Close up of a reindeer in profile, with large antlers and wearing a harness

Mobile Animal Exhibits

Born Free is concerned for the welfare of thousands of captive wild animals used in mobile exhibits and displays.

Children and adults alike continue to be encouraged to attend events and participate in activities that exploit wild animals. These include many hundreds of captive reindeer in the run up to Christmas, meerkats at birthday parties, birds of prey at falconry displays, snakes handled at fetes, and many other scenarios.

Born Free’s 2021 report ‘Exhibition or Exploitation‘ found that almost 20,000 wild animals were included on licences and registers to keep or train for exhibition or performance in England, Scotland and Wales.

What are the problems with mobile animal exhibits?

Using wild animals in these activities can have serious negative impacts on their welfare. Animals are frequently transported over large distances, kept in unsuitable environments, exposed to unfamiliar and unnatural situations, and subjected to welfare-compromising husbandry practices to make them more amenable to exhibition.

Animals that are nocturnal (active at night) and crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk), are often required to perform or be on display at times of the day when they would naturally be resting.

AA young boy is handling a snake while adults look on

Many animals are handled by untrained members of the public. Repeated handling and the close proximity to humans can be extremely stressful to wild animals.

Interaction activities often involve huge crowds of people and high levels of noise, with animals prodded or passed from person to person throughout the day.

Many animals can harbour zoonotic diseases that are transmissible to humans and which can result in illness, injury, and even death. Our 2021 report found that animal encounters, involving handling by members of the public, accounted for 77% of all licensed or registered uses in Great Britain.

What does the legislation say?

Current legislation is failing to protect captive wild animals used in mobile exhibits. There is no requirement for keepers or trainers of wild animals to have qualifications or formal training in the complex health and welfare of the animals for which they have a licence or registration. Inspectors are not required to have specialist knowledge of the welfare needs of the vast array of wild animals they are inspecting.

Born Free is calling on the UK government, Scottish Parliament, and Welsh Parliament to introduce a prohibition on the use of wild animals in mobile exhibitions and performance, and for the public and event organisers to pledge their support by boycotting events or facilities which promote this type of entertainment.

What can you do about it?

Please do not attend or use live wild animal exhibits. By reducing the demand, you can play an important role in reducing the scale of this significant welfare issue.

There are many alternative ways to provide entertainment and engage children and adults without exploiting captive wild animals.

Read our Exhibition or Exploitation report