REINDEER which featured in a parade at Knutsford’s Christmas Market Weekend were closely monitored for any concerns or signs of distress.

The assurance comes from Knutsford Town Council in response to an increase in complaints from residents over the use of live reindeer in the event.

The Christmas Market Weekend draws thousands of people, with one of the highlights the reindeer parade and Christmas lights switch-on in Canute Place.

In a report to the council’s events and town centre management committee, deputy town clerk Lisa Benskin said: “The number of complaints with respect to use of live reindeer on animal safety grounds from residents increased in 2018.

“[This was] perhaps due to the recent prevalence of conditions at some reindeer sites (Kent, Staffordshire and Cheshire) following investigations by Animal Aid.

“As a result of the Animal Aid investigations 13 organisations have already cancelled reindeer events last year.”

The Knutsford reindeer are provided by Cheshire Reindeer, which was asked by the council to respond to concerns raised by Animal Aid.

The company said: “We take great pride in the care of our reindeer and the surroundings in which they live to ensure their best health and quality of life.

“Our reindeer originate from domesticated and semi-domesticated herds, having had human interaction as part of their life for many generations, providing care and protection for them.

“We live on site with our reindeer in Welsh border countryside, with 50 acres of hills, lakes fresh water streams, grazing paddocks and woodland.

“Our reindeer are very tame and at ease at public events and in their transport. They enjoy an amazing life in an environment they are very comfortable with and are thriving in.”

The company said the herd was registered with Animal Health, and it was compliant with all DEFRA regulations.

Lisa’s report added: “Town council staff monitored reindeer conditions closely during the event, and no concerns or distress was evident during the parade.

“They appeared withdrawn when in the pen in Canute Square, and did not wish to interact with the public, and moved away from the edges of the pen to the middle to avoid this.

“A member of staff was advised on the day that it was their second parade of the day.”

The cost of the reindeer hire for the event is £2,250, and the report said if the committee decided not to continue with live reindeer as part of the Christmas events the parade could be renamed a Santa Parade, with alternative transport provided for Santa.