By Xiaoxian Liu
A young woman was about to step into a horse carriage at Central Park South when Eddie Sullivan, with a pile of flyers at hand, came forward and exclaimed: “They are abusing the horses! Don’t take the ride!”
The carriage driver soon got into a quarrel with Sullivan. They blamed each other for being money-driven. Crowds gathered, and the young woman soon had no choice but to leave.
Over the past three weeks, this has been a rather common scene for people who want to take a carriage ride in Central Park. Sullivan, who claims to be an independent animal rights activist, has joined several other activists to stop tourists from taking carriage rides there.
Often, three to five activists come to where the horse carriages stop in the late afternoon and approach couples or families who wanted to get on the carriages. They would tell adults that “horse carriages are unethical,” or tell children that “horses are in pain and will cry if you get on,” in order to prevent potential clients from paying $50 dollars for a 20-minute ride.
“I was trying to inform people how these animals are exploited,” said Sullivan, who says he is also an audio engineer. “You can see their unnatural way of binding horses with leather. In order to get them to go, they have to beat them.”
Protests regarding the horse carriages have became more frequent after a carriage horse named Norman “collapsed” on the street in Midtown two weeks ago. At 2 a.m. on September 2, the horse was seen lying at the intersection of 50th Street and 12th Avenue. The witness, Bogdan Paul Angheluta, sent the photo he took to the animal rights organization, NYCLASS, which stands for New Yorkers for Clean, Liveable, and Safe Streets, an animal advocacy group.
““The horse was tired,” Angheluta said to New York Post. “He breathed hard and slow.”
A record book at the front desk of the stable where Norman lives shows that the animal set off to work at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 1, and came back at 2:11 a.m. the next morning. The book is available for the health department and NYPD to inspect when each horse leaves and comes back. Although the health department determined that the horse just simply “tripped and fell,” and a veterinarian examined the horse saying “it is fine,” animal rights activists insisted the opposite.
“Apparently the horse lay on the ground for 20 minutes. He was exhausted,” said Allie Feldman Taylor, a spokeswoman for NYCLASS. “We are asking the Health Department to let us bring in an independent veterinarian to look at the horse. The one they use right now is paid by the city, and part of the carriage industry.”
NYCLASS and other three animal rights groups joined in at least two protests in the two weeks following the incident. About 200 people protested at the home of Mayor Bill de Blasio last Thursday and at Central Park West this Monday, calling for a ban on horse carriages in New York City. The mayor’s office refused comment.
As for Norman, the horse returned to work the day after he fell. The Clinton Park Stables where he is stabled, located at West 52nd Street in Manhattan, is a three-floor black-and-red building, accommodating 78 horses there.
“Our stalls are at least 80 square feet, where horses are able to turn around and lay down,” said Christina Hansen, a carriage driver and a spokeswoman for the carriage industry. “And even with four adults plus the driver on the carriage, for horses, that’s like you and me pushing a shopping cart. Besides, horses in the wild would walk 15 to 20 miles a day looking for food, so our horses are within the nice healthy range of walking.”
Hansen insists that their horses are well-treated, while Sullivan said he thought that horses are not supposed to live in buildings but in pastures. With four to five stable men during the day and three in the night, the stable will take care of horses 24 hours a day, feed them four or five times with hay, and clean them. The horses are examined by a veterinarian twice a year, and they take turns to “go on vacation” for five weeks each year in the farms of Pennsylvania, according to Hansen.
“All they (animal rights activists) are hoping to see is one of our horses is in trouble” said Hansen, who has been driving horse carriages in New York for four years. “Norman was just got his right hind foot caught on the shaft, and he is fine.”