Welfare concerns raised over reindeer events

Youngsters get close up to Father Christmas's reindeers at Wigan's Annual Santa Parade
Youngsters get close up to Father Christmas's reindeers at Wigan's Annual Santa Parade

A GARDEN centre has defended its decision to use reindeer for a fun festive event for children following a complaint by an animal rights organisation.

Bents Garden and Home, in Glazebury, near Leigh, has received a letter from PETA, encouraging them to cancel plans to use live reindeer in any scheduled Christmas-themed events.

The letter noted that: “A busy commercial centre filled with noisy shoppers, bright lights and excited children is an entirely unsuitable environment for reindeer.”

It added that: “The whole phenomenon of taking reindeer out on the road, putting them in pens and treating them as if they were just Christmas decorations is unacceptable, and we should not be encouraging such an unethical and abusive trend. We don’t want our kids to grow up thinking that live animals exist merely for our entertainment.”

Concluding, the letter, which has been sent to other organisations which have held reindeer events, stated; “Please make the humane decision not to use live animals at this event and also make a formal commitment to avoiding future events that promote the exploitation of animals.”

The reindeer tour the country, visiting many sites, with Reindeer for Christmas, which is a full member of ACTA (Animal Consultants and Trainers Association) which follows a strict Code of Conduct.

Matthew Bent, managing director of Bents, said: “We take animal welfare and our duty of care extremely seriously. We have been visited by reindeer at Christmas time for the past five years and work very closely with their breeders to ensure they are cared for at all times whilst at the centre. We have consulted and checked with the RSPCA who have confirmed that as long as all the animals’ requirements are met they do not have an issue with the event.

“We work with a family business which has more than 57 years of animal care, headed by a Government Registered animal trainer.

“Whilst at Bents they are only onsite for a limited time during our Festive Family Fun Weekend, have regular breaks and are accompanied at all times by their handlers, within a controlled area. If any animal were to show any sign of distress they would be immediately removed from the site, but this is something we have never experienced.

“They have human contact daily, throughout the year, at their sanctuary and Bents is just one of many stops on their Christmas journey, bringing smiles to the faces of the many children they meet.

“We are just one of many venues, such as shopping centres and town fairs that are visited by reindeer in the run-up to Christmas and we are aware that other places have been contacted by PETA as well.

“We do everything possible to ensure the reindeer that visit us are extremely well cared for during their stay with us and we are confident with the care they receive throughout the year at their sanctuary.”

Bents Garden and Home is just one of many outlets and venues to receive a letter asking them not to use reindeer, but PETA confirms it is the only one in the borough.

Both Wigan town centre and Spinning Gate Shopping Centre had Christmas parades with reindeer but were not contacted.