Animal rights group, PETA has urged Leeds Castle to abandon plans for what it calls unacceptable use of reindeer at Christmas events.
In a letter to the castle’s management the activist group says keeping live animals for festive entertainment stops them from engaging in natural behaviour and is damaging to their health.
Despite this, the popular tourist attraction has defended its choice and will continue with Christmas events as planned.
The animal activists’ opposition comes ahead of the start of a Meet the reindeer event which opens tomorrow and runs on selected dates throughout December at the castle.
Yesterday The Mall in Maidstone removed a plastic mounted reindeer head from Santa's grotto following a complaint from a parent.
Luke Steele, PETA campaigns strategist said: “Using live animals in these sorts of events sends a damaging message to young people animals are little more than living props,
“There are many other ways that the people of Kent could celebrate the holidays that would be far more in keeping with the Christmas spirit than treating scared animals like decorations.”
Campaigners say reindeer are often hired out by people who do not know how to properly look after them and poor diet, and the stress of being out of their natural habitat puts them at risk.
The letter also cites research published in a British Veterinary Association journal suggesting captivity can expose them to disease.
Shane Guy, head of tourism at Leeds Castle, has defended the plan to have the iconic creatures at the site.
He said: “The reindeer are provided to Leeds Castle by The Reindeer Centre in Bethersden and are part of a 100-strong herd owned by the centre for over 15 years.
“The centre is open all year round and the reindeers are used to seeing and interacting with the public and are not disturbed by loud noises or events.
“They are monitored daily throughout the day by an experienced Leeds Castle team, whose job it is, above all else, to care for their welfare.”
This latest protest may be part of a growing trend against the use of wildlife as part of seasonal festivities.
Earlier this week, the University of Hertfordshire student’s union scrapped plans to feature a reindeer after a petition organised by the UH Animal Activism Society.