Council bans use of animals for entertainment at its events
Rory Sheehan, local democracy reporter
Flintshire Council is ending the use of live animals for entertainment at its events across the county.
A ban on the practice will mean reindeers and donkeys will no longer be used at council organised events such as Christmas light switch-ons, and includes the use of birds, dogs, reptiles and invertebrates such as spiders, scorpions, crustations, or molluscs.
Exceptions will be made for the use of animals for education purposes at schools, and the likes of dog agility events – so long as mitigations are taken to ensure their welfare.
The motion was introduced at a full meeting of Flintshire Council by Buckley Bistre West Cllr Dan Rose (Lab), seconded by fellow ward member Cllr Carolyn Preece (Lab).
Despite the pledge, there may be certain events organised by outside parties that may not in principle be supported by the council, but the authority may still be required by law to grant a licence if all relevant conditions are met.
Introducing the motion, Cllr Rose said: “Animal welfare is an issue I know is close to the heart of all of us across the chamber.
“We’ve long since moved on from cock fights, bullrings and dancing bears in chains but in our communities today there are still animals suffering for entertainment needlessly.
“Today we can put an end to that and keep Rudolph safe this Christmas.
“Reindeers are the animals perhaps least able to cope with being confined in an unnatural environment, like a street with loud noises and bright lights.”
He added: “Whatever arguments are made about how happy a reindeer is at any particular event in our county, whatever measures are put in place – the expert advice is that this is not healthy, not safe and fundamentally cruel.
Cllr Rose mentioned the argument put forward some councillors prior to the meeting that ‘children love seeing’ the reindeers at Christmas.
He added: “No child would choose to put an animal in a stressful situation for entertainment purposes.
“In turn it’s our job to nurture children’s compassion and understanding of the natural world, and that means keeping animals in their natural habitat.”
Mold East Cllr Chris Bithell (Lab) told the meeting that since Cllr Rose proposed the ban, he has asked council officers to broaden its remit to include animals being given away as prizes at events in Flintshire, such as goldfishes at summer fete’s.
But Buckley Pentrobin Cllr Mike Peers (Ind) said he felt an outright ban could lead to children missing out on a key part of their development and a Christmas tradition.
He said: “Recently we had the switch-on of the Christmas lights in Buckley and we had a reindeer leading the procession which seemed to be well cared for and the children were all excited to see that.
“Certainly if we did take it away from the children I think that’s a very retrograde step, particularly at Christmas.
“Christmas would perhaps be pretty much cancelled if we didn’t have the reindeers, and perhaps the donkey that went to Bethlehem, so on the one side we have animal welfare but we also need to look at the other side where it provides interest for children at this time of the year.”
Buckley Bistre East Cllr Richard Jones (Ind), who supports a donkey sanctuary in Sidmouth, said he backed the sentiment behind the motion but pointed to the fact the sanctuary there is open for people and children to visit. He said it can enable children who do not have pets to gain understanding and interact.
He said: “It can create that bond between children and animals, that empathy and compassion.”
Gwernaffield and Gwernymynydd Cllr David Coggins Cogan (Lib Dem) supported the motion. He said: “When you have a reindeer on its own – their instinct is to be in herds.
“Although the animal will be trained to be calm it will not be in its natural way of being.
“Whenever we train an animal to suppress its own fear, anxiety, distress, fear and suffering for the purposes of our desire to go and look and coo at it, is utterly disgraceful so I think Cllr Rose for bringing this to our attention.
“I didn’t realise we still did this in Flintshire. I never saw a donkey or a reindeer growing up but I still love animals. I don’t think it’s an essential part of being a human being nice to animals and having compassion for them.”
Members voted to back the motion. Under the ban, the use of animals at events will be permitted if:
- Animals are being displayed for educational purposes or for purposes which are consistent with their natural habitat and activities;
- The relevant non profit organisation providing the animal(s) holds a certificate issued in accordance with the Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (Wales) Regulations 2021;
- Any appropriate mitigating measures as required by relevant officers of the Council are put in place to ensure the welfare of the animal(s) concerned and to ensure that they are not put at risk by partaking in the event.
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