A recent New York Times editorial “Some Carriages Should Not Be Horseless” has renewed the debate surrounding the carriage horse industry in New York City. While some (read: those few left in the industry) argue it’s a humane tradition that brings much joy to those who visit NYC every year, animal advocates disagree.
Published in response to the opinion piece was an editorial by Ed Sayres, President of the A.S.P.C.A., rejecting the argument that the horses are well cared for and monitored closely. Sayres writes:
The city has largely abdicated its responsibility to enforce laws governing the carriage horse industry, so the A.S.P.C.A. has stepped up on behalf of the horses. The A.S.P.C.A. finances its enforcement of the cruelty laws using donated money and no government financing. But the A.S.P.C.A. can enforce the laws only as written, which does not mean that the horses are “well treated.”
The typical carriage horse works long hours, while breathing exhaust, for a few years before it may be auctioned off for slaughter. When the horses aren’t working, they remain confined in inadequate stalls in New York City; they are often fed substandard food, and many are permanently scarred from wearing their halters too long.
The top 5 of the 15 reasons cited by Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages to discontinue to use of the horse-drawn carriage are as follows:
1. NYC is one of the most traffic congested cities in the world. Slow moving horse-drawn carriages are a danger to themselves and to others and often get in the way of emergency vehicles.
2. These horses weigh between 1,000 and 2,000 pounds. Approximately half are draft breeds but many are break-downs from the race track. They are prey animals and can be startled at the slightest provocation, bolting into traffic, causing injury or death to themselves or anyone who is near. They become unwitting weapons.
3. There have been many accidents, some ending in the death of the horse.
4. The horses live in multi-storied stables on the far west side of Manhattan and most stalls are on the second floor. They are fire traps with only one means of egress. Horses reach the upper floors by ramps, which is hard on older arthritic horses.
5. By law, horses are allowed to work nine hours a day, seven days a week. Although they are supposed to get a 15-minute break every two hours, there is no way to enforce it.
The movie Blinders provides a closer look at the history of the carriage-horse industry, check out the trailer here.
Quite simply, using the validation of tradition or romance is not reason enough to continue the use of horse-drawn carriages in New York City. The “magical” tradition of horse-drawn carriages comes at too great a cost to both the well-being of the horses and the safety of those involved in traffic incidences related to the industry.