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Ppppack up the Penguins – Stop the use of animals in shops

by Darren

To see the map, please click here. Thanks to CASA, UCL for providing the mapping service.

So Why am I passionate about today’s campaign? Well, I started it!  Back in December when I discovered Hamleys were planning to use penguins to sell Christmas toys, a few tweets whipped up a storm on twitter.  It was a revelation for me, a realisation that individuals can change things, and I’ve been pushing animal welfare online campaigns ever since.  No longer do I grumble and mutter in (relative) silence!

This week I’m asking other people to write about things they’re passionate about, and who better than James Barisic to tell you why this is important.  When I needed help to get the message out on Hamleys James was there quick as a flash to help.  When a few days later I learned of the plans by Riverside Shopping Centre to do the same, James was my ‘first phone call’.

He really is a rock on this, so please read what he has to say.  He’s asking you to contact one particular owner of several shopping centres.  If we can start by persuading some that it’s wrong, all will eventually realise that live animals in shops is bad for business.  Thanks for contacting them, and thanks for doing #5Acts4Wildlife.

PS: James is in the running in the #politics category of the Shorty Awards, so please go and vote for him if you like our campaigns.  While you’re at it, I’m up for the #green award, so a vote for me would be much appreciated too!  Thanks for your support.

Catch up:

Day 1: Who’s the monster, the myth about sharks
Day 2: Help Wildlife Aid to Rescue Orphans
Day 3: Save Our Forests

James Barisic advises charities, businesses and political campaigns on public relations and social media strategies, providing training and other support. James and Darren led the #sHamleys and #riversnide campaigns together and James founded the #KindaAngels campaign to provide microfinance loans to entrepreneurs in developing nations. James is also a solicitor specialising in charity and corporate law.  You can read more from James on his own website.

What’s the issue?

Three men walk into a shop, go up to the husky behind the counter and say ‘Packet of penguins, please’.  On many levels not funny.

In the run up to Christmas last year, a number of retailers and shopping centres thought a great way to boost sales would be to get in some live animals.  On the face of it, they were on to something.  People, after all, love animals.  And what could be more heart warming in a shopping centre than a lovely Christmassy reindeer or penguin or husky?

Of course, if you were an animal, you might disagree.  Actually many humans disagree – a lot of people were describing hideous conditions in the shops in the run up to Christmas and that was before the animals got there.   Imagine the stress that being in that same environment would cause to an animal that did not understand why there were flashing lights, lots of people, heat and noise.  Oh, and you had to get there too, in the traffic – nice!

Animals simply should not be used in shops and shopping centres and, in my mind, if you have to resort to exploiting animals to sell your products, your products are probably a bit rubbish.

In Exeter in December, two ‘Hug a Husky’ events were held.  One was clearly in a private shopping centre.  The other seemed to be in Princesshay, another private shopping centre.  Only, it now seems to have been on a public highway (Bedford Street) a paved area off Princesshay.  The local council – which promotes itself as being very caring – did not seem to know either who could shed any light on their responsibilities for such an event or, indeed, who would be dealing with it.

Why are you passionate about it?

The lack of knowledge about the rules and laws on using animals for shopping events is pitiful but Exeter was not alone.  Other authorities were equally clueless.

If anything really saddens me about this it is that I even have to write this article.  It’s 2011 and we really shouldn’t be using animals to sell things in shops and shopping centres.  We’ve moved on.

During the campaigns that we ran in the run up to Christmas, some people mentioned how animals seemed to be enjoying themselves – which, ironically, is what people used to say when bears were being dragged around towns in chains over a century ago.  An animal appearing calm and ‘happy’ is sometimes a defence mechanism against a stressful situation – although sometimes it is being calm and happy.  The simple way of working out whether it really is likely to be enjoying it is putting yourself in its situation – but with the added confusion of not knowing what is going on.

Why should others be passionate about it?

Mahatma Gandhi said “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”  We’ve moved on from the days of the freak show, the dancing bears and the arrogance which allowed us to use animals in any way we like.  This single issue says everything about the state of humanity – the way we treat animals is directly related to the way we treat other humans. If we are caring, if we have heart we must defend animals from exploitation and refuse to accept the use of animals as marketing props by shops.

What can others do to help?

If we can get one major retailer to agree not to use live animals in their shopping centres, it can act as a first step in to ending this stupidity once and for all.

The Mall is one of the largest owners of covered retail space in the UK and has centres in Barnsley, Blackburn, Bristol, Camberley, Ilford, Luton, Maidstone, Middlesbrough, Norwich, Sutton Coldfield, Uxbridge, Walthamstow and Wood Green.

The Mall has some impressive environmental aims including a 63% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2010, consuming 50% less energy by 2012 and recycling 85% of waste with 0% going to landfill by 2012.  We think that The Mall would be a great company to lead the way on this issue and that banning the use of animals in their retail areas would be a simple and impressive thing to do.

So, we would like you to let The Mall’s Corporate Social Responsibility Adviser know that you think that using animals in shops and shopping centres is wrong and that you’d like them to be trailblazers and ban it.

Be positive not negative.  As far as we know, they have not done anything wrong.  But they have done things right – let’s see if, together, we can persuade them to do something amazing. Use some of the points above, or your own, to explain why using animals in shops is wrong.

Why will people taking action help?

By letting owners of retail outlets know that the use of animals in their marketing campaigns is unacceptable and that far from attracting customers in store it will cause people to avoid their businesses, we are taking a proactive stance and stopping these events before they are even planned.

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