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Please keep telling Hamleys this is wrong

by Darren

Well, it’s been a busy 24 hours since last night I tweeted about Hamleys outrageous use of animals to promote Christmas.  We’ve done well, but the campaign is entering a difficult stage now. More on that in a moment, but first a summary of the last 24 hours ….

– I got home last night and sent out a few tweets.  Everyone’s efforts have been amazing, but I will thank James Barisic specifically (if you want your message heard, ask someone with a big gob 😉 )

– People are quick to point out that this kind of activity shortens the life of reindeer, as is noted in this Times article.

– Within a few hours over three thousand people had tweeted @hamleystoys to tell them this is a mistake.  Even more messages came in using the #sHamleys (shame Hamleys) hashtag that James constructed.

– This morning, Chris Evans mentioned the issue on his Radio 2 breakfast show – later on today he has set up a website to understand public opinion on the subject, and an overwhelming majority are against Hamleys use of animals in this way.

– Westminster Council told me they had no knowledge of this event.  I thought councils were responsible for licensing animal shows, but it seems the license is held by the provider of the animals.  The council where the event is held is however responsible for welfare – they agreed to send inspectors to look at both the conditions in store AND the transportation of the animals to and from the store.

– People got in touch with the RSPCA on twitter.  The Sun newspaper also asked them for a statement.  Let’s hope the RSPCA send welfare inspectors too, and that the Sun cover the issue tomorrow.

– Vanessa Feltz followed Chris and featured it on her BBC London show.  I got a call from the producers asking me to talk to Vanessa about how it all started, and Will Travers from Born Free did a great job of putting the message across.  Fellow twitter user @appleblossombea took part too.  Hamleys refused to send someone to speak for them, and just put out a statement saying they’ve done this before and they’re going to do it again.  No surrender, so it seemed.

– My mother-in-law calls her local council (Glasgow) to ask why they’ve allowed a reindeer event there.  Like Westminster, they have no idea it’s happening, but agree to send a welfare inspector.  I understand people in Glasgow are particularly concerned given the shop in Glasgow is on the second floor of the St Enoch’s Centre.  How will they get reindeer up there?

– London Zoo advised via twitter that the penguins being used were not coming from there and expressed concern about welfare, hoping that the keepers are vigilant for any signs of stress.

– Mid afternoon, the advertising for the stunts disappeared from Hamleys website – both the reindeer and penguins in London, and the reindeer in Glasgow.  However, they haven’t said anything and their twitter account remains silent.  They haven’t deleted mention of it from their twitter account or facebook page.

– At 5pm, I went to Hamleys to see if they continued with tonight’s reindeer stunt ….

When I arrived at the store tonight, there was an empty 4m square pen (see above) with a member of staff politely letting people know that there would be no reindeer tonight.  My heart skipped a beat. They’d listened?  We’d won but they’d just not admitted defeat?  That would be fine – admitting you’re wrong is tough.

But no, the cancellation tonight was because of snow.  I learned from the member of staff that the mother and baby reindeer had been stuck for SIX HOURS in a horse box on the motorway.  She didn’t know where they were coming from.  They would be back tomorrow.

Interesting also that Hamleys had on the side of the pen this dispenser of sanitiser, presumably for people to clean their hands after touching the animals to reduce the possibility of infection.  I didn’t notice a similar dispenser on the other side to protect the reindeer (!) but then I guess they aren’t willing participants.  They just have to put up with the mauling and the noise, and if they catch something unpleasant, I guess the store will just buy different animals next year.

Anyway, I’m sure you will agree that six hours on a motorway is an appalling way to treat animals to get them to a store in the centre of London to sell toys?  Clearly there weren’t welfare concerns when whoever is bringing them (we still can’t find out) decided to set out despite the poor weather, and presumably if they’d made it there would have been another six hour struggle to get home.

I mentioned that things are about to enter a difficult phase.  People know about this now and their sense of outrage will naturally fade.  The feeling of helplessness will set in.  They’ll start to think ‘they’re going to do it anyway and there’s nothing I can do.’  That’s exactly what Hamley’s silence today has been about.  They think if they keep quiet it will go away.  We need to press on.

Vanessa Feltz asked me this morning whether I was going to protest at the store (and why I was not there with a placard already!).  I have some concerns about this course of action.  I don’t want a bunch of us to add to the noise and hustle of a busy store because we’re just going to contribute to an already dreadful environment for these animals.  But I’m also aware that a commitment to protest will help Hamleys to make the right decision and pull these crazy stunts.

If we commit to protest, we have to go through with it.  I don’t know if that’s the right thing to do.  For now I’ll keep a watching brief and continue to try and raise awareness, but I’d be grateful for your thoughts in the comments about what we should do.