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We did it again. Penguins cancelled at Riverside

by Darren

Once again a great job was done by everyone to persuade Riverside to cancel their penguin stunt on Saturday 11 December 2010.  As with the Hamleys posts, I’ve consolidated them (into just one post this time) to avoid having too many posts without pictures clogging up what is a photography site.  They are posted in chronological order of when they appeared:

Here we go again.  Penguins aren’t Christmas Decorations Riverside

A chance to meet real live penguins.  We stopped that I hear you cry.  180,000 of us sent 2.9m tweets, we phoned and emailed, we contacted the Council and animal welfare organisations.  And Hamleys listened.  The pictures I took and more details are in a previous post.

Now it appears that Riverside shopping centre in Hemel Hempstead seem to think it’s a good idea to use penguins to bring in the customers this Christmas.  They’re going to be having them outside of HMV on Saturday – THIS WEEKEND!  There’s no time to lose.  There is no place for live penguins in a hot busy shopping centre, outside of a music store.  They are animals which get stressed very easily.  They should not have to endure crowds of people and screaming children in the name of selling Christmas.

When Hamleys tried this we got it raised on the floor of the House of Commons, and Mark Pritchard, Secretary of the All Party Group on Conservation and Wildlife said “Penguins should not be used as festive merchandising.”  We agree, and we’re going to try to work with Parliamentarians as soon as possible to get this cruel practice banned.

In the meantime, I need your help again.  We need you to tweet and email and phone and do all the things you did the last time, but we only have 24 hours.

What you can do:

– Send twitter messages to get the same wonderful crowd of people involved as last time.  Use the hashtag #riversnide – another great James Barisic invention.

– Email – the centre’s manager is Joanna Hall so mark it for her attention.  Let them know all the reasons why this is wrong, but please remain polite.

– Phone Riverside – 01442 229350 and ask to speak to the manager to complain.  Again remain polite.  You can fax them too if you wish: 01442 229351.

– Contact Dacorum Borough Council and ask their Environment team to send welfare inspectors to inspect the shopping centre – 01442 228000 or email

– Leave your comments on the Riverside Facebook page.  Even if you email or call it’s important to get the message across in every way possible.

I asked a lot of you last time and I’m sorry to do it again, but it really is just one day this time.  One day in which we can change the world again.  Hopefully one day soon we can stop this kind of thing permanently, but for now we need to campaign one day at a time.

FAO Joanna Hall – Email: Please cancel penguins at Riverside


Subject: URGENT: FAO Joanna Hall – Penguin event

Dear Joanna

I was extremely disturbed to learn tonight that you are holding an event with live penguins this Saturday at your shopping centre.  I have some experience of these situations, having recently started a social media campaign which resulted in Hamleys cancelling a similar event.  180,000 people posted 2.9m twitter messages, plus sent thousands of emails and phone calls telling them it was wrong.  The situation was picked up by national press including The Sun, The Guardian, The London Evening Standard and in the media, BBC and Sky News.

It was also raised at question time on the floor of the House of Commons by Jo Swinson MP, and received support from Mark Pritchard MP, the Secretary of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Animal Welfare.  Welfare concerns were expressed by respected animal charities such as the Born Free Foundation and Wildlife Aid.  Even organisations such as London Zoo who, as you probably know, keep penguins themselves said they had welfare concerns.

Hamleys finally agreed that their store was no place for penguins, and listened to their customers.  As you can see we have a broad cross section of support from the normally placid British Public, people who are naturally YOUR customers.  Please listen.

Penguins come from the other end of our planet in the Southern Hemisphere.  They belong in the wild.  The environment you will offer them in your store is a different world to their natural habitat, and not even anywhere near the environment that a properly equipped zoo would offer.  What you are doing to try to attract customers to your shopping centre this Christmas is wrong, and I hope you will recognise that tomorrow and cancel this event immediately.  Do that, and even I’ll come and shop there on Saturday, and I might even manage to persuade a few of my 180,000 fellow campaigners to do so too!

Yours sincerely

Darren Hector

We did it again.  Penguins cancelled at Riverside.

We did it again.  Penguins have been cancelled at Riverside in the snottiest snidest statement possible, but they have cancelled and that’s the main thing.

Just to correct a few points:

– We were never going to demonstrate, never threatened to physically demonstrate, and went out of our way to explain to Riverside centre manager, Joanna Hall,  that this is not what we are about.  Unlike the shopping centre, we have concern for the welfare of the animals that are being used in this display and a demonstration would just cause additional stress.

– Yes, Hamleys told us the trainers were experienced keepers too – for 40 years.  We later found out that the animals were being supplied by a company with strong links (by both marriage and sharing premises) to the Chipperfield Family.  I wonder if Riverside were using the same ‘supplier’?

– We appreciate that the law has some gaps and that it hasn’t kept up with public opinion – indeed as I said last night we are hoping to work with legislators as soon as possible to outlaw this crazy cruel practice of using exotic animals to sell merchandise in shops.

– The event was for educational purposes?  At least Riverside didn’t try to tell children that penguins are from the North Pole like Hamleys did, but it’s wrong to teach children that animals are playthings that they can cart about and exploit at will.  Also, see my earlier point on the possible provenance of the penguins.  Are these the people you want teaching your children?

– They weren’t doing it to attract business during the festive period?  Pull the other one, it’s got sleigh bells on!

– “The safety and enjoyment of our customers shopping experience is our only interest.”  Now we’re getting to the truth.  Good job we were prepared to stand up for the welfare of the penguins, because this shows Riverside just didn’t care.

Thanks again for your superb support, and we’ll keep campaigning against these crazy stunts until hopefully we can get the law changed.

Have a great Christmas.  I hope for most of us the rest of the season will be live penguin free …. that is those who aren’t going to visit them in the wild!  And if you are, you lucky lucky thing.  Send us a postcard!