By Robert Wheatley
After a referendum was held regarding the use of live reindeer at its Christmas Market, the Student Union has decided to follow the minority vote rejecting the inclusion of these animals.
This decision was made, according to the SU website, because “such a high number of our students asked us not to have the reindeer, and it was on this basis that the original debate was being had, [so we considered] it would be best to source an alternative form of entertainment at our Christmas Market.”
The instigator of the debate arose from a petition held on Change.org by the UH Animal Activism Society, arguing that the Students Union “should not be promoting ANY animals as props” as animals should not be purchased and thereby reduced to a commodity. The petition received 5,329 votes, and likely inspired the SU’s decision to hold the referendum very soon afterward.
After the referendum took place, the votes received by the SU reached almost half-and-half for or against the use of live reindeers, which influenced them to go with the very close minority vote; this decision occurring, according to the SU, because the initial debate was on the basis of not having the reindeer, and that many students had already petitioned against it.
The response the SU has received has been a combination of positive and negative. The UH Animal Activism Society, the UH Veggie/Vegan society, and Animal Aid have praised the decision as a win for animal rights, with Animal Aid’s Campaign manager, Tod Bradford, suggesting that such a choice will help teach people to view animals not as props or decorations, but sentient creatures.
He said: “Whilst we are positive that their intentions were to bring festive joy to students and members of the public alike, this is easily achieved without putting the well-being of animals at risk.
“Reindeer should be living free in the tundra, not placed in a busy market.”
Others have not been so pleased with the SU’s decision, with students taking to social media to detail their disappointment with what they considered an undemocratic decision.
Doesn’t it completely defeat the purpose of holding a referendum if you’re going to go AGAINST the majority vote…? — Mustafa (@Musssyy) November 23, 2017
A counter-petition has even been created on Change.org, suggesting that “not only [was the referendum] waste of the voters and SU time, it also goes against the principle of democracy.”
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