AN ANIMAL campaign group supporter has visited reindeer at a garden centre to check on their well-being.

Hearts Delight Garden Centre in Long Road, Lawford defended the Capralama farm in Kent where they hire reindeer from each year to star alongside Santa in the run-up to Christmas.

It came after undercover footage was released of reindeer being kicked at the farm, taken by animal rights campaign group Animal Aid.

The farm said the employee was sacked shortly after being taken on and Hearts Delight owner Keith Simons said he visits regularly to check on the reindeer in Kent and is very happy with their care.

He added: “A lady supporting Animal Aid came to see us on Sunday.

“She wanted to see me but I was with paying children at the time.

“She saw the other owner, Mandy Simons, and the centre manager.

“They showed her the reindeer through a window in the barn and she said she was happy with how they are being looked after.”

Keith said the garden centre has the reindeer for six weeks so they aren’t transported back and forth each weekend and he looks after them personally during their stay.

He added: “These are the best ones we have ever had.

“We had our parade on Sunday and it was a nice event.

“We walked them around the centre on Tuesday morning and in the wet, cold weather they like on that day they, like any animal, want to be in the warm and dry of a barn.

“These reindeer are very inquisitive and they like to say hello.

“I have no doubt their welfare is fine.

“We are only showing them on weekends at the moment, it gives them and us a gentle introduction to it and then momentum grows.

“But you can see them through the windows.”

Kath Leighton, a supporter of Animal Aid, sent an email to the garden centre after her visit raising concerns about the event.

She said: “I am extremely concerned that you are still advertising the live reindeer after the recent reports of abuse at the hands of the company you hire them from.

“After visiting previously I do realise that they are properly cared for while they are at Hearts Delight, but I have seen the reports and photographs of the abuse and cannot believe that you could support such a company or have a clear conscience in doing so.

“I am not the only person who has extreme concerns about this - there are many more like me who put animal welfare before profit.”

Speaking to the Standard, she added: “Yes they are being cared for by Hearts Delight, but what they are doing parading them around is wrong.”