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PETA: Animal rights organization criticizes trainer for parading racehorse in pub

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CNN
 — 

A leading animal rights organization has criticized an Irish racehorse trainer for parading his winning steed in a pub earlier this week.

On Monday, John “Shark” Hanlon posted a video on Twitter of him leading US Grand National winner Hewick into a pub as part of the horse’s homecoming celebrations.

Hewick had won the lucrative race – with a prize purse of $500,000 – in New Jersey on October 15 before returning to Ireland.

The video shows Hanlon walking into the busy pub with the seven-year-old horse before customers fell quiet and started taking pictures.

However, animal rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) told CNN that the “publicity stunt wasn’t done for Hewick’s benefit.”

“Horses are not ‘show and tell’ playthings – they are sensitive animals who are easily spooked,” Elisa Allen, PETA Vice President of UK Programmes and Operations, said in a statement.

“Anyone with a scintilla of respect for horses knows that a rowdy, cramped pub without an obvious exit is a stressful and dangerous environment for them.

“This … was done for a cheap laugh, perhaps to distract punters from the fact that trainers are still whipping horses, risking catastrophic injuries, and running them to death just for a chance at the prize money.”

In a statement to CNN, Hanlon responded to PETA’s criticism by saying everything was double-checked before the horse entered the pub.

“Hewick is a very safe horse, you could nearly call him a pet, he doesn’t buck or kick,” Hanlon said in a statement.

“When bringing him into the pub we double checked everything was safe. We brought him in, turned him around and walked out with him.”

Hanlon, who in the video looked to keep the horse calm, also asked for a pint of Guinness. Another video shows the drink being put to the horse’s lips.

On Tuesday, John Hanlon Racing tweeted a picture of Hewick in his stable with a caption reading: “He’s not very drunk, you know, from the small bit of foam that he didn’t even drink cause he had his lips closed.”

Hewick was among the favorites to win the US Grand National last month and produced an impressive performance to run clear of the pack.

The horse is now demanding respect across Europe and is being lined up for some big races next year, including the UK Grand National and Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The viral video has attracted more than 500,000 views on Twitter, drawing both criticism and support.

“Looks terrified,” said one social media user, while another tweeted: “Why would it be terrified, it’s used to being around large loud cheering crowds that … wouldn’t bother that horse.”

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