This year could be the last time you see reindeer at a Christmas grotto if efforts from the RSPCA succeed.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) have said that real-life reindeers should not be used at Christmas grottos because they get too stressed and anxious.
The animal welfare charity say that keeping the animals in small pens can cause anxiety, which can in turn lead to health problems such as misshapen antlers, low fertility and high calf mortality.
It’s estimated that around 1,500 live reindeer are used at festive attractions in the UK alone – according to figures from the organisation.
They are usually found at shopping centres, Christmas markets and local fairs.
Dr Ros Clubb, senior scientific manager at the RSPCA, said, “We understand that it must seem magical for people to see a reindeer at Christmas, but the reality is reindeer are not easy to keep well and need specialised care, they get stressed very easily and are very susceptible to many health and welfare problems.
“In the wild they are prey animals so they naturally hide their illnesses, and we’re concerned many owners may not realise their reindeer, which are attending stressful, busy festive events, are poorly or may not be able to spot the problems until it is too late.”
It’s thought that stress experienced by reindeers which are imported from other countries can make them more vulnerable to disease.
Other animal rights organisations have backed proposals to ban reindeers from festive events.
Elisa Allen, director at PETA, said, “What could ruin the magic of the season more than seeing stressed animals confined to cramped pens, tied up, or harnessed and forced to pull people around on sleighs?
“Reindeer are intelligent, gentle animals who are meant to roam free over vast ranges – not be carted up and down the country as if they were mere props to be paraded about and gawked at under in busy shopping centres.”