It’s Time to Toss the Tradition of Carriage Horses in NYC

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.

Lea Michele of Glee Posing for PETA

Lea Michele of Glee Posing for PETA

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.

http://youtu.be/31GgmMsFzOM

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.

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17 Comments It’s Time to Toss the Tradition of Carriage Horses in NYC

  1. Avatar of Jamie J. HagenJamie J. Hagen

    As stated in the post, I don’t think any of the arguments in support of continued use of horse-drawn carriages in NYC hold any sway. As for further regulation, it’s hard to see how that would be of much good given how poorly the current regulations are enforced.

    Regardless, at the very least it’s clear that this is an issue of hot debate. While I would love to cite non-partisan discussion and investigation into this topic, I haven’t found this easy to come by currently.

    As reported by Gothamist earlier this month after an incident with a collapsing carriage-horse, the Coalition to Ban-Horse Drawn carriages is pushing for the Public Advocate and Manhattan Borough President’s office to investigate the horse-carriage industry in NYC. An independent investigation such as this would hopefully provide a more well-rounded report from a party without a vested interest in any particular outcome.

  2. Avatar of Eva HughesEva Hughes

    Thanks to all of you who posted thoughtful responses and thoughts.

    How’s about this? — I will only post in answer to questions any of you might have, and will post proof of my assertions.

    I am confident that I can answer any valid question you might have, as we are an open book…

    1. Avatar of KitzyKidKitzyKid

      Okay, I actually do have some questions.

      The horses are owned privately, yes? How much agency do the owners have in regards to the care of their horses? It’s my understanding that they are mostly stabled together, but is there a standard level of care, or can individual owners elect to have them fed and cared for differently?

  3. Avatar of KitzyKidKitzyKid

    I really have no clue what to think on this issue, because both sides seem unable to produce a source that isn’t a blog or their own side’s website.

    Also, in regards to the post below me, the poll on thehorse.com, which was the only poll I could find on something other than a site for or against horse drawn carriages when I googled this, showed only 21% in favour of outright banning horse carriages, with 41% wanting additional oversight of the industry.

    I don’t know if these horses are mistreated or not, but I am not inclined to pick a side based on no facts or evidence. I’m more inclined to believe the ASPCA, but in my experience when someone makes a statement like “may be auctioned off for slaughter”, it suggests that they can’t prove that such a thing is common practice.

    I don’t know. Who knows if we even can have a measured conversation on this, when we’ve drawn the attention of people from both the Horse & Carriage Association and the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages.

    1. Avatar of AlexandraAlexandra

      Yup. I’m on the fence with this, because neither side seems to be producing anything other than rhetoric, with very little fact to back it up.

      I wish I’d say I was surprised that people were being so heated about this – but I’ve seen internet wars over knitting, so nothing surprises me any more.

      1. Avatar of KitzyKidKitzyKid

        People being heated definitely takes away from determining anything about an actual issue. Animal welfare is important, but when everybody just flies off the handle a lot of things go overlooked.

        There’s just a gap for me between “Hey let’s lobby the New York government for help in determining and improving the health and safety of these horses” and “BAN ALL THE HORSE CARRIAGES THEY ARE THE EVILEST EVER”.

        Plus there are some questions, like what would happen to the horses belonging to these 68 carriage owners should they no longer be allowed to run their carraiges? Or where are these horses coming from in the first place, and what is their initial condition? Are there any verifiable stats on where they are sent after their carriage career is over?

  4. Avatar of Elizabeth ForelElizabeth Forel

    Thank you Jamie for covering this issue. The public in NYC want to see the carriage horse trade retired like the gas lamps they are and the horses sent to a sanctuary where they can live their lives out in peace with other horses.

    It is the carriage owner’s job to troll the Internet defending their business – but careful for the lies. You are under no obligation to post their rhetoric – just as you are under no obligation to post what I say. It is your blog.

    That said – please see my blog PROACTIVE OR CATERED TO? THE NYC CARRIAGE TRADE? Are More Taxpayer Subsidies on the way — http://carriagehorsesnyc.blogspot.com/

    It is a response to the letter that you were scolded about for not publishing here. It is a warning to all of us that this industry will stop at nothing They believe they are owed these City subsidies as a favored child.

    Every survey I have seen published show about 75% of respondents favoring a ban of the industry.

    Also – see this story from the NY Times when we rescued Bobby II Freedom from the New Holland kill auctions last June. http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/07/05/for-a-former-carriage-horse-a-grassy-sanctuary/

    Bobby is living his life out in luxury at Equine Advocates Sanctuary in upstate NY. He gets to romp and chomp in the grass EVERY day if he chooses – not like the NYC carriage horses. And he has a large appropriately sized stall – for draft horses (he is a draft cross) – In NYC the law says it can be as small as 60 sq. foot. Drafts need 196 s.f. at least.

    Please visit our web site at http://www.banhdc.org and join our campaign.

    PS – I will not be coming back to your site to see if anyone responded to my comment or to engage in a useless and non productive debate. When 75% of the people want a ban – there is no debate warranted. Besides the people to appeal to are the ones who can make law. Also – I simply do not have the time. But I am very appreciative that you published this and if you want to get back to me, please do so through my web site.

    Elizabeth Forel
    Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages
    http://www.banhdc.org
    Horses Without Carriages International
    http://www.horseswithoutcarriages.org

  5. Avatar of soitgoessoitgoes

    A good friend of mine is super into horses and she hates this campaign. According to her, horses WANT to work. This doesn’t excuse atrocities within the carriage industry; it’s an argument for tighter regulations. Also, I don’t often take seriously articles that cite PETA as a valid source. Sorry.

    1. Avatar of Meghan Young KroghMeghan Young Krogh

      Many (not all) horses – like certain breeds of dogs – are indeed working animals and are happiest when they work – in the right conditions. I second your vote for tighter regulations and better oversight.

  6. Avatar of Eva HughesEva Hughes

    PS to my post below: you did not include the other letter in response to the NYT editorial:

    Thank you for your editorial in support of our industry. Our horses lead solid “blue collar” lives, unlike the many that are neglected, abandoned or surrendered because of the economy and skyrocketing feed prices.

    Horses by the thousands are being auctioned and shipped to slaughterhouses in Mexico and Canada. A horse with a viable job will be the last horse to feel the pinch of economic instability.

    Our association is proactive. As a member of the city’s rental horse advisory board, we are petitioning for hitching posts, a dedicated carriage lane and microchips to identify horses, and offering input into driver licensing by the Department of Consumer Affairs.

    Our safety record is as good as or better than any other horse enterprise one could name, and far surpasses those of racing, jumping and cross country.

    We welcome concerns and input, provided that there is an acknowledgment of our right to exist. Politicians with scorched-earth policies, gadfly provocateurs who vilify us, and business concerns that would have us trade in our horses for electric cars need not apply.

    The horse-drawn carriages of Central Park are a living piece of New York City history, and we take the stewardship of this iconic, family-friendly — and horse-friendly — business seriously.

    EVA HUGHES
    Vice President, New York
    Horse and Carriage Association
    Aug. 11, 2011

  7. Avatar of Eva HughesEva Hughes

    Ms. Hagen – do you usually fact-check before you write an article? Or do any first-hand research?

    I ask because it is apparent that you did not do either before writing this one.

    To simply copy & paste things asserted by others — especially those with an agenda — is not good enough.

    When one decides to either disseminate information or voice an opinion in print which is meant to influence others, one takes on a responsibility. As a writer myself, I contend that you have abdicated that responsibility here.

    Everyone is entitled to an opinion, as they say, but not to their own facts.

    Here are a few links with information I think you should avail yourself of:

    http://thewhiffletreenyc.blogspot.com/
    http://www.equiculture.org/nyc-position-statement.aspx
    http://www.mgross.com/gripebox/its-parkingtown-jake/

    Eva Hughes
    VP NY Horse & Carriage Association

      1. Avatar of Eva HughesEva Hughes

        Selena, some critical thinking, please.

        If someone just copied & pasted my words, without fact checking or first hand research, then the same would go for them.

        One of the great evils in this world is when people latch onto opinions which can affect other people, without having done the most cursory of investigation. I teach my child that it isn’t necessary to have an opinion on every subject that comes along, and that it is irresponsible to have an uninformed one. I think that’s pretty sound advice.

        1. Avatar of [E] Selena MacIntosh[E] Selena MacIntosh

          You work for the carriage company. This article is critical of the carriage industry. I’m not sure my critical thinking skills are all that off in thinking that you have an agenda to protect how you make your money. Our writer, who writes about animal rights issues every single week (for free, no less), is certainly entitled to express her opinion on our own blog. I’m not sure that storming defensively into our living room hollering about evil and agendas and insulting one of our writers is the best way to convince people to look at your side objectively.

          I get the impression you’re going to make yourself comfortable, however, so can I offer you a beverage while you yell at us?

          1. Avatar of Eva HughesEva Hughes

            “You work for the carriage company.”

            That is an incorrect assumption. I own a carriage, and work for myself. There are almost as many companies in our business as there are carriages(68). I have been in the business for 30 years, and am currently the VP of the association (for free, no less.)

            “This article is critical of the carriage industry.”

            Yes it is. My point was that it is critical based solely on things asserted by people other than the author; fully 2/3 of it are just direct copy & pastes.

            “I’m not sure my critical thinking skills are all that off in thinking that you have an agenda to protect how you make your money.”

            I never said that I did not have an agenda — I said, in response to your question, that “If someone just copied & pasted my words, without fact checking or first hand research, then the same would go for them.” IOW, just repeating the points made by *any* person with an agenda without either fact-checking or gaining first-hand knowledge is irresponsible. As far as how I make my money — that money also enables me to stable, feed, vet, shoe, and vacation my horses. From my NYT letter reprinted above:
            “Horses by the thousands are being auctioned and shipped to slaughterhouses in Mexico and Canada. A horse with a viable job will be the last horse to feel the pinch of economic instability.”

            “Our writer, who writes about animal rights issues every single week (for free, no less), is certainly entitled to express her opinion on our own blog.”

            I said that myself; that she, like everyone else, is entitled to her own opinion – but not her own facts. Also, am I not entitled to *my* opinion of her opinion?

            “I’m not sure that storming defensively into our living room hollering about evil and agendas and insulting one of our writers is the best way to convince people to look at your side objectively.”

            “Stormed”? “Hollering”? “Insulting”? Not me. Notice the lack of cursing, caps, exclamation points, irrational argument. I asked questions and stated my case, period. As far as “defensively”, well, that would stand to reason; my way of life and my horses’ welfare is under attack — what else would I do but defend them? (And I generally see private pages, blogs, and websites as cyberspace “living rooms”, not public pages like this one.)regarding “convincing” anyone, that is not my job. My job is to tell things as I see them, and as I know them to be — whether or not someone chooses to have an open mind and listen, I have no control over. I find that people who say “I don’t like your style, so I’m not gonna listen to what you say” have usually already made up their minds, and are just blaming the other person for their actions.

            “I get the impression you’re going to make yourself comfortable, however, so can I offer you a beverage while you yell at us?”

            I’m not comfortable, and I am never comfortable when I have to defend our industry from scratch with someone; it is laborious, and vaguely depressing, especially when it involves animal lovers, as I am one, always have been. I would far prefer some type of Vulcan mindmeld, where people who so dreadfully misunderstand us could instantly see who we really are. So yes, a drink would be nice — got any Bombay Sapphire?

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