Born free raises concerns ahead of uk’s largest reptile show

7th September 2021


Charity urges organisers and members of the public to take action against cruel and outdated event by signing our petition.

Eight small perspex boxes stacked, and containing snakes for sale at the reptile market.

As Doncaster Racecourse prepares to host the International Herpetological Society Reptile Show on 19th September 2021, Born Free has raised major concerns about animal welfare and public health, and is urging organisers to reconsider hosting future events.

The shows, which take place four times a year at the venue, will see thousands of wild-caught and captive-bred animals on display in tiny transparent plastic containers, with attendees able to touch and handle them before they are sold.  

Find out why Born Free strongly urgest against participating in these animal encounters here.

Born Free believes that wildlife shows and markets where live animals are subjected to stress and discomfort have no place in today’s society. Vertebrate animals are soon to be formally recognised as sentient beings in UK law under the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill 2021, acknowledging the ability of animals to experience feelings and sensations, both negative (such as frustration and fear) and positive (such as comfort and joy). This includes the wild animals to be displayed and traded at Doncaster Racecourse.

In a letter to the racecource’s management, Born Free’s Captivity Research Officer, Chris Lewis, called for organisers to revise their decision to host the event, stating: “The conditions these animals will experience will be highly stressful, as a result of the inappropriate lighting, noise, vibrations, temperature and the sheer number of people. Many of these species are likely to be prey species and having people constantly leaning over and touching them is almost certainly going to trigger a stress response due to their inability to escape or hide.”

“This event disregards the negative feelings and sensations these complex, sentient beings will experience. Such stress can also make it more likely that the animals could shed potentially zoonotic pathogens that they may be carrying, that could infect people. Global epidemics like SARS, Ebola and most recently Covid-19 have all been associated with wildlife markets. It is highly likely there will be a number of wild animals on display or for sale at this wildlife market that could potentially pose a human health risk.”

Born Free believes that the trade in wildlife results in severe animal suffering, threatens human and animal health and is a major contributor to the global decline in wildlife and biodiversity. In the decade to 2019, over 30,000 wild caught reptiles belonging to species listed on the appendices of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the trade in which is regulated because of concerns about their conservation status, were reported to have been imported into the UK. Since only 8% of all reptile species are listed on the CITES appendices, this is likely just the tip of the iceberg. 

Sadly, it is currently legal to keep almost any species of wild animal as an exotic pet in Britain. View our map to see the location of these captive animals. Born Free has consistently lobbied for the laws on the private keeping of exotic pets and Dangerous Wild Animals to be reviewed and reformed. Please support us by signing our petition.

View our captive animals page for more information on their cruel exploitation.

You can also make your opposition to such outdated and cruel wildlife markets heard by writing to Doncaster Racecourse directly:

FAO: Rachel Harwood
Executive Director at Doncaster Racecourse and Exhibition Centre
Doncaster Racecourse
Leger Way

Please look out for our major new report produced in collaboration with the RSPCA. The report will examine the wider exotic pet trade in the UK, including its scale and the associated risks, whilst also offering potential future solutions.