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New York Horse-Drawn Carriages. Valentines 2011. A Cruel Tradition, Not a Romantic One.

Roughly a month ago, on Valentine's Day, I joined other animal rights activists in protesting the horse-drawn carriages in New York City. We met at the corner of 59th St. and 5th Avenue, known as the Grand Army Plaza, across the gloriously lit Plaza Hotel. This protest brought together members of the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages, Friends of Animals, NY , and Heart For Animals and individuals like myself who didn't have to be a member of any organization to stand up against cruelty.

I took this video at the very beginning of the evening when the group was just beginning to gel. Compared to other demos, this one was much more gratifying since we could elicit responses from the very people we are demonstrating against. The carriage drivers stood right across the sidewalk from us. When demonstrating against Ringling Bros, for example, we meet and speak with the ticket holders but not the circus people themselves.

The carriage drivers' reactions were predictably hostile
, crude, and nonsensical. One driver mocked an elderly protester to up his meds. Another urged us to do something else, like get a job. One attempted to add some integrity to his existence by declaring,

" I'm working here! "


I shot back,

" No, you're not. The horse is! "

I must say that the drivers are not necessarily the owners of the horses and carriages. But why should this exculpate them from the charge of animal abuse? Should we just prosecute the bank robbers and not the getaway driver? The entrepreneurs are, as usual, tucked away in some swanky condo or townhouse where they are warm and well-stuffed while the poor horses work the streets for them.

To better spread our message, the group chanted, " There's No Excuse for Animal Abuse," and marched westward along 59th Street to Columbus Circle, rounded the circle, and then headed back East to our original spot. We were met by many sympathetic people. I can sense that an increasing number of New Yorkers are beginning to get the point---it's not about romance, but about cruelty.

Mayor Bloomberg referred to the horse-drawn carriages as a New York tradition. Heck, no. Why should cruelty be a New York tradition?

" What's wrong with the carriages? " a man asked.
" Nothing, unless you're a horse or an ass. " I replied.

Speaking of derrieres, at one point in the evening, a couple boarded a carriage for a ride. While the driver was getting ready, I approached the couple and asked,

" Tell me, please, what is so romantic about sitting behind a horse's ass? "

They leered at me, preferred not to challenge me, and dismissed me as just one of those crazy New Yorkers.

The truth of the matter is that there is no record-keeping for the hours these horses have worked. These horses can be pulled out of their stables after a long day and further work the night if their handlers believe there is money to be made. What this means is that the horses' rest periods are not regulated but hinge on the whims of their masters.

Furthermore, these horses are kept in very narrow stalls in a formerly abandoned building on the west side with no windows to let light in. These stables are not sufficiently cooled in the Summer and adequately heated in the Winter.

Out on the street, the horses suffer terribly in the hottest days of Summer and the coldest days of Winter, hauling a wooden and steel carriage weighing approximately
1200lbs to 2300lbs. You can add several hundred more pounds to that when a family of 4 or 6 get on, plus the driver.

You would do well to visit the web page of the Coalition to learn about the many issues behind the horse-drawn carriages.



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