Yorkshire vets Peter Wright and Julian Norton are involved in festive TV specials to support the work of UK animal welfare charities. Gemma Dunn reports.
Their animal patients might not include four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree but Yorkshire vets Peter Wright and Julian Norton are paying homage to the classic carol in a Christmas special that forms part of a week of programming capturing the essence of the season for giving.
Back for a second consecutive run, Channel 5’s Help The Animals appeal last year raised more than £800,000 towards funding and awareness of UK animal welfare charities, including the vital work carried out by the RSPCA, Scottish SPCA, Blue Cross, The Donkey Sanctuary and Wildlife Aid Foundation.
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And this year the broadcaster hopes to do the same with a special programming line-up supported and hosted by famous faces. From tales of rescuing to rehoming, each episode will be dedicated to one of five charities involved, in a bid to underline the amazing work they do every day, as well as highlight the threats facing animals in the UK today.
On the schedule are festive spin offs of The Yorkshire Vet. The first, The Yorkshire Vet: 12 Days of Christmas, sees Wright and Norton caring for all creatures great and small during the festive season.
“We have gone a little bit off-piste and rather than it being a standard Yorkshire Vet episode with a Christmas twist, this year is all based around the song, The 12 Days of Christmas,” says Norton.
“We have not necessarily got four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves and one partridge, but we have tried our best to get those numbers with similar animals.”
“We do have nine feisty ferrets, and we have got seven sheep scanning for pregnancy so that is a nice one,” adds the star, who started on The Yorkshire Vet back in 2015 and has since made nearly 100 episodes. “Their lambs are hopefully due just after Christmas.”
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“I was fortunate enough to film with a couple of reindeer, one of which needed veterinary attention,” Wright joins in. “They are not quite the docile creatures that you have on Christmas cards - antlers are there for a reason!” he warns.
In another special, The Yorkshire Vet’s Donkey Day Out, Wright takes long-time friends and clients, Steve and Jean Green, on an adventure like never before. “It is almost unbelievable to a lot of our viewers, that we have got a couple here who have never been out of Yorkshire,” he says.
“It was quite an eye-opener and a great deal of fun taking the Greens to London and we also went to an inner-city farm where they had donkeys which were from The Donkey Sanctuary [for which Wright is an ambassador]. After we’d seen the sights of London, we got on the train and went to The Donkey Sanctuary down in Devon - they loved that.”
Tourist sites aside, it’s all about the initiative, say the pair. “All of the charities do a fantastic job in their own way. Each has a role to play and it is fantastic that these organisations are there,” concludes Wright. “Our animal population would be in a very sorry state without them.”
“Particularly at this time of year, it’s nice to be pushing [animals] to the forefront at a time when people’s thoughts are perhaps elsewhere,” Norton says. “The charities that are involved are really worthwhile causes so it is nice to highlight more than one.”
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A ‘dogumentary’ by the name of Meet The Paw-rents: Celebs and Their Dogs is also on the Channel 5 line-up, with Louie Spence, Danniella Westbrook and Caprice Bourret among those to be filmed by their pooches using canine cameras.
Help The Animals will air between Monday, December 2 and Friday, December 6, with The Yorkshire Vet specials on screen on Tuesday and Wednesday at 8pm. For more details, visit www.channel5.com/helptheanimals