gets to roam freely in their natural habitat for most of the year, before touring for a maximum of two and a half weeks.
However, Animal Aid still has concerns that the parade itself is too stressful for the animals:
“Whatever lives they’re leading outside the Christmas event, when they’re in that very crowded scenario with lots of noise and bright lights, that’s still going to have a very detrimental impact on their welfare,” said Mrs Hutchinson.
Organisers assure the public that all reindeer are accompanied by experienced herders who work with them all year, and the herd is tame and accustomed to being around people.
They added: “We limit the amount of time our reindeer are on public display to three hours, to ensure they don’t become bored and restless. They eat their food, lie down and have a sleep, then by the time they are waking up again it is time to leave.
“We are confident they are happy and comfortable in the work which they are asked to do.”
The parade in Lincoln takes place on November 29, from St Marks Shopping Centre and the reindeer are on display to the public from two in the afternoon.