Stop using animals for entertainment and stop spending council money on cruelty.
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In December 2016, South Tyneside Council went ahead with using camels in the Winter Wonderland parade. The camels are 'owned' by a company called Joseph's Amazing Camels - among other things this company does is hire camels out for camel racing and organises pig racing.
The camels travel over 4 hours and 230 miles from their base in Idlicote, Warwickshire in the back of a truck for the sake of a 15 minute walk along a tarmacked road in the north east of England. Then immediately after they travel back. These animals have endured a minimum of 8 hours in the back of a truck to take part in this shameful spectacle. The camels are ridden along the route and are 'dressed up' in LED lights. Directly next to the camels is a band called Spark! - they are a drumming and special effects band with flashing lights and extremely loud drumming. The noise next to these poor animals is horrendous. The camels are directed by harness and lead along the route so have no option but to go where they are directed. On one occasion at the end of the route a camel is startled by flashing lights of a service vehicle and pulled round the corner to continue to where it was loaded with the others.
Their natural habitat is remote desert areas, and their large padded feet are designed to walk on soft sandy soil and their locomotion adapted to an arid environment of flat open terrain.
A group of local animal welfare campaigners of which I am a group campaigned throughout 2016. This took the shape of a petition which raised 1200 names which was presented to the council, attending a meeting which was supposed to be a review of the use of animals in the parade, but was actually a rubber stamping for the rebooking of them, we also had a meeting with council officers, interviews in the press and a large silent protest on the night (where the owner of the camels decided to abuse the protesters who did not rise to him). I also raised a freedom of information request, the council breached the regulations and only released the information requested at the exact time the protest was taking place. One of the key pieces of information was the cost of this parade which was £28,000 at a time when local services are cut to the bone or being withdrawn. They also appear to have grossly over estimated on the actual evening - we estimated attendees to be in the high hundreds but they used figures of 8000+.
Our local MP, Emma Lewell Buck, was very supportive of our campaign
The three councillors for the ward in which this takes place have been contacted requesting a meeting, however, a reply received from one of them says that he does not see the point as council policy on the use of animals is clear and they will rebook the camels. A similar request for a meeting of council officers was initially declined "unless we have new information". We have now managed to secure a meeting with the councillors and council officers plus representatives of concerned constituents.
On the 6 March I raised a further FOI request which again the council have breached by not responding within the required time so yet again I have had to contact the ICO.
I have also contacted one of the likely acts in the event to ask them not to support the use of camels and once I have any other acts or sponsors confirmed I will also contact them.
We have also contacted our local paper which is the Shields Gazette who ran an article wittily (!) entitled 'protesters get the hump'. We are hoping they may be interested in doing a further article this year from the angle of the amount of money it costs to put on at a time of severe local austerity.
If they decide to include animals again we will be doing a silent protest on the night but also a series of noisy protests in the lead up to it.
Animal Defenders International have already pledged their support as has Peter Egan (actor from Downton Abbey and renowned animal welfare activist) and a number of other animal welfare groups.
Please share this new petition far and wide, if you are local would you please show the town in which you are based so we can prove that local people as well as the national and international community care.
Thank you so much for signing this petition against animal abuse - let's get this stopped once and for all!
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