Own goal by MK Dons FC ownership as UK’s largest reptile show heads to Milton Keynes

18 June 2023


Born Free urges members of the public to take action against cruel and outdated Reptile Show by writing to host venue.

A photo of a man's hand holding a green chameleon

On Sunday the 18th of June 2023, the latest International Herpetological Society (IHS) Reptile Show will take place at the Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes and we need your help to urge the venue to no longer host such events. The arena is adjoined to MK Dons Football Club and owned by the same company, Stadium MK Group. Born Free has raised major concerns about animal welfare and public health, and is urging organisers to reconsider hosting future events.

The shows, due to take place in June and September 2023, will see thousands of captive wild animals, including some which may have been taken from the wild, on display in tiny transparent plastic containers, with attendees able to touch and handle them before they are sold.

The show, which was held at Doncaster Racecourse for over 20 years, has been searching for alternative venues since the racecourse did not renew their contract with the IHS after June 2022. This saw the show briefly moved to Manchester, before Milton Keynes.

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 on sale at the show are formally recognised as sentient beings in UK law under the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act 2022, acknowledging the ability of animals to experience feelings and sensations, both negative (such as frustration and fear) and positive (such as comfort and joy).

In a letter to Stadium MK Group’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 at Marshall Arena will be highly stressful, as a result of the inappropriate lighting, noise, vibrations, temperature and lack of refuge.” Born Free has also written to the leader of Milton Keynes City Council, Peter Marland, and local MP, Iain Stewart, but have so far received no response.

Born Free’s recent report The Exotic Pet-Demic highlighted 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. Research conducted in December 2022 by Opinion Matters found that 83% of those surveyed in Britain agreed that the next UK government should tighten the rules of trade in and keeping of exotic pets. Born Free has consistently lobbied for the laws on the private keeping of exotic pets and Dangerous Wild Animals to be reviewed and reformed.

Image © George Logan