Petitions calling for a halt on using camels in South Tyneside’s festive parade will be discussed tonight.
The issue has become a talking point each year between those for and against the use of the animals as part of the Winter Wonderland event which attracts hundreds of thousands of people to South Shields.
The camels are ridden along Ocean Road by three wise men in tribute to the traditional Christmas story.
In the past, their use has been branded as a ‘cruel’ and ‘degrading spectacle’ by animal rights activists.
They are hoping following the submission of the petitions, each attracting more than 1,000 signatures, will prompt the council into a re-think over using the animals.
A more recent petition is currently gathering signatures against the camels being part of the event.
Anna Malia, behind the latest petition said: “We are hoping to work with the council to get an amicable solution.
“We had a productive meeting with a few councillors in June to highlight our concerns. We just want to do the right thing for the camels without causing the council too much trouble.”
The petitions will be received by at tonight’s full borough meeting of the council. A decision on the final programme for this year’s Christmas Wonderland will be made at a later date.
A South Tyneside Council spokesman said: “We will examine the petition and will respond in accordance with our petitions scheme.
“I 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.”
They added the welfare of the camels is of “primary importance” and “all relevant legislation is complied with.” A vet is also instructed to inspect the animals which remain in their handlers care throughout.
“Public exposure to the camels is also extremely limited with the main festive entertainment beginning only once the camels will have left the site.”