A reindeer event at Carmarthen’s Winter Wonderland has been cancelled after a backlash from animal rights groups.
An activity had been planned at the attraction for Monday afternoon that would have seen Santa meet scores of young children alongside a number of reindeer.
However, the people behind Winter Wonderland have taken the difficult decision to cancel the event after a barrage of complaints from “various groups” that were concerned for the welfare of the animals.
The attraction announced the event’s cancellation, to much disappointment, on Thursday night, with a company spokesman saying: “Due to the backlash received from animal rights groups, and planned disruption, Carmarthen Winter Wonderland has made the decision to cancel the reindeer appearance on Monday, December 23.
“We apologise for any inconvenience or disappointment this may have caused.”
There was hope on Friday that the event may go ahead as planned after all, but William Hunter, managing director at Streamline Leisure, the company that organises Winter Wonderland, ultimately decided against it due to the sheer scale of complaints and threats of protests being carried out at the venue on Monday.
“We’ve decided against it,” said Mr Hunter. “Various groups and various people have been complaining on social media and to us directly - leaving us messages and bad reviews.
“People were threatening to protest on Monday and the last thing we want is for people to bring young children and witness that. It’s not going to help the children or the reindeer. It would not be a very Christmassy environment.
“It’s a shame - the event was free for all, we were not going to make any money out of it and it was costing us a fortune. It was only going to last for a couple of hours.
“Various groups had planned to come down from all over the UK to demonstrate.”
Mr Hunter said the company was inundated with objections as soon as it advertised the event on social media.
One complainant said: “Using reindeer for human entertainment is cruel. Stop exploiting the reindeer. If they had a choice they would not want to be around the noise and alien surroundings.”
Another wrote: “Stop using animals as entertainment. Reindeer don’t belong in this environment - they don’t need music, people around and to be confined just to be exploited.”
Hitting back, Mr Hunter said: “We ourselves care deeply about animal welfare and the local reindeer farm which was to supply us was thoroughly vetted and operates to the highest of standards.
”It’s unfortunate because there will be a lot of disappointed children. We were thinking of putting it back on but in the end we have had to pull it.
“People were intending to come down to protest from all over the country when all we were trying to do was put something on for local people.”
The RSPCA said it understood that seeing reindeer at Christmas can be magical for many people, but expressed their own concern about them being part of family attractions and events.
Dr Ros Clubb, senior scientific manager for the charity, said: “At this special time of year, we understand that seeing a ‘real’ reindeer can add to the magic of the festive season.
“However, reindeer require lots of specialist care, are not easy to look after properly, and are susceptible to stress and a host of health and welfare problems if not kept in the right conditions.
“There are concerns that reindeer, which are semi-wild highly specialised arctic deer, simply do not fare well this far south of their natural range, especially when kept by non-specialists. We ask that people consider the welfare implications of animals involved in festive events, including thinking about what happens to those animals the rest of the year, and perhaps look for events which do not include live animals.”
Carmarthen’s Winter Wonderland will remain open as normal over the festive season and into the New Year. Despite the lack of reindeer at the event, Santa will be at his grotto at the attraction up until Christmas Eve.