Animal rights campaigners urge South Tyneside Council to cancel Christmas camel parade

Christmas Camel Parade is led by high impact drumming group Spark! and stilt walkers as they process along Ocean Road to Haven Point.

Christmas Camel Parade is led by high impact drumming group Spark! and stilt walkers as they process along Ocean Road to Haven Point.

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Animal rights campaigners have written to South Tyneside Council chiefs urging them to call off Friday's Christmas camel parade.

The camels are set to make an appearance in South Shields town centre on Friday as part of the Winter Wonderland Parade.

Campaigners have asked South Tyneside Council not to use camels as part of the Winter Wonderland Parade.

Campaigners have asked South Tyneside Council not to use camels as part of the Winter Wonderland Parade.

But Kirsty Henderson, senior campaign co-ordinator for the People For The Ethical Treatment Of Animals (PETA), has written directly to council leader, Coun Iain Malcolm, asking for the use of the camels to be cancelled and to commit to a policy of not using live animals at future events.

Ms Henderson said: "I am writing on behalf of PETA – one of the UK's largest animal-protection organisations, with more than 1 million members and supporters – to urge you to cancel plans to use camels at South Tyneside's Winter Wonderland parade on 2 December and to adopt a policy against using live animals at future events.

"Camels and other wild animals used in the entertainment industry, including for private events, are deprived of everything that is natural and important to them.

"There are many other ways to celebrate this festive season that would not compromise the well-being of animals or the public. What's more, removing camels from this event would do nothing to diminish onlookers' sense of the magic of the holidays.

"In the spirit of goodwill, we urge you to follow the examples of famed London toy shop Hamleys and Nottingham's intu Broadmarsh shopping centre, both of which cancelled plans to include wild animals in their Christmas promotions after a public outcry.

"Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. We hope to inform our members that South Tyneside Council will cancel plans for the camel event."

A petition against the use of camels at the event has already attracted over 70,000 signatures and South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck says she supports the campaign.

She added: "I am aware of other local authorities stopping using animals in similar events and I would be pleased if South Tyneside Council would follow their lead."

A spokesman for the Council said: "Last January we received a very similar petition and the matter was debated by Full Council in July.

"Less than three per cent of the signatures at that time were from residents of South Tyneside, who overwhelmingly support the Christmas Wonderland Parade, including the use of camels.

"However, we will examine the petition and will respond in accordance with our petitions scheme.

"We would like to reassure the public that the firm we use in our Christmas programme is a specialist, reputable company with the highest standards in animal welfare and training and an outstanding track record for events across the country. The camels come from a long line of domesticated animals living in the UK, and far from being wild and reclusive, they are intelligent and naturally curious. They are well looked after by their handlers who have more than 40 years’ experience. The company which provide the camels also supports the Wild Camel Protection Foundation.

"The welfare of the camels is of course of primary importance to us. All relevant legislation is complied with such as DEFRA registered and the Animal Health Act 1981 and we always engage a vet to inspect the animals on arrival to ensure their health and wellbeing.

"On the day of the Camel Parade, the camels will be in the care of their handlers at all times to ensure the safety of both the animals and members of the public. Public exposure to the camels will also be extremely limited with the main festive entertainment beginning only once the camels will have left the site.

"We had an overwhelmingly positive response to the event in previous years.

"Decisions on events are made taking into account the interest of local residents."