I have recently become rather concerned over what appears to be a new pre-Christmas trend. The exhibiting of real reindeer at fetes, events and in town centres locally seems to be increasingly fashionable. In an age when animal circuses are dying out and face fierce opposition, it seems a bit reductive that we’re now making exhibits of large cervines in order to attract the public. I realise fully that the activity complies with all the relevant regulation set out by DEFRA and the like, and there’s no question of animal cruelty, but all the same, this strikes me as being unnecessary and somewhat unfortunate.
I first spotted this last year, but last week fellow blogger and twitter user Linda Mason observed some deer on show in Lichfield.
Deer are cloven-footed beasts, with feet better suited to turf, grassland and soft soil. It disturbs me to see these majestic beasts, caged in small pens, surrounded by people and stood on paved surfaces with no apparent refuge. Yesterday, there were another two deer appearing at Walsall as part of the Christmas Festivities promoted by Walsall Town Centre Management Team. A picture, proudly posted by the team, appeared on their Facebook page.
I really don’t think this is the kind of thing that council-funded bodies should be doing. Whilst I understand that this is all legal and above board, it leaves me feeling very, very uncomfortable, and I don’t really see the benefit, except for the fact that the owner of the animals has reputedly been paid around a thousand pounds for the appearance.
There is something a bit darker here, too, that has caused me a deal of concern. When the pictures of this went up on Facebook and Twitter yesterday morning, posted by a proud team, users reacted with some dismay, like I did. We posted comments – polite, considered, eloquent – on the posts themselves. For some reason, the people behind the Walsall Town Centre page chose to delete many of them. This is utterly against the spirit of free debate, and that generally exhibited by social media channels in use by Walsall Council, who normally accept intelligent, polite opposition as part of the medium.
Fortunately, I shared the picture to my own profile, and a comment thread also developed there, which can’t be tampered with. Since commenting – and in response to my protests at the deletions – Walsall Town Centre has invited me and several other posters ‘to meet them for coffee to discuss this’ – a blatant attempt to take debate from public view. I have said this before, and will say it again – I will not have my opinion farmed. Anything that’s fit to say to me on this subject is fit to say in public. The other folk who were concerned deserve an open, public response. I don not engage in shady meetings in order to be buttered up.
This behaviour is clearly an aberration, as Walsall Council’s social media presence is normally open and accepting of criticism, and I have nothing but praise for the engaged, receptive attitude towards new media. I think perhaps some folk need a bit more guidance in the field.
If you want your children to see deer, the best way to do it is to visit Chasewater or Cannock Chase, where the careful explorer can find red, fallow and muntjac deer (the latter if you’re very lucky) in their natural environment. The deer in some parts of the Chase are now so familiar with humans that they come to be fed. I guarantee that seeing the majesty of such beasts – and fallow dear are far more akin to the Christmas image of dear than real reindeer – in their normal environs will be a magical experience that you will remember for the rest of your lives. Wouldn’t you rather do that than seeing a cooped, sad animal in the confines of a steel cage in a crowd burdened urban shopping centre?