Strolling along Central Park South, one is overcome by the rancid smell of horse urine and manure. Looking up, there are ornate carriages that mimic fairy tales and majestic horses who would love to go for a stroll. To many, this is picturesque and the perfect addition to a romantic getaway in New York City. But if you look closer… you will see that most of these horses look scared, tired, injured, and just want a break from their nine hour workdays.
There has long been public outcry against horse drawn carriages in New York City. Numerous protests, dangerous accidents, and the death of countless horses have not been enough to convince City Hall that the time has come for these rides to end. Horse drawn carriage rides have been banned in many cities in the United States and various countries and New York City remains behind the trend. It seems to me that it would be common sense that these horses must be in pain and that they surely could not enjoy pulling a carriage along a busy, uneven street full of loud noises, speeding cars, and flashing lights, as this clearly goes against a horse’s nature. However, many do not stop to think about this before boarding their magical, romantic carriage ride. This is not to say that these people, many of them tourists, are bad people who care little for animals- many of them likely love animals and are drawn to this form of entertainment for that purpose, not thinking about how cruel the practice really is. As with most forms of animal cruelty, the cruelty part is usually as well hidden as possible.
Recently, in September, a taxi driver lost control of his vehicle and crashed into a horse drawn carriage. The horse escaped, but was quickly recaptured, which is good because there is a great chance that a horse running wild through New York City could really cause some damage to his or herself and to others. In August 2008, horses waiting to pull a wedding carriage were spooked and caused massive destruction and injuries. In September 2007, a horse was spooked by a street performance and ran into a tree past another horse, who in turn was startled and ran into traffic. The first horse suffered fatal injuries and the second was severely wounded. Looking through PETA’s list of horse drawn carriage accidents, where the above disasters are mentioned, there are numerous incidents involving spooked horses colliding with automobiles. Not only is it cruel to subject these horses to a life where they are deprived of grazing, laying down to sleep, normal interaction with other horses, and relaxation of any kind, it is very dangerous to keep these horses in the city.
The recent movie Blinders documents the cruelty surrounding carriage horses in New York City. This movie won numerous awards at various film festivals and will hopefully increase awareness of the truth about horse drawn carriages in cities. Though protests against these carriages are common, they are often met with opposition from carriage operators and tourists who like to believe the horses are being treated properly. As usual, in this debate activists concerned with animal health and safety are brushed off as being extremists. It is my hope that this city will wake up and realize the harm this industry causes to animals and the dangers it poses in a busy city. How many more destructive incidents involving horse drawn carriages will it take for this to happen? This issue was brought before City Council by Queens Council Member Tony Avella as Intro 658-A and a highly attended public hearing was held on January 30, 2009, in which arguments were made for both sides. No further hearings have been held on the issue and a date has not yet been set for a City Council vote on this proposed ban.
Filed under: animal advocacy, animal law, animal welfare Tagged: | animal abuse, animal advocacy, animal cruelty, animal law, animal welfare, Blinders, carriage horses, horse drawn carriages, horses, New York City Council, Tony Avella