ORGANISERS of Bridport Christmas Cheer have hit back at campaigners over the welfare of reindeer that will feature at next week’s event.

A campaigner from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), wrote to organisers, appealing for live reindeer not to be used at Wednesday’s event as “holiday props”.

In the letter, PETA senior campaign coordinator, Kirsty Henderson, said it risked children growing viewing all animals as entertainment.

She said: “A busy attraction such as a Bridport’s Christmas Cheer event, filled with visitors and excited children, is an entirely unsuitable environment for reindeer or any other animals.

“The whole phenomenon of taking reindeer out on the road, putting them in pens and treating them as if they were just Christmas decorations is unacceptable, and we should not be encouraging such an unethical and abusive trend.

“We don’t want our kids to grow up thinking that live animals exist merely for our entertainment.”

Organiser and town surveyor Daryl Chambers, has responded to the letter and insisted he has no concerns.

He said: “We always ask a series of questions about the welfare of the reindeer.

“They have provided all the information asked for - they were raised in captivity in Somerset. We have used them for a few years and they are a big part of the event.”

He added: “The reindeer are never pulling the sleigh along, it is on wheels and actually pulled by four people.

“As a committee, we decided we would use them again.

“ If I thought this was going to cause any distress to the animals, we would not use them.

“Christmas Cheer is a very popular event and we do it as a photo opportunity for children rather than anything else.”

The organising committee has also hit back at the claims by PETA.

In a statement, the committee said: “The Bridport Christmas Cheer Committee has researched the environment these animals experience, and is very comfortable with the way they are reared and looked after.

"If PETA conducted the same research, or maybe attended the event, we are sure they would agree that the keepers of the reindeer are very responsible, intelligent, animal-loving people who make sure the animals are protected from any harm or fear at all times.

“The Cheer committee disagrees that children who are given the opportunity to meet ‘real’ animals will thereafter treat them badly - on the contrary, we believe they will grow respect and love for them.”

Mr Chambers is pleased with the preparations for this year’s event, which will take place from 4-8pm on Wednesday at Bucky Doo Square and around the town and promises lots of entertainment.

He added: “It will be bigger and better than ever. We have all sorts of new attractions this year, including a cider wagon outside The Bull and more live music.”