Fair selling live reptiles being axed from Doncaster Racecourse after animal rights complaints

A well known reptile fair held at Doncaster Racecourse will not return after June this year.

The International Herpetological Society (IHS) has been hosting its annual reptile fair at Doncaster Racecourse for nearly 20 years. But, from June this year, the fair will no longer be welcome to return to the South Yorkshire venue, following a campaign from animal rights activists.

The IHS reptile fair is held four times a year, in April, June, September and November, and attendees can purchase live reptiles and amphibians such as snakes, frogs and geckos. The show has drawn criticism recently, for presenting live animals for sale in small plastic tubs.

Read more: New natural history GCSE on how to protect the planet to be launched next week

But following a campaign from the Animal Protection Agency (APA) animal rights group, the IHS have announced that the reptile fair will not be returning to Doncaster Racecourse in the future. The fair’s final appearance will be its June show, which takes place on Sunday, June 19.

IHS event organiser, Richard Brook, said: “Our contracts with Doncaster racecourse expire with the June show this year, and the racecourse has been instructed (we believe by the mayor of Doncaster council) not to accept further bookings from the International Herpetological society. This is due to a campaign of harassment of the racecourse and Doncaster Council by Animal Rights activists.



Snakes can be seen in small boxes at one of the shows

“Whist it saddens the International Herpetological Society to be leaving Doncaster after nearly two decades, this is purely due to corporate bullying by Animal Rights extremist. Details of the venue for the September Breeders Meeting along with a full statement of events will be announced in due course.”

Councillor David Shaw, chair of Doncaster Council’s licensing committee, praised the decision to bring an end to the fair. Posting on Twitter, he said: “Tonight we have brilliant news that after June’s event, #Doncaster will no longer be the last place in the UK that hosts #reptile fairs in the UK. @DoncasterRaces and @mydoncaster have absolutely reached the right decision.

“Let’s hope we see an end forever of animals being sold in takeaway containers for profit in the UK. Much gratitude must go to @apawild for their tireless and professional approach. Without them this would not be possible.”

Dan Swaine, Director of Economy and Environment said: “Doncaster Council takes the issue of animal health and welfare seriously, and along with our statutory duties, we also passed a motion which banned animal prizes on council owned land. With respect to the IHS event, we have been in ongoing discussions with the Racecourse management to understand their longer term vision and position on such events and we have been informed that they will no longer host IHS events after their contractual obligations end in June 2022.”

However, Mr Swaine added that the event has always been subject to a council Animal Health Team and vet check, to ensure that all IHS fairs are compliant with animal health and welfare requirements.

He added: “In addition, it is important to understand that the event, in itself, is legal and complies with legislation. Where contraventions of law are witnessed/identified, we do undertake legal action and a number of instances are currently being investigated by our Regulation & Enforcement Team and we will look to use all the legal powers available to secure compliance.

“Furthermore, in order to ensure compliance with welfare requirements, Doncaster Council Animal Health Team and a Council employed vet visit all IHS events in Doncaster and work closely with the organisers to ensure that all those attending comply with animal health and welfare requirements. Where contraventions are identified, we do and will continue to provide advice/guidance and take legal action.”

The news that the IHS fair will not be returning to Doncaster was met with delight from animal rights advocates both locally and internationally. The Born Free foundation, the international wildlife charity famously founded by Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers – stars of the 1966 film of the same name – is one such organisation to have praised the news.

A spokesperson for the foundation said: “Born Free is delighted with the decision of Doncaster Council to no longer allow the International Herpetological Society (IHS) to host their reptile fair at Doncaster Racecourse once contractual obligations end in June this year. It is hoped such activities are now consigned to the past where they belong.

“While the IHS claims to exist to promote reptile and amphibian care and research, they fail to acknowledge how their events, which happen four times per year, are harmful to wild animals. Many of which are soon to be recognised as sentient beings, which can experience pain, fear and distress, in UK law.

“During their events, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates are kept in stressful conditions, often confined to “takeaway containers” without sufficient water or shelter. The captive breeding of exotic animals by hobbyists in order to flog them like merchandise has no place in today’s society.”

Do you agree with Doncaster Council’s decision? Let us know in the comments!