Published: 09:45, 06 November 2018
| Updated: 19:33, 06 November 2018
Footage of reindeer enduring "shocking suffering" at UK farms have been recorded by animal rights activists.
Animal Aid said they collected the undercover footage at three farms in Kent, Staffordshire and Cheshire in 2017 and 2018.
The welfare charity claims they found poorly-looking reindeer with raw, exposed skin, diarrhoea and skeletal abnormalities.
Video: Animal Aid's film calls for a boycott of "live" reindeer events
Footage they claim was taken at Kent Reindeer Centre in Capralama Farm in Bethersden in May 2018 shows a worker apparently kicking a reindeer twice, as well as shouting abuse at the animals.
Tor Bailey, campaign manager at Animal Aid, said: "Our investigations have revealed the shocking suffering of these gentle animals.
"Reindeer are sensitive wild animals, not props to be paraded around and used for human entertainment.
"I would urge the general public not to support events which feature live captive animals and find other more animal-friendly ways to enjoy the festive period."
The footage and photos come after government figures show that between 2014 to 2017, 571 reindeer were imported from Sweden, Finland and Norway.
Animal Aid claim that once they are brought to the UK - usually to be used in festive grotto and reindeer parades - they are susceptible to a variety of diseases and pathogens.
A charity spokesperson said they had reported their findings to each area's Trading Standards department, DEFRA and the RSPCA.
Dr. John Fletcher, founder of the Veterinary Reindeer Society said he was "disturbed" by the footage and findings.
He said: "Reindeer have adapted to live in the Arctic.
"They are not well able to cope with the stress of captivity, and most of the diseases we see here in reindeer are stress-related.
"DEFRA need to stop the export of reindeer into the UK."
A Kent Reindeer Centre spokesman said: "I would like to say that all our animals are much loved and well cared for as can be seen by our many visitors throughout the year.
"The person involved was one of several new part-time staff that we took on to help out. He was dismissed as unsuitable after a short period of time.
"These matters were discussed in full with the RSPCA and our vet back in the summer."
Trading Standards at Kent County Council said it had been told about concerns at the centre, and attended but "found no particular concerns at times".
They said one animal was thin due to age and they didn't take any extra action.
An RSPCA spokesperson said: “It is never acceptable to kick an animal as seen in this footage and when we were alerted to it we sent an officer to the scene.
“Reindeer are semi-wild animals that are highly adapted to the arctic environment. They have very different needs to deer that are native to the UK and it is much more difficult to meet their needs, particularly when kept by non-specialists in small groups for use at festive events.
"This means having them in a busy environment, surrounded by crowds, noise and lights during a festive event makes it even more difficult.
“They get stressed easily and are very susceptible to many health and welfare problems when kept in permanent captivity in the UK, particularly in southern areas.
“We are really concerned that every year, reindeer are used across the country at festive events and exposed to a busy environment, surrounded by crowds, noise and lights, and this can cause these semi-wild animals a great deal of stress.
“Anyone with further concerns for the reindeer, or any other reindeer, can call us on 0300 1234 999.”
Blithbury Reindeer Lodge in Rugeley, Staffordshire and Cheshire Reindeer Lodge were also criticised by the charity for its treatment of the animals.