Children painted this horse as an activity — is it animal abuse?

Painted pony (Photo: Facebook)
Painted pony (Photo: Facebook)

Facebook users were upset on Monday to see a post on a page for the Sao Paulo, Brazil-based J Serafim Show, detailing an event where children were encouraged to use a white horse as a canvas for painting.

In the disturbing image, the horse’s side, head, face, and legs are all covered in what look like drawings using markers or paint. The image was shared by lawyer and activist Ana Paula Vasconcelos who wrote, “They had the brilliant idea of putting the horse as a painting screen, saying it would be educational activity. They said it was a rescued horse, but that doesn’t justify it. Cruelty is the same.”

She added, according to the post, “It’s a disservice. We try all the time to build an idea of respect for animals. All of a sudden, children are placed in this kind of activity?”

The activity took place at an children’s equestrian camp. Reportedly, painting the horse encourages the child’s interaction with the animal, and focuses on young people dealing with fear or having special needs.

However, according to Joanna Grossman, equine program manager for the Animal Welfare Institute in Washington, D.C., that is not the case: “By encouraging children to paint horses, you could inadvertently be teaching them to view animals as commodities that don’t deserve our respect. Painting with lots of colors is certainly a fun way for kids to express themselves creatively. But it’s an activity that belongs on a canvas — not a horse’s body.”

Translated comments from Portuguese on the post seem to agree. “The animal is not paper or wall to be scribbled. That’s abuse. If you want to scribble or paint use something appropriate,” wrote one.

Another suggested kindness, writing, “Why not just encourage affection? If they were wall doodles, would they be allowed?”

How absurd. Poor animal. You should paint who authorized it,” wrote another.

According to the head of the schools marketing, Muriell Marques, the paints aren’t toxic “and does not harm the horse or the child.”

It’s hard to judge any situation from just one photo, but most horses would likely prefer to graze in a field or be brushed, not treated like a toy for children to draw on. Treating animals disrespectfully seems a bad – and potentially dangerous – lesson for children to learn.

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