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Penguin parade in Ilford town centre draws animal welfare concerns as well as crowds

PUBLISHED: 11:03 16 December 2013 | UPDATED: 19:10 20 December 2013

Hundreds of shoppers gathered in Ilford town centre on Saturday to see the unusual spectacle of penguins waddling around the High Road.

But the event has drawn criticism from animal welfare campaigners, who called the use of captive birds “exploitative”.

The Humbolt penguins were seen playing in a pool, parading and being fed in the display.

It was part of a programme of festive events run by the Ilford Business Improvement District (BID).

The Captive Animals’ Protection Society called for a boycott on the day.

Director Liz Tyson said: “We are really concerned over the use of animals during Christmas promotions and encourage people to stay away from any such event which exploits live animals.

“We are further concerned to see a company which chooses to use animals in this way demonstrating such a lack of understanding of the most basic welfare requirements.”

A spokesman for Ilford BID said thorough checks were undertaken before the event.

He added: “We have had a hugely positive response to the weekend’s event from customers which included regular snowfalls, Christmas music and a lights show.”

A statement from the animal suppliers published on the Ilford BID website said the Humbolt penguins used were bred in captivity and their welfare is “paramount”.

It continued: “The penguins are used to regular human contact and are not stressed in any way by flash photography or busy crowds.

“However, security is maintained at all times and members of the public are prevented from touching them.”

The statement said the penguins live in a zoo when not travelling and Humbolts naturally live in warm climates.

What do you think about the penguins – should they have been brought to Ilford? Comment below or email lizzie.dearden@archant.co.uk.

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