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Campaigners slam 'disturbing' pony painting parties

The parties see children use chalk-based paints to draw on and colour-in ponies.

A petition has been launched to stop pony painting parties.
A petition has been launched to stop pony painting parties. My Happy Equine

Forget the bouncy castle, party entertainer or trip to the swimming pool, pony painting is fast becoming the latest craze for children's parties, but there are a lot of people who are not happy about this.

The parties see children use chalk-based paints to draw on and colour-in ponies, using the animals as a blank canvas for their imaginative designs.

However, many activists are not happy about the position the painting parties put the ponies in, arguing that they make children treat the animals like their play things.

Pony painting parties are growing in popularity.
Pony painting parties are growing in popularity. My Happy Equine

An online petition to ban the parties described them as a "disturbing trend", adding that "allowing children to treat animals as play things risks teaching a bullying, self-entitled mentality with a severe lack of empathy", which "could develop a mental attitude towards animals that makes future interactions problematic".

Sophie Tomlinson who launched the petition added that the parties also put the children participating "at physical risk of serious injury or even death" if a horse became annoyed and kicked one of them.

Another campaigner wrote on Facebook that the parties teach children to "objectify and use", adding that they are "shameful, disrespectful and unjust to use a fellow animal's body like a chalkboard as a money-spinner, for therapy, or any other reason when we have viable alternatives".

Elisa Allen, Director of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) UK, added that it was "wrong" for children to paint ponies if they themselves would not like to be "forced to stand still while someone painted and drew all over their bodies", and that children should "treat others as they would wish to be treated".

"Allowing kids to treat animals like colouring books is a lesson in insensitivity to which no thoughtful parents would expose their children.

"Ponies and horses aren't party props - they're intelligent, complex animals who should be appreciated for their natural beauty...

"Animal exploitation has no place at a children's party, and PETA urges parents to opt instead for cruelty-free activities - like finger painting or face painting."

Painting horses is similar to grooming them, the owner of My Happy Equine said.
Painting horses is similar to grooming them, the owner of My Happy Equine said. My Happy Equine

However, Helen Preece, the owner of My Happy Equine, a company that offers the painting parties and sells paints, said that the horses do not even realise that they are being painted, since the colours are applied with brushes, making the horse feel like they are being groomed.

Ms Preece continued that the paints she supplies are 100% vegan, non-toxic and British Dressage accredited, and can be easily washed off.

She continued that painting a horse was no different to farmers painting numbers on their sheep.

She added that she wished campaigners would instead "put all their energy into actual cruelty and neglect cases, rather than pony painting".

The paints are British Dressage accredited and used by the children's teams.
The paints are British Dressage accredited and used by the children's teams. My Happy Equine

Many others were supportive of the parties and argued that there is no issue with putting coloured paints on a horse.

"Surely there are a lot more real problems to put time and money into eg. education,the NHS, abuse - get real and stop being pathetic," Elaine Taylor wrote on Facebook.

Some have likened pony painting to painting children's faces.
Some have likened pony painting to painting children's faces. My Happy Equine

Lucy-Anne Petto added that aside from being a party idea, pony painting can have health benefits: "We run an equine therapy center.

"The paints and chalks are vital for our clients who feel unable to express themselves through words to express the thoughts and feelings using the paints, they are not harmful to the horses!"

While Zoe Keele likened pony painting to another party favourite: face-painting.

"There is no problem with face paint so why is there a problem with pony chalk?" She asked.

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