Sharrow Vale Market: Backlash over donkey rides at Sheffield fayre - but owner says he knows what he's doing

"These donkeys are better looked after than some individuals. They see the dentists twice a year."
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News that a Sheffield market fayre will have donkey rides this weekend has been met with backlash - but their owner says that's "just an opinion".

Sharrow Vale Market returns this Sunday, November 26 with live entertainment, Santa's grotto, and over 100 independent stalls selling food, drink and gift ideas.

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However, this weekend's attractions also include, for the first time, live donkey rides for children.

An announcement that donkey rides will be on offer at Sharrow Vale Market has been met with backlash - but the donkeys' owner says he has been doing this for 26 years.An announcement that donkey rides will be on offer at Sharrow Vale Market has been met with backlash - but the donkeys' owner says he has been doing this for 26 years.
An announcement that donkey rides will be on offer at Sharrow Vale Market has been met with backlash - but the donkeys' owner says he has been doing this for 26 years.

A Facebook post announcing the activity received more than 60 comments decrying the use of live animals as entertainment, with some writing they will not come down on the day as a result.

Chief among them was resident Lucy Sutton, who contacted councillors about the event and says she is considering a "peaceful protest" if the attraction goes ahead.

She told The Star: "Do we really need donkey rides in this day and age?

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"Sharrow Vale Market is great, but it's very busy and I don't think it's the greatest place to be taking donkeys.

"I would rather instead they educate children on why we shouldn't have donkey rides or use animals in live entertainment.

"It's as much about the animals' welfare as it is the rides, and I'm really encouraged there have been so many people opposed to it.

"I will be going down to see if there are donkeys and peacefully seeing if anyone else will come with me."

Mark Ineson, owner of hire business Real Donkeys, said: "I love these donkeys like they were my kids. They are happy, chubby and chill."Mark Ineson, owner of hire business Real Donkeys, said: "I love these donkeys like they were my kids. They are happy, chubby and chill."
Mark Ineson, owner of hire business Real Donkeys, said: "I love these donkeys like they were my kids. They are happy, chubby and chill."
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But the owner of the donkeys booked for Sharrow Vale Market this weekend has dismissed the criticisms.

Mark Ineson has been running the Real Donkeys hire company for 28 years.

"Everyone can have an opinion but please don't talk about things you don't know like you do know," he told The Star.

"Those donkeys get better treatment than some individuals do - they see the dentists twice a year, they see the doctors... I love them.

Mark Ineson says his donkey rides run by the rules of no one over eight stone, no one over the age of 14, and rides will not be allowed if the operators "feel it won't be good for the donkeys".Mark Ineson says his donkey rides run by the rules of no one over eight stone, no one over the age of 14, and rides will not be allowed if the operators "feel it won't be good for the donkeys".
Mark Ineson says his donkey rides run by the rules of no one over eight stone, no one over the age of 14, and rides will not be allowed if the operators "feel it won't be good for the donkeys".
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"The donkeys are not a means to an end - I treat my donkeys as if they were my kids.

"We get invited back year after year and that's because of the way we do things.

"What people need to know is we're a well-established company with 28 years experience and fully licensed.

"We will be located at the quieter end of the market. They will be having breaks, have food and water, and we go by the rules - that is, no one over eight stone and no one over the age of 14. And, even then, we use our discretion and will refuse a ride if we don't think it will be good for the donkeys.

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"My donkeys don't get spooked at all. They are relaxed - practically horizontal. Just happy and chubby and chill."

The nationally famous Donkey Sanctuary, in Devon, says on its website it "does not endorse or encourage the use of donkeys in any form of entertainment," but when they are used for riding, "in these circumstances, it is important that the welfare of any animals used is considered and protected at all times."

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