22 December 2013

Festive penguin parades raise questions about animal welfare

They're cute and live in the snow (well, some of them do), so penguins seem to be a natural fit for festive decorations and activities. But reports of live penguins being used in Christmas parades has raised animal welfare concerns.  

In Ilford, UK, a Christmas "penguin encounter" that saw Humboldt penguins parade on Ilford's High Road went ahead on 14 December despite protests from animal welfare charity Captive Animals' Protection Society (CAPS), which was concerned the wild birds were being exploited for profit.

CAPS had encouraged people to contact the Ilford Town Centre and ask them to cancel the event.

Liz Tyson, CAPS Director, said, "We are really concerned over the use of animals during Christmas promotions and encourage people to stay away from any such event which exploits live animals.

"The use of animals in this way is controversial and increasingly unpopular.”

Ilford Business Improvement District (BID) published a statement from the (unidentified) penguins' owners on the ilfordvip website that said the penguins, who live in a zoo and are captive-bred from captive-bred parents, "are used to regular human contact and are not stressed in anyway by flash photography or busy crowds. However, security is maintained at all times and members of the public are prevented from touching them."

"... the welfare of the animals is paramount, the client hosting the event is aware that the animal handlers reserve the right to remove from display any bird which shows signs of ill health or distress on the day."

An Ilford BID spokesman told the Ilford Recorder that thorough checks were carried out before the weekend's event and that the public's response was "hugely positive".

Another event in Yongin, South Korea, saw nine African penguins dressed as Santa Claus, Christmas trees and a zookeeper parade through the Everland amusement park to visitors' delight, reported The Daily Mail.

One penguin trainer told NBC it was a way to give people a merry Christmas.

Everland's penguin parade will apparently take place every day until the end of the year.

Christmas reindeer and penguin event organisers forced to amend false claims over animal use, 10 December 2013, Captive Animals' Protection Society
Christmas in Ilford, Ilfordvip.com
Penguin parade in Ilford town centre draws animal welfare concerns as well as crowds by Lizzie Dearden, 16 December 2013, Ilford Recorder
Cute or cruel? Penguins made to dress up as Father Christmas and walk through South Korean amusement park in festive parade by Damien Gayle, 18 December 2013, The Daily Mail
Penguins dressed up as Santa Claus, 18 December 2013, 9News.com

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