UPDATE: I have emailed the following message to Hamleys CEO, Nick Mather tonight. Please see the end of the original post (also below) for details of how you can do likewise.
Dear Mr Mather
Your hot, loud store is no place for reindeer and penguins.
What on earth are you thinking? I was really disappointed to learn this evening that you have plans to use live reindeer this week, and live penguins next Monday evening to attract customers to your Regent Street store. This is wrong.
I am sure that you are aware of the feelings made very public by a large number of users of the social networking site twitter, this evening. I don’t know how many, but I have watched thousands of messages go across my screen tonight condemning your actions and asking you to stop this cruel and inhumane spectacle.
The opinions being expressed are that your hot, loud store is no place for live animals. Travel to and from the store through a busy central London will place undue stress on them, and their only ‘relief’ will be the time they have at your store which would be tortuous for a non-consenting human, let alone animals who know nothing of Christmas shopping.
This comes across as a dreadful, badly thought out stunt. I hope that the overwhelming force of public opinion will persuade you to change your mind and cancel these ‘attractions’ with immediate effect. From what I have seen, this campaign will only grow further throughout the week, and far beyond the thousands of people who have already expressed their opinions on twitter.
I posted this pic a few weeks ago – it’s reindeer in the centre of Edinburgh last Christmas. I couldn’t, at the time, think of a worse representation of the true meaning of Christmas. Animals cooped up in a pen to look at while you do your shopping or drink mulled wine.
What I didn’t know is that this year this bizarre outdated use of animals was going to get worse. Far worse.
I discovered this evening that Hamleys, that well known store on Regent Street (yes the one I’m sure if you visited London at Christmas as a child, or with children as an adult, you’re bound to have stood in with awe and wonder) is using live reindeer as an attraction this week. I can’t possibly feel more dejected and disappointed.
And yet they will bring on a whole new world of pain next Monday evening when they are having live penguins in store. Hamleys, what on earth are you doing?
My views on captive wild animals are well known. I think it’s an outdated practice that comes out of human desire to collect and control. And I think any communication aims, people seeing animals and adopting wildlife friendly attitudes as a result, are much better served by Big Cat Diary than they are by seeing animals cooped up in cages.
But even the most hardened zoo-lover must surely be outraged by bringing animals into a busy shop in the busiest shopping district in London, at the busiest time of year? Don’t just take my word for it. I posted about this on Twitter earlier tonight, and here are some of the comments people are making over there:
“Are you really going to be using live penguins in store to help you sell toys? I find this reprehensible. And repugnent.”
“How can reindeer and penguins in a heated shop surrounded by screaming kids be considered acceptable. Shame on you.”
“Do the penguins have a say? If most of us find hours of screaming children hard to bear, I don’t know how penguins possibly can.”
“Absolutely disgusted in your disregard for animal welfare. Penguins should be in their natural habitat, not used as sales props.”
So, what can you do? Well, there’s already quite a busy campaign going on over on twitter, so if you have an account then please go and make your views known. The shop has an account @hamleystoys so be sure to let them know too. I’m absolutely overwhelmed at the response, and I know that we can make a difference and be heard.
Second, please let Hamleys know how wrong this is by writing to them firstname.lastname@example.org
Third, it’s probably too late to press Westminster Council (Councils have responsibility for licensing animal displays) but next time you get chance to press the flesh with your local Councillor, please be sure to impress on them that animal displays like this are wrong and get a commitment that they won’t be allowed in your local area. Even better, write to your Councillor or MP.
Fourth, I want to give a really big shout out for the people who brought this to my attention, Born Free. If there’s a charity that deserves your support it’s these guys. Founded by Virginia McKenna (actress who starred in the film of the same name), they campaign to keep animals in the wild and do some pretty amazing conservation work too. They deserve your support, so how about sending wildlife a Christmas present? You can donate here.
I hope we can stop this madness by Hamleys and all go back to loving it as the wonderful toy shop it is. Thank you, for all you are doing to let them know this is wrong.