HAMLEYS sparked fury from wildlife groups and animal lovers yesterday - over plans to have LIVE penguins and reindeer in the toy store as a Christmas stunt.
Shocked animal welfare experts said the world-famous retailer was treating the creatures as "living toys" after it advertised them appearing as an after-school treat for kids.
Hamleys ... outrage at animals plan
And hundreds of animal lovers protested in emails to Hamleys, saying they were appalled at the idea of putting the wildlife into a hot and busy store as children's entertainment. Hamleys, in central London, had advertised the animal shows on their website for next Monday, December 6.
But after the protests, details of the events were quickly removed yesterday. The ads said: "Take a trip to Hamleys after school on Monday to visit our real life Penguin Pool!
"You will be able to see the penguins swim, interact with their friends and be fed at tea time!"
And their reindeer event was billed as: "Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen!
"Have you ever dreamt of meeting Rudolph? Well now's your chance to meet some of his friends!
"Come into the magic of Hamleys after school to pet and feed our REAL beautiful Mummy and Baby Reindeer."
But UK wild animal welfare charity the Born Free Foundation yesterday said it was "shocked" at the plan.
A spokesman said: "The stress of transportation and being surrounded by hordes of people in an unnatural environment is one reason to call this stunt off.
"The totally inappropriate message that penguins and reindeer are little more than 'living toys' is another."
Appalled animal lovers set up a Facebook site in protest at the actions of the toy store.
And another furious poster raged on website Socialholic that the stress on the animals would be "horrendous". They added: "This is disgusting. It teaches children that animals are worthless and putting some through this misery for a laugh is acceptable."
A spokeswoman for the RSPCAsaid last night: "If the animals are cared for as they should be and their needs are met, it's not illegal.
"But clearly extra care has to be taken in making sure animals are kept in a suitable environment and aren't caused unnecessary stress."
A spokeswoman for Hamleys yesterday confirmed the penguin and deer events were taking place - but then declined to comment further.
The Penguin Camera is located on Torgersen Island (64°46’S, 64°04’W), off the coast of Anvers Island and less than a mile from Palmer Station. Torgersen Island is home to a colony of Adélie penguins numbering approximately 2,500. This camera is seasonal and operates primarily from October to February, the Adélie breeding season. The camera is solar-powered and may sometimes experience brief outages due to inclement weather. School classrooms and other educational demonstrations will often take control of the camera, moving it to gain better views of the colony.