‘The animal’s welfare is of the utmost importance’ – Tesco defend use of reindeer at Royston fun day after concerns from animal rights group

Tesco Extra in Royston.

Tesco Extra in Royston. - Credit: Archant

Tesco has defended their use of reindeer as part of a free Christmas Fun Day at its Extra store in Royston.

Concerns have been raised by animal welfare campaigners about real reindeer being used at the store in Old North Road today, where families are invited to meet Santa and his reindeer in the car park until 4pm.

Tod Bradbury, of animal rights group Animal Aid, said: “It is very disheartening to see that Tesco Extra in Royston plan to have real reindeer in their car park as part of a ‘fun day.’

“Research by bodies such as the Veterinary Laboratories Agency has concluded that reindeer suffer when removed from their natural life of roaming free in the tundra and eating fresh lichen, leading to premature death and disease in young reindeer.

“These animals will be transported up and down the country throughout the festive period, placed in front of loud and excitable crowds and confined to small pens for the public to gawk at. All of this causes reindeer stress and gives the impression – especially to children – that animals are mere decorations, and can be treated as commodities.

“Whilst it is evident that this event aims to bring joy and Christmas cheer to local residents, this can be achieved without putting the well-being of animals at risk.”

A Tesco spokeswoman told the Crow: “Our customers will love taking this opportunity to meet and take photos with Santa’s reindeer at our Royston store.

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“The animal’s welfare is of the utmost importance and as these reindeer have been raised on a farm, they are tame and used to interacting with people. A trained handler will also be on hand to make sure reindeer and customers have a fantastic festive experience.”

The Reindeer Centre based in Kent, supplies the animals and the business was started when they imported a few reindeer from Sweden 14 years ago.

Mark Bridges, of The Reindeer Centre, said: “Our reindeer live on a working, 40 acre farm as part of a herd of 100. They are visited during the year and are familiar with the general public and enjoy interacting with them. They are English bred and farm reared – some by hand – making them extremely tame.”