PETA points to pony death in call to end Pony Penning on Chincoteague

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NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — PETA is pointing to a recent accidental pony death to once again call for an end to Chincoteague’s annual pony swim and auction.

The new push comes after a pony named “Butterfly Kisses” died in an accident in her pen at the town’s carnival grounds after the swim and auction. 

The Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company said the horse was playing, when she fell and slid into a fence, breaking her neck.

PETA, which has long pushed for an end to the event, insists the death is an example of why Pony Penning festivities should end.

Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA’s president, sent this message to the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company: 

I’m writing again on behalf of PETA and our more than 6.5 million members and supporters worldwide, including thousands across Virginia, where our headquarters are, in response to the death of Butterfly Kisses. She died needlessly of a broken neck after being chased into a pen and left behind a now-motherless foal. Once again, we urge you to end the annual pony swim and auction and instead find humane ways to raise funds for the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department’s important work while managing the pony herd’s size.

Butterfly Kisses’ death is more evidence that penning up wild ponies and auctioning off foals are reckless. Had she not been penned at the carnival grounds after the auction, she would still be alive. This is not the first time that a pony has died at the fairgrounds or the first death that has been written off as an “accident.” Reports going back decades discuss how frightening and stressful the ordeal is for these animals and how ponies have been seen penned without access to shade or water and hit with sticks.

While in theory a few auctioned ponies may go to good homes with families who have the money to take care of them, their fate is never certain after they are sold and there is the strong possibility that they may end up at slaughterhouses or neglected and starved as new guardians lose interest in them.

It’s time to reconsider what you are doing. Since this event’s inception, much has changed in the way that people view animals-who were once seen merely as commodities-and in the development of humane population-control methods. This pony swim is similar to other festivals, such as turkey drops and greased pig wrestling, that have taken their places in the annals of history as examples of the callous disregard of other living, feeling beings. Won’t you please choose to raise funds with events that are modern and animal-friendly? We’d be happy to discuss suggestions with you. Thank you for your consideration.

The Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department then pushed back, saying PETA’s accusations of the events couldn’t “be further from the truth.”

“(Butterfly Kisses) was already in the pen and had been there for over 24hrs,” spokeswoman Denise Bowden wrote in a Facebook post. “We have eye witnesses to prove otherwise. This is the same pen that she has been in numerous of times without incident.”

Bowden also said several other claims made by PETA were false. To read Bowden’s full response to PETA, click here.

The nationally-recognized event, made famous by Marguerite Henry’s “Misty of Chincoteague,” has been held for 93 years. 

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