With your help, our joint campaign to end the cruel use of live reindeer at UK events and call for a more compassionate Christmas 2023, had a big impact.

A woman leaning into a pen to take a photo of a reindeer at a festive event.

(c) Southeastern Star (Flickr creative commons)

With thoughts of this year’s festive season still far in the future, Born Free looks back on the success of last year’s collaborative campaign to persuade organisers not to use reindeer at yuletide events – part of our ongoing mission to seek a future where wild animals are no longer exploited for entertainment. 

With your support, Born Free has a long history of campaigning against the use of wild animals for exhibition and performance, which led to the banning of wild animals in travelling circuses in England, Scotland and Wales. Sadly, however, many individuals continue to be exploited in one way or another for the sake of ‘entertainment’.

During the festive season, reindeer are often utilised at Christmas events, markets and parades. Last year was the second year in which Born Free and our colleagues at Animal Aid, Freedom for Animals and OneKind came together to monitor advertised events and call on organisers to pledge not to use live reindeer.

Our collective efforts in 2023 were bolstered by the release of a new report, The Welfare Needs of Captive Reindeer Used for Entertainment Events in the UK: a review by Dr Tayla Hammond. The report explored the potential welfare issues of using reindeer in Christmas celebrations and recommended an immediate end to their use at such events.

The four charities, alongside a further seven organisations, wrote to 219 event organisers who were known to have used reindeer in the past, resulting in three events cancelling their planned use of reindeer. Along with the report and letters to event organisers, we also called on supporters to report the use of reindeer at events near to them. This helped us map the events, record which ones went ahead and which were cancelled, and provide information to our supporters enabling them to lodge their concerns with event organisers.

See the map below:


In total, we identified and recorded 130 events which used reindeer last year. These included an event in Suffolk, which saw two reindeer escape and make their way onto the busy A11, forcing police to close the dual carriageway. Thankfully, nobody was harmed in a situation which could have ended in tragedy. The coalition wrote to all 130 events urging them to refrain from using reindeer at their events this year. Looking back on our efforts to date, we are making a difference!

“Of the events which used reindeer in 2022 and received our first joint letter, 31 were animal-free in 2023,” explained Born Free’s delighted Captivity Research Officer Chris Lewis. “In total, 153 festive events which we know have used live animals between 2018 and 2022 are now animal-free, including 44 that have directly confirmed that commitment to us. Additionally, a growing number of local councils are adopting progressive policies to no longer host events using live animals on their land.”

“We would like to extend a huge thanks to all our supporters who helped with last year’s campaign, along with our partners at Animal Aid, Freedom for Animals and OneKind.”

This ongoing, annual campaign is part of our wider work to end the use of wild animals in mobile exhibits and performances in the UK. The use of wild animals in these activities can have serious negative impacts on their welfare. Animals are frequently transported over large distances, kept in unsuitable environments, exposed to unfamiliar and unnatural situations, and subjected to welfare-compromising husbandry practices to make them more amenable to exhibition. This includes the hundreds of reindeer who are mostly kept in unnatural and unsuitable conditions when not being used for exhibition.

Born Free is calling on the UK government, Scottish Parliament, and Welsh Parliament to introduce a prohibition on the use of wild animals in mobile exhibitions and performances, and for the public and event organisers to pledge their support by boycotting events or facilities which promote this type of entertainment.


If you are concerned for the welfare of wild animals you see at a mobile event, please report your concerns to us via our Raise the Red Flag page.