Campaigners have got the hump and launched a petition which has been signed by over 70,000 people in protest over South Tyneside’s Christmas camel parade.
The annual event which sees camels take part in a festive parade through the town centre, has angered animal rights campaigners who have launched a petition to stop animals taking part in the event.
Set up last week by activist Fiona Munro, the petition attracted 71,645 signatures in five days, but council bosses have defended the event saying a similar petition last year saw just 3% of the signatures come from people from South Tyneside.
A spokeswoman for South Tyneside Council said: “Last January we received a very similar petition and the matter was debated by full council in July.
“Less than 3% 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 it and will respond in accordance with our petitions scheme.”
She added: “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.
“Public exposure to the camels will also be extremely limited with the main festive entertainment beginning only once the camels have left the site. We had an overwhelmingly positive response to the event in previous years.”
Miss Munro, who grew up in the South Shields area, but now lives in Darlington, said: “It’s OK saying the camels are well looked after, but they have no choice in whether they want to take part in the event.
“A lot of people from South Shields have signed the petition and have been saying they don’t want the town to be known for dragging animals along in a parade. “I think it is sending out the wrong message to children about how you treat animals.”
The petition states it has been signed by 18,802 UK supporters.