Petition against festival camel racing near Stevenage signed by 11,000

PUBLISHED: 18:05 21 June 2018 | UPDATED: 18:05 21 June 2018

Camel racing during the 2009 Camel Cup in Alice Springs, Australia. Picture: Toby Hudson via Wikimedia Commons

Camel racing during the 2009 Camel Cup in Alice Springs, Australia. Picture: Toby Hudson via Wikimedia Commons

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An online petition against camel racing set to be held at a festival near Stevenage next month has gained 11,000 signatures in less than 24 hours.

Todd in the Hole Festival co-founder David Nye, manager Nicola Gates and co-founder Mark Watts. Picture: Todd in the HoleTodd in the Hole Festival co-founder David Nye, manager Nicola Gates and co-founder Mark Watts. Picture: Todd in the Hole

The petition against the camel racing at the new Todd in the Hole Festival, which is to be held at Todds Green on July 21 and 22, has attracted signatures from as far off as Canada, South Africa and Brazil. About 2,500 signatures are from the UK, and it is unclear how many are local.

Samantha Ken-Francis started the petition yesterday after PETA director Elisa Allen wrote to festival co-founder David Nye on Monday, asking him to call off the racing on what she said were moral and safety grounds.

Ms Allen proposed that as Todd in the Hole celebrates English eccentricity, the organisers could drop camel racing and substitute in an unusual English activity “such as barrel racing, toe wrestling or mud racing”.

PETA director Elisa Allen. Picture: PETAPETA director Elisa Allen. Picture: PETA

Cambridgeshire-based animal rights activist Ms Ken-Francis, who used to live in Hitchin and Stevenage, told the Comet she started the petition as she was “of course disgusted that camels were going to be exploited in this fashion”.

She said: “Using animals for entertainment is unnecessary in this day and age and doing so sends us back to the dark ages. We can find much less harmful ways to amuse ourselves these days.”

Regarding the global spread of the signatures, she said: “Animal rights is a global issue and we can’t afford to be parochial about it.”

Mr Nye has billed Todd in the Hole as a “feel-good throwback” for all ages, and this week moved to rebut Ms Allen’s concerns.

He said: “We take every step possible to go above and beyond when it comes to the safety of our guests. The camels will be provided by Joseph’s Amazing Camels, a specialist company with no complaints to their name.

“They do more than 80 events a year and hold the required licences.

“Unlike horses, camels are not a flight animal and are not scared of loud noises. Their lorry is more than adequate to transport the camels – 40 feet by 13 feet by eight feet, and 15 metres by 15 metres.

“They have previously worked with Sir David Attenborough and Disney, and take animal welfare very seriously.”

The Comet has accompanied its online coverage this week with an online poll asking readers if the Todd in the Hole camel racing should go ahead.

Out of 329 voters as of Thursday evening, 84 per cent said it should not as it was “cruel to the camels”, while 13 per cent backed the racing. Three per cent of voters said they didn’t know.

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