Chinese merry-go-round with live ponies sparks online accusations of cruelty

  • Attraction suspended after video goes viral online
  • Operator says the animals were treated well and not abused
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 November, 2018, 2:47pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 November, 2018, 8:27pm

A merry-go-round using real ponies at a shopping centre in southwest China has caused an online uproar over animal cruelty.

An online video clip of four ponies, heads secured to steel bars while circling a central pole with children on their backs, went viral on Monday, drawing sharp criticism from most commenters.

The shopping centre in Chengdu, Sichuan province, responded by suspending the ride.

One woman, who paid for her child to ride one of the ponies, told Beijing Youth Daily that it was convenient for children to get close to horses and much cheaper than going to a stable.

But to many internet users it was pure cruelty for horses to be forced to walk on a motorised treadmill circling a small area for four hours.

“It’s very cruel. How would you feel if you were attached to a running mill every day?” one said.

“Horses need exercise, but limiting them to such a small area and forcing them to circle around is not exercise. They are simply using horses for profit,” said another.

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The founder of Chengdu Shangma International and owner of the ponies, who was identified only by his family name of Xue, denied abuse and said it was the same as walking the animals.

The merry-go-round started operating on September 15, at a charge of up to 50 yuan (US$7.20) for 3½ minutes.

According to Xue, the ponies were replaced every hour, with each animal working two to three hours per day.

“These horses were professionally trained and very tame. The machine leads the horses to walk and it’s not abuse as some internet users have called it,” he said.

“We also created a lawn nearby for the horses to rest.”

One of the operators of the attraction, identified by his family name of Wang, said there was no abuse of the animals at all.

“They were not constantly walking. They were given a break every two hours,” Wang told TheBeijing News.

“It’s a public place and not the plains. If we don’t attach them to the bar they might bite people,” he said.

Xue said the ponies and staff would spend two or three days training during the suspension of the attraction while the site was inspected for safety.

Bai Xu, director in charge of animal safety and welfare with the China Horse Industry Association, said there was no industry standard to regulate a merry-go-round using real ponies, but the key was for staff to control the time and intensity of the animals’ activity.

Riders must also be wearing protective gear to prevent the animals stamping on them, he said.