Back in December we discussed our concerns for the use of live reindeer in Christmas displays. Alongside OneKind, The Telegraph and the Echo ran articles highlighting the damaging effects on reindeer when used as live entertainment props. In response, our Stornoway volunteer, Kirsty, gathered her group in the Isle of Lewis to organise a peaceful protest against a live winter reindeer display in the main town. Here, Kirsty tells us about her experience and how she went about organising her event …
My love for wild reindeer
I was seven years old when I first saw a reindeer. Not the animated, eye-lashed, red-nosed Christmas cartoon that we lay out carrots for – but a real reindeer. Granted, it was on an episode of Planet Earth, but I recall being glued to the television screen in sheer fascination and awe of our natural world. This one episode in particular, showed two wolves hunting wild caribou – the undomesticated, american cousin of the European reindeer. Watching this chase across vast, untouched land between predator and prey, I couldn’t help but be amazed by the wildness of these animals. Their speed, stamina and highly tuned senses made these animals seem so very far from my grasp, from human interaction, in a way that made them almost as untouchable as their mythical Christmas counterparts – and so they should be.
Animal Welfare in Stornoway
Earlier last December, I was joined by a team of like-minded animal activists in protest against a local live reindeer event. The event took place in my hometown of Stornoway – a very small and beautiful town in the Outer Hebrides, but certainly a stranger to animal rights demonstrations. The event occurred in the town centre, where a group of live reindeer were kept in a small marquee-type tent furnished with some straw and metal fencing. The organiser actually took me to see this, and I couldn’t help but think of the wolves chasing caribou across miles of vast tundra. This was no home for the reindeer; this was a temporary cage for them while they were being exploited for human entertainment. All proceeds raised from the display were donated to a local charity, which certainly presented our group with some difficulties when trying to explain to the organisers why we were protesting. Difficulties are always going to be incurred when you’re standing up for what you believe in, but it’s hardly discouraging when you’re backed by a group of amazing people and fighting for the rights of a beautiful, wild animal. Exploitation is exploitation, whether it’s for a charity or not – wildlife belongs in the wild.
When I first heard about the reindeer display, I contacted my friends to see what we could do about this. As a OneKind supporter and volunteer, I had been reading up on the charity’s information about live reindeer displays and contacted the team for some additional welfare facts. As expected, OneKind were eager to help out, and fully supported our decision to protest the event. Our team printed out flyers detailing the negative effects which these displays can have on reindeer, as well as encouraging the public to reconsider attending these events in the future. As is custom in small towns, news quickly spread about our demonstration and the event organiser contacted me, attempting to stop the protest and informing me that the police would be, “On hand to assist”.
To be extra co-operative, I contacted the police myself to find out the most peaceful way to protest in the town centre
If you find yourself in a situation like I did, where you’re being pressured to withdraw a protest or come up against disagreement among the community, don’t panic, and don’t back down. After speaking with OneKind, they confidently reassured me there was nothing to worry about if a protest is peaceful and lawful. To be extra co-operative, I contacted the police myself to find out the most peaceful way to protest in the town centre, and they were extremely helpful! I also went to meet the event organiser, talking them through our protest and providing them with some of our leaflets. Our demonstration, the first of its kind in Stornoway (so I’m told), received a really positive response from the public, and our team had a fantastic day raising awareness for such an important cause. We’re meeting up again in the near future to discuss other means of raising animal welfare awareness in our community, and ways in which we can fund-raise for OneKind.
It can often be disheartening when we have to face people who aren’t as concerned as we are with animal welfare. As a regular volunteer for OneKind, I’m certainly no stranger to talking to individuals who have little interest in our campaigns (or who are completely against what we do). It can sometimes be a challenging task, but it can also be so rewarding. To stir up a greater sense of compassion and care for Scotland’s animals in our communities is the most rewarding thing we can do as volunteers in my opinion. With a little courage, determination, and support, we can change the world for the better – for animals and humans alike.
A OneKind volunteer win
I’m delighted to announce that the event organiser of our local reindeer display has decided not to hold the event again after considering the welfare issues for the reindeer. Change is possible. Together, we can save Scotland’s animals.
How can our supporters help?
We were delighted by the response from our supporters, after we asked for help in obtaining reindeer display video footage and locations last year.
Here’s a couple of easy ways that you can help:
- Donate to OneKind to help us continue our investigation and campaigning work.
- Join our volunteer Facebook group for actions that we need help with.
- Share our campaigns with your friends and family and across your social media channels, to help us to raise public awareness about reindeer suffering.