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.