A GARDEN centre owner has reassured customers his visiting reindeer are well cared for after shocking footage was released of animals being kicked at a Kent based farm.

Hearts Delight Garden Centre in Lawford has had live reindeer on show over the Christmas period for the past 11 years.

The animals come from the Capralama Farm in Kent.

This week footage was release by Animal Aid, one of the UK’s largest animal rights organisations, taken from hidden cameras at reindeer farms across the UK.

Campaign manager Tor Bailey said she is going to write to Hearts Delight to “draw their attention to the recent investigation” and to highlight the issues more generally around having reindeer on show.

Speaking about the Capralama Farm, she said: “Animal Aid are horrified at what our hidden cameras detected.

“One worker was seen kicking reindeer on two separate occasions, slamming a gate on one animal and shouting abuse at these gentle creatures.

“We see another member of staff look on during one kicking incident and he does nothing to intervene.

“This treatment is simply not acceptable.

Harwich and Manningtree Standard:

  • Animal Aid hidden film footage showing a worker kicking a reindeer calf at Capralama Farm in Kent, known as Kent Reindeer Centre.

A spokesman for the farm said: “Firstly, I would like to say that all of our animals are much loved and well cared for as can be seen by our many visitors throughout the year.

“The person involved was one of several new part time staff that we took on to help out. He was dismissed as unsuitable after a short period of time. These matters were discussed in full with the RSPCA and our vet back in the summer.

“We understand people’s concerns and distress and I can only confirm we as a family care passionately about our animals.”

Harwich and Manningtree Standard:

  • Reindeer on parade at Hearts Delight in Lawford. The owner says the reindeer are well cared for during their stay and happy.

Keith Simons, owner of Hearts Delight, defended the farm and assured customers the reindeer, which will return this year, are well cared for.

He said: “I look after the reindeer personally when they are here. They are alert and come out to see things, they are always happy.

“Even when we parade them I make it clear it is subject to weather and reindeer welfare - if they aren’t up for it, we don’t do it.

“We go up regularly to see them at the farm and we are quite happy our reindeer are coming from a reputable centre and are well cared for.”

He added: “We can all suffer from a rogue employee at some point. I stand by them and I am confident in the care of the animals.”

A spokesman for the RSPCA said they are looking into the footage.

She said: “We are really concerned that every year, reindeer are used across the country at festive events and this can cause these semi-wild animals a great deal of stress.”