Rudolph to appear at Holt Christmas lights switch-on despite objections from animal rights group

A child feeding a reindeer from Melsop Farm Park at Oxburgh Hall. Picture: MARK BUNNING PHOTOGRAPHY

A child feeding a reindeer from Melsop Farm Park at Oxburgh Hall. Picture: MARK BUNNING PHOTOGRAPHY - Credit: Archant

An animal rights group is demanding Rudolph does not appear at a Christmas lights switch-on because of welfare and public safety concerns.

Organisers of next Wednesday's Holt festive event, due to feature a pair of reindeer, are determined to keep the popular attractions.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) wrote to the Christmas lights committee chairman Esme Bagnall-Oakeley after a Holt resident and PETA supporter raised concerns about the animals being used.

PETA is against the use of reindeer as 'backdrops in public displays' because it causes stress to the animals; puts humans at risk of injury if the animals escape; and diseases can be transmitted to humans.

Mrs Bagnall-Oakeley said: 'We have had reindeer at the switch-on the past four years. We put them in a quiet place so they are not near crowds. We have never had a problem with the reindeer. They have never appeared traumatised and they are used to seeing people because they are from a park farm.

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'PETA has seen our event and have written to us from a distance with a lot of preconceived ideas.

'The handlers from the park have handwash gels and everything is done to keep the animals happy and quiet.'

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She added the creatures were popular with all generations and visitors were respectful around them.

'People love them. They are iconic. Everyone says how wonderful it is we have reindeer. At the moment we are not wanting to pull the reindeer from the switch-on.'

The animals are cared for at Melsop Farm Park in Scoulton, along with six other reindeer, and will be kept in a pen with two handlers on Star Plain from about 5.45pm.

Park owner Keith Stone said: 'The reindeers we use are as friendly as they come. They don't get stressed at all and will clamber up a fence to get to people as soon as they see a carrot. The reindeers we use at Holt are totally domesticated and don't have wild instincts.'

The inspected farm will continue to hire out the reindeer to the Holt event.

PETA campaign co-ordinator Kirsty Henderson said: 'A busy commercial centre, such as Holt, filled with hundreds of shoppers, excited children and a firework display is an entirely unsuitable environment for reindeer or any other animals.

'Reindeer are not domestic animals, and their instincts remain very much intact in captivity. When used as holiday props they are denied the opportunity to engage in natural behaviour.'

PETA has never written to Holt Christmas lights committee before about use of reindeer.

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