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Philippines. Operation Calesa. Animal Welfare for Horse-Drawn Carriages.


Considering that the tides of animal welfare turn slowly, it is definitely great news to hear that the attention of several animal rights groups in the Philippines has now focused, along with the traditional forms of animal abuse, on the horse-drawn carriages ( Calesa ) that ferry people and supplies in both the city and the outlying provinces of the Philippines. Unlike the horse-drawn carriages seen in Europe and the United States, these calesas have always been a cheaper form of transportation, appealing largely to the proletarian people and rarely used for romantic and scenic rides around the neighborhood.

The reform's primary thrust comes from the Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), the Animal Kingdom Foundation (AKF), and Care and Responsibility for Animals (CARA).

The typical scenario is one involving a gaunt, old horse pulling an overloaded wooden carriage in the extreme heat of the tropics, often amidst smoke-belching motor vehicles, salivating profusely from extreme effort. Then, you add the incessant whipping. What do you have? Animal abuse. Improving the horses' lot will mirror the efforts made in cities like New York where animal rights organizations are trying to get rid of horse-drawn carriages entirely. The group representing the carriage drivers in New York offered a compromise that included a two-month vacation for the horses a year. For many animal rights proponents, however, any horse pulling a carriage is an abused animal.

Now, this is not to say that all calesa drivers in the Philippines are animal abusers. I believe that there are calesa drivers, aka kutcheros, who do care for their horses. But it is best to put into place specific laws, or practices, that protect the welfare of calesa horses and govern the actions of calesa drivers.

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