Retire the Carriage Horses
Last week, for the fourth time in six weeks, a horse pulling a carriage full of tourists collapsed on the streets of New York City’s Midtown, stumbled, collapsed, lay on her side as traffic backed up around her, and couldn’t get back up.
Passersby on 59th Street City, next to Central Park, took heart-wrenching photos and films of the horse, all knotted up in straps and chains and other attachments to the carriage, and surrounded by bumper-to-bumper traffic and deafening noise.
When will this atrocity end?
Steven Malone of the New York Horse and Carriage Association, which represents the city’s 68 carriages, 293 certified drivers and 220 privately owned horses, simply blew off the incident, saying that horses trip and fall all the time:
“No horse collapsed. It caught its toe in the pavement, which is quite common. The carriage industry in New York City is such a public institution that a horse can sneeze funny and some activist is in our faces with a camera to post footage to YouTube.”
Well, if it’s that common, that’s all the more reason for bringing the whole shabby business to an end. But in support of the industry, Mayor Bloomberg declared:
“Carriage horses have traditionally been a part of New York City. The tourists love them, and we’ve used from time immemorial, animals to pull things.”
How many things are wrong with this comment?
- The old saw that it’s a “tradition” is routinely rolled out to defend cruelty like bullfighting and rodeos and bearbaiting.
- It may be true that “tourists love them” – but only those who are too ignorant and thoughtless to care about the plight of these animals.
- And the notion that we’ve always used animals “to pull things” is the other lame excuse that “we’ve always done it.” So that makes it OK? (In any case, never before have horses been subjected to such crowded, dirty, noisy streets crammed with traffic.
Michael Bloomberg may not want to put carriage drivers out of work, but that doesn’t justify this level of abuse. In any case, his name and title are part of the brand of the famous Mayor’s Alliance for NYC Animals. How about the horses, then, Mr. Mayor?
Two months ago, Charlie, a 15-year-old draft horse, literally dropped dead on a street in Central Park. The ASPCA, which polices the industry, said Charlie suffered from ulcers and had a fractured tooth. An ASPCA veterinarian reported at first that the horse was forced to work through painful maladies. Then she reversed her position and said the horse had not been overworked. Then the ASPCA suspended her.
The New York Daily News supports an end to the carriage horse industry:
Sweet, docile animals, they work nine hours a day, seven days a week, between the shafts of their carriage, in dangerous traffic. After a long day’s work, they return to a cramped stable. Dirty and sweaty, many of them are not cleaned up for the night. And in the morning, they begin another dreary day.
. . . [The death of Charlie] was followed by another horse who spooked on Oct. 28, bolting into traffic on Central Park South and crashing in the park off Seventh Ave. Then, on Nov. 4, a horse named Luke fell on W. 60th St. on his way back to the stables. He stayed down for 15 minutes.
. . . There is something about the sight of a helpless horse lying in the filthy street that resonates deeply with people. It is an experience that plays on our collective unconscious guilt, suggesting that we all somehow share the responsibility that allowed this majestic animal to be put into servitude to entertain people.
There’s a strong and growing lobby to retire the carriage horses. In a NY Daily News,85 percent of people voted in favor of a ban. You can read an extensive article by Phyllis Daugherty delving into the politics of the whole issue.
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What do you say? Time to bring an end to the horse carriage industry? Let us know in a comment or on Facebook.
Posted December 14, 2011, by Michael Mountain
What is wrong with Mayor Bloomberg? What a cruel person he is to allow carriage horses to continue working in the streets of New York.
THANK YOU, Mr. Michael Mountain for writing about this obsolete, barbaric, and DEADLY "tourist attraction."
I was there on December 4th when this last poor horse fell onto the cold wet street -- it was horrible.
The carriage horse industry supporters claim that there have been "only" three deaths in the past thirty years. Not only is that incorrect, but even ONE death is too many!
What has to happen in order to END this abuse once and for all?
Does someone's HUMAN child have to be thrown from a carriage -- during one of these accidents that apparently "happen all the time" -- and be splattered all over the streets of New York City???
Horses dropping dead in the street is "heritage" and good for tourism? No doubt our past reliance on horses for transport meant that horses did suffer and die horrifically, but this is not the part of heritage that should be kept. People all over the world are hearing about the plight of carriage horses. We live in the fast-lane today, and horses don't belong in carriages any more. It's a false and cruel image to continue - a pretense of the past.
Seizing private property? - I don't think so. Read the law Ms. Giselle. Understand what it means.
The NYC carriage horses may or may not get 5 weeks off a year. It is unenforceable and everyone knows it. Even Pam Corey, DVM was quoted in the NY Post saying that many of the horses look worse when they come back from their furlough - now what do you suppose that is all about. Are they working - pulling ploughs - do they not get enough water or good food. And this is Pam Corey saying it - the new hero of the carriage trade.
But the truth here is that these horses work for 47 weeks out of the year 9 hours a day 7 days a week with no turnout to pasture. No green grass at all - no opportunity for them to acknowledge their horse instincts as herd animals and socialize with the herd - no opportunity to do mutual grooming, which is a great stress reliever. Stop making excuses for this inhumane and abusive, selfish behavior.
This business has had a good run but your days on stage are over. We will win this fight for the horses because morality and ethics will prevail. It might be a few years away but people are interested in taking these horses if you will hand them over - people will come out of the wood work to do so. NYC will be the proverbial domino. Of course, you can always be vindictive and bring the last standing horses to auction and then slaughter. Your choice.
Giselle - please provide your entire name or do you not have the courage of your convictions. It's easy to hide behind a made up name and take shots at me. The carriage industry in NYC has been infantilized by the Administration for years, receiving all kinds of entitlements - including a completely tax payer paid stable for Shamrock Stable on W. 45st. That does not exist anymore because the City sold it to private developers. The carriage industry is allowed to operate because of City regulations. Part of the regulations requires humane disposition of the horses but it never described what it meant. Now it does. Isn't it interesting that Christine Quinn as all but quashed Intro 670, which just calls for accountability.
Every bill in the city council and state does just that and holds the drivers accountable for the first time ever. If you want to work in this industry, you should be required to find your horse a good home and not bring him or her to auction.
You fear tactics of warning that the horses will go to slaughter is just that - it will be the driver/ owners who defy the law and take the easy way of bringing their horses to auction - much like many of them do now.
Oh, please, Forel. These horses are privately owned and under this bill they would be seized. I really hope Avella's next opponent latches on to the fact that he supports a bill seizing private property. These horse are well-cared for and well-regulated, and the fact that no one explains how the over $1 million a year (a conservative estimate) it will cost to "retire" these horses is to funded is not a scare tactic, it is reality. There is an overwhelming crisis regarding unwanted horses in this country - over 100,000 go to slaughter in Canada or Mexico each year with thousands more abandoned or starving. Why don't you focus on horses that actually need help rather than these animals that have a retirement plan, veterinary and farrier care, and a mandated five weeks per year vacation on farms. Most horses get far more time off than that. Anyone who actually knows anything about horses, unlike you who have no equine experience, recognizes that these horses are in good physical condition.
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One thing I keep hearing over and over again is a scare tactic or concern for what will happen to the horses if there is a ban – as if we had not thought this through. They like to say that all the horses will go to slaughter. I have been analyzing NYC carriage horse numbers since 2005. There is a huge turnover of horses in the business that the media does not want to acknowledge - about 60-70 each year - minimum. Records are not required for horses sold outside NYC, which accounts for most of them. They have no protection and many most likely end up at auction where they are subjected to kill buyers. In June of 2010, the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages and Equine Advocates rescued a NYC carriage horse from the New Holland auctions -- Bobby II Freedom -- he was days from being sent to the kill pen.
Because the ban bills were going nowhere, I asked to have a stand alone bill introduced in the City Council, which would address this issue along with requiring accountability from the owners. The bill was introduced but a subsequent press conference was canceled by Speaker Quinn. She, too, supports the industry but I guess she thought I was going to expose this dirty little secret so I was silenced.
All legislation that has been proposed in NYC and in NYS has a clause that will require that the horses be given to sanctuaries or good homes. Auctions are not a possibility.
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Thanks for your support Michael, it is very much appreciated - -especially coming from someone with such an esteemed background in the animal protection movement. I really like the way you handled the Malone comment and your response to Bloomberg's comments.
Yes – it is dreadful in NYC, but the movement is very strong and getting stronger. When we started this campaign in 2006, we had to educate the media, politicians, the public and even activists. The carriage horses had not had a voice for many years. From past experience I knew it would take a long time to achieve this goal and it would not be easy. This is why we are now supporting the Avella/Rosenthal state bill because Mayor Bloomberg cannot get beyond his blind support of this inhumane industry.
I do want to clarify one thing in your article – the quote seemingly attributed to the Daily News is from my op-ed piece that was published in that paper. Entitled “The carriage horse industry is cruel, inhumane: This is no way to treat animals,” this is the link
And yet, as with most newspapers, the editors created the title, which was very strong – not me – so that was encouraging.
Yes, this has just got to end. So heartbreaking and cruel. I hope it can be stopped before any more horses are hurt. Thank you for including the petition and more info about how to get involved.