Garsons explains reindeer policy

Surrey garden centre and farm Garsons was criticised by an animal rights group for hosting reindeer but says PETA's "generalisations do not any way reflect the reality at Garsons".

Garsons director Ben Thompson said: "Following your article of 9th December concerning reindeer at Garsons, I am writing to reassure readers of the exceptional care we have taken over the welfare of our animals. We have been hosting reindeer in the month before Christmas for a few years now, and I want to let your readers know that the generalisations about reindeer at festive events do not in any way reflect the reality at Garsons.

"Many local families will encounter reindeer for the first time at Garsons, and we take this as a valuable opportunity to educate them about these beautiful creatures. We have trained handlers nearby at all times to give visitors information about the reindeer and also constantly ensure that they are happy, comfortable, well fed and watered.

"Before the animals arrive at Garsons, we send the handlers to meet them at their home farm and learn how to care for the animals properly. The farmer rescued them from culls in Scandinavia, and we're glad to say that by doing so he has given them a new lease of life here in England, where they are looked after by the country's leading reindeer vet.

"The farm is less than an hour away from Garsons, so the reindeer spend very little time travelling to spend the month living here on our farm, where they have several days to settle into their surroundings before they meet the public. During their stay with us, the reindeer are walked around the acres of farm twice a day by their handlers and are allowed to graze on the land. We have also worked closely with the farmer to construct the enclosure and stables so as to ensure that the animals have plenty of space, comfortable bedding and are able to interact with the public only if they choose. Many of our visitors are delighted to find that the reindeer are happy to approach them voluntarily, as they are well used to people and like to socialise.

"I would also like to note that there is no charge to visit the reindeer at Garsons. Instead we collect donations for local children's charities, and this Christmas we're hoping to surpass the £8,000 we raised in 2014.

"Whilst I cannot speak for other venues where reindeer are present over the festive period, I know that visitors to Garsons will see that our reindeer are always treated with respect, love and the best possible care. We wouldn't allow it to be any other way."

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