Garden centre in reindeer row

Campaign group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has criticised Bents garden centre for using reindeer for Christmas promotions.

PETA said: "Using live animals in these sorts of events sends a damaging message to young people that animals are little more than living props.

"There are many other ways that the people of Cheshire could celebrate the holidays that would be far more in keeping with the Christmas spirit than by treating scared animals like decorations."

Bents said: "Having heard from PETA today we would like to confirm that we take animal welfare and our duty of care very seriously.

"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.

"The reindeer are 6th generation British animals having been born and raised in the North East.  

"We work with a family business which has over 57 years of animal care, headed by a Government Registered Animal Trainer who started his career with Chester Zoo and has been a zoological adviser to a number of television companies.  

"During the summer the reindeer graze in their grass paddock and during winter they are stabled, and at all times are under the supervision of a registered vet.

"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 as the reindeer are accustomed to crowds, music and different environments. 

"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.

"'Reindeer for Christmas' is a full member of ACTA (Animal Consultants and Trainers Association) which follows a strict Code of Conduct to ensure 'all members are pre-vetted, established, experienced and qualified professionals in their field."

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