More than 1,900 people have signed a petition calling on Harrogate council to cancel plans to bring live reindeer to the town’s Christmas Market.
The petition was started by Harrogate Animals People Planet Initiative (HAPPI) after arguing that the reindeer used since 2012 were not in a suitable environment.
However, Brian Dunsby who co-organises the market’s team assured residents that the animals were well looked after and they had ‘no concerns’ over their use.
Katie Shabriere, founder of HAPPI, has called on Harrogate Borough Council to cancel the attraction on grounds of ‘humanity’ and argued the reindeer do not provide an ‘educational purpose’.
She said: “I saw the reindeer in 2013 and 2014 and I wrote to the council expressing my feelings but this year we decided to take it a bit further and wanted to see what other people thought.
“I believe that animals, wild or semi-wild are not there for our amusement and to use as we see fit. It’s not a suitable environment they are kept in at the market.
“We are not killjoys and we don’t want to cancel Christmas but we feel there are more educational and worthwhile possible attractions rather than just staring at reindeer.”
Hundreds of comments have already been left on the petition by people voicing their concerns about the use of reindeer. Harrogate resident Charlotte Mawson said she saw them last year and said they looked ‘unhappy and a bit distressed’.
However, Becky Burniston, owner of the company that supplies the reindeer to the market argued they were not overworked at the event.
She said: “We give them enough room to move about and when they come home they go into a larger area. At no point are any left on site.
“We have a large herd so we give them the rest they deserve, we only ever do one or two sleigh pulls so they don’t work too hard. We’ve had many visits from the RSPCA and we follow all their rules and regulations.
“All the time we are thinking about our animals despite what’s being said online.
“If we feel our animals are suffering we won’t do it but until that point we feel there is no need to give up because it’s not to some people’s taste.”
Mr Dunsby said the petition would not change his mind on the use of reindeer and said they would have extra weather protection for the animals this year.
“These are not wild reindeer, we have no concerns at all. These are bred and reared for the purpose of providing children entertainment at Christmas and to show how they are cared for.
“It’s a pity people seem to take issue with the matter. We support what Becky is doing because the reindeer are well looked after.
“The animals are quite relaxed, they are happy moving around the enclosure and they are a part of Christmas.
“The council are well aware of what’s being done and the RSPCA have looked into it so there are no reasons for concern.”
Mr Dunsby also revealed that the market has raised £50,000 for the Harrogate tourism sector in its first three years.