ACRES raises concerns over ponies at Geylang Serai Ramadan bazaar
Exhibitor Gallop Stables says the activities are meant to promote the sport and provide interaction with animals, among other things.
SINGAPORE — The Geylang Serai Ramadan bazaar returned with over 700 stalls this year, and while most people look forward to the food, this year's bazaar is generating quite a buzz over the inclusion of ponies.
Gallop Stable, said to be Singapore's largest riding centre, has opened up an area offering several activities for children, including pony rides, photo sessions and feeding sessions with the animals.
The site will remain open until 21 April, and has already garnered much attention on social media, with reactions to the ponies being mixed. While some found the ponies to be interesting, others, including the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES), had their concerns.
Yahoo News Singapore visited the space at Geylang Serai on Thursday (23 March), where six ponies were housed in an area, and witnessed some children enjoying the rides on them.
Trainers and handlers were supervising ponies resting in pen, while some were involved in other horse-related activities for children, include pony feeding and a pony photoshoot.
The founder of Gallop Stable, who gave his name only as Jackuda, told Yahoo News Singapore that they set up this space at the bazaar for a number of reasons, including promoting the sport, providing interaction with animals, and providing joy to those suffering from mental health issues.
Meanwhile, he also mentioned that they wanted to give back to the Muslim community.
"I think they need more support during Ramadan, the fasting month which is to motivate them, to stay calm and get involved, and it's a big thank you to the community who has supported us doing the 20 years we have been doing this business," he added.
Concerns on ponies' welfare
When asked, Jackuda acknowledged that the ponies at the bazaar were raising concerns.
"Some people are concerned about ponies coming out. These are not race horses; these are not polo horses. These are circus ponies. They are exhibit ponies; they love people. They love human beings; they don't even get affected by sound, traffic, or leaves. They are trained to do this for the longest time," he said.
He also said that many safety precautions are taken to protect the ponies, including providing fresh water.
"There is a tap if they need fresh water. Food is all in our lorries. They have food and water at all times," Jackuda said.
Besides having ample food and fresh water, the ponies are kept in high ventilated tents to protect them from the elements, he added.
According to Jackuda, the ponies' interaction time with the public is also limited to ensure that they receive proper rest, and during the bazaar, six ponies will be on-site at any given time and day, and each pony will work no more than one hour at a time.
"One will work on the pony ride, the other on eating," he said, adding that a qualified trainer and handler are on-site, and any distressed pony will be transported back to the stable via stationed trailers.
According to the operations manager at Gallop Stable, who gave his name as Bell R, the ponies are selected according to "strict criteria", including whether they can handle such an event and how they will act.
"Then they will be chosen based on that. It takes time; it isn't a one-day thing. We choose ponies that are good with kids," he explained
Gallop Stable runs two stables in Singapore, located at Bukit Timah and Pasir Ris Park.
ACRES questions the need to use animals for entertainment
Anbarasi Boopal, Co-CEO of ACRES, said they had received feedback about the ponies' set-up, and intend to also share their concerns with the authorities.
She told Yahoo News Singapore on Friday (24 March) that ACRES found it shocking and questioned involving animals as part of entertainment.
"Why are we bringing in live animals for the purposes of entertainment because there is no educational value? It is you ride. You take a photo, you pay and you ride. It is a commercial stall that allows children to see animals," she said.
Anbarasi said that ACRES discouraged the use of animals for entertainment, especially when it comes to transporting them. She also said that someone had forwarded a picture of the alleged carriage transporting the six ponies.
"It's good that, more than two decades ago, Singapore banned using wild animals in circuses. And one of the reasons given was transportation because animals needed to be transported for the purposes of entertainment," she said.
Even though the ban does not include domesticated animals such as dogs, cats, horses and birds, ACRES feels the same principle should apply, that they should not be transported to an external environment with lights and sounds that may not be familiar to them.
"Do we need to put them through the transport and bring them closer to people for the convenience of entertainment?" Anbarasi said.
"What is the message that we are sending to the masses about the use of animals for entertainment?"Anbarasi Boopal, Co-CEO of ACRES
"We should move away from that; we have progressed in so many ways to move away from that. If people want to go and observe animals, they can go to a proper location to have the experience," she said.
Anbarasi also added the society had raised similar concerns over other incidents of animals transported for display, such as cows during the Pongal harvest festival, which is celebrated by Hindus in Singapore.
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