AN ANIMAL rights campaigner, who branded meat eaters 'corpse munchers,' has slammed Tapnell Farm Park for including live reindeer in its Christmas display.

After the Isle of Wight attraction announced two reindeer would visit the farm, from December 21 to 23, people raised concerns the animals would find a noisy Christmas event stressful and upsetting.

But a Tapnell spokesperson said the animals, from a small family farm on the mainland, would be well looked after during their stay — their only event this year.

She said the reindeer would only be on show for four and a half hours each day, with a break, and staff would make sure visitors were calm around them.

"We have a limit on the number of people allowed to see the reindeer at any one time, in small groups of 12 children with adults.

"They are not openly on display surrounded by noisy crowds. The rest of the time, the reindeer are kept away from the public and the other animals.

"They are kept in a secure and weatherproof barn and background music is played throughout the day and night, which they like.

"They are fed throughout the day with specially imported lichen moss from Norway, which they enjoy having the children feed to them as a treat.

"The reindeer are accompanied by three handlers in a secure and roomy purpose-built pen. Their handlers are there to answer any questions regarding their welfare and to educate children."

Sandra O'Toole, who runs the Isle of Wight Vegans Facebook page and Pulse vegan restaurant, in Ventnor, has urged people to boycott the event.

Described as a 'militant vegan' by a Facebook critic, she replied: "What's a militant vegan? Someone who is trolled by a corpse muncher in a vegan group?"

Sandra has shared a letter from the animal rights organisation Animal Aid and urged people to send it to Tapnell Farm Park.

It said: "I was shocked to see Tapnell Farm Park is planning to exhibit live reindeer as part of this year’s festive celebrations. As a local resident I absolutely object to this.

"Events such as these will attract a crowd of often noisy, excitable people, which can cause great distress to these sensitive animals.

"They are often subjected to an extensive travel regime, being transported up and down the country to be used as entertainment in pens.

"Behind the scenes they are unable to roam the vast distances they would choose to if in the Arctic tundra, their natural habitat."

Animal Aid said reindeer held in captivity did not always have enough room to graze and some suffered from fur loss, raw exposed skin, malnutrition, nervous and wasting conditions.

Between 2014 and 217, it said 571 reindeer were imported to the UK from countries including Norway, Finland and Sweden.

Wildlife Aid Foundation chief executive Simon Cowell said: "Animals should no longer be used as objects of entertainment. It is cruel and demeaning. Now it is time to stop the barbaric practice of using animals in Christmas events.

"I would appeal to the organisers to put a stop to the proposed event. I would also urge members of the community not to support events such as these and find other, more animal-friendly ways to enjoy the festive period. "

The owner of the mainland farm, where the reindeer live, stressed the importance of animal welfare standards and said the farm was regulated by Defra and South Oxfordshire District Council.

"We are a very small family business that only owns seven reindeer, some of which are very old and do not attend events. All our animals are pets in the family and greatly loved by all of us," she said.

"Most of our animals were neglect cases, including unwanted horses, ponies, giant tortoises, owls, goats and cats. All our animals stay with us for life and receive first class veterinary and day to day care.

"All money generated from our reindeer work goes back into looking after the animals."

The Tapnell spokesperson said: "We are extremely disappointed to hear the news about one particular farm on the mainland which imports reindeer and treats them badly. It is very sad to hear, and we are glad they have been exposed.

"We wouldn’t work with any animal provider that didn’t meet our strict welfare guidelines. Because we have a zoo licence we are much better equipped to receive these animals, unlike other venues.

"We worked with the same farm last year and many of our visitors would testify that they were very well cared for and relaxed.

"They actually enjoy the interaction with small numbers of people, and approached the children for attention.

"We have had a lot of support from the general public about our event."