New festival organisers near Stevenage hit back at camel racing concerns

PUBLISHED: 12:00 19 June 2018 | UPDATED: 12:16 19 June 2018

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

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

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The co-founder of a new festival celebrating English summer fun between Stevenage and Hitchin has defended the inclusion of camel races in its programme.

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

The Todd in the Hole music festival, which will be held at Todds Green over the weekend of July 21 and 22, has been billed by co-founder David Nye as a “feel-good throwback” for all ages.

He has moved to rebut concerns raised by animal rights activist group PETA, whose director Elisa Allen on Monday claimed moral and safety grounds while urging him not to hold camel races.

Mr Nye 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.”

In her letter to Mr Nye, Ms Allen said camels run fast only when in danger and are “easily spooked by loud or unexpected noises, so they can be skittish and unpredictable”.

She said involving them in loud public events “presents a potentially hazardous situation for bystanders”, adding “the liability risk associated with using live animals is very real”.

She 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”.

Ms Allen said: “Camels deserve our respect, not to be used as wind-up toys for our amusement.

“Removing these races from the Todd in the Hole Festival would do nothing to diminish the community’s enjoyment of the event – for these sensitive animals, though, it would make a world of difference.”

In February, campaigners for and against greyhound racing faced off outside Henlow’s track.

A poll attached to the Comet’s online story attracted almost 4,000 votes – 57 per cent of whom said greyhound racing was “inherently cruel” and should be banned. The other option, “greyhounds love to run”, got 43 per cent of votes.

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