Don't Horse Around, Mr. Mayor, Say Protesters

Animal right activists demanding the ban of horse-drawn carriages protest a few feet away from carriages parked near Central Park.

Animal right activists demanding the ban of horse-drawn carriages protest a few feet away from carriages parked near Central Park.

Tourists waiting to take a carriage ride through Central Park Saturday afternoon confronted a barrage of animal rights activists that tried to persuade them not to take the iconic trip.
About 25 people holding “Compassionate Tourists Say No” and “Set Me Free” posters protested less than seven feet away from horse carriage drivers on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 59th Street. They also handed out handed out flyers to passersby.
“This has been going on for far too long,” said Elizabeth Forel, the president of the grassroots organization Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages who organized Saturday’s protest. The coalition claims that horse-drawn carriages are inhumane and unsafe.
“The horses work nine hours a day, they live in the most congested city of the world and they have stalls that are smaller than the size experts say they should be,” Forel said.
Many of the protesters said they have been attending these protests multiple times every month over the last few years.
“But this year I’m more hopeful than ever,” said Nicodemo Spadavecchia, 41, an accountant and animal activist who joined the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages in 2008.
During his mayoral campaign, Bill de Blasio had promised that if elected, he would ban horse-drawn carriages. On his mayoral campaign website, he proposed to replace the carriages with “electric, vintage-replica tourist-friendly vehicles that provide jobs for current drivers.
On December 30, two days before taking his mayoral oath, de Blasio said at a press conference that he would “get rid of horse carriages” in his first week in office. A month later, a bill has not yet been introduced and the horse-drawn carriage rides continue unabated. The mayor’s office did not return calls and emails requesting comment.
“Nothing happens immediately and we are going to be there until de Blasio keeps his promise,” said 41-year-old Brian who did not want to give his last name as he feared reprisals from carriage drivers. He said a driver once hit him with his whip and many of the groups’ members have received threats. Several other protesters on Saturday did not want to give their last names, as they said they were scared of being harassed by the drivers.
Sitting in their carriage a few feet away, horse drivers chuckled or rolled their eyes as they watched the protesters.
“They got it all wrong,” said John McNally, a 41 year-old former hotel manager who has been conducting horse carriage tours in Central Park for four years. “Our horses have a minimum of five weeks off per year, they have a nice stall, next time I’m going to take a picture with my phone to show them.” McNally added that he feared for his job.
Many drivers on Saturday expressed concern that they would lose their livelihood and some said they were disappointed that the new mayor hadn’t visited the stalls where horses are kept or tried to talk to the drivers.
There are 68 licensed carriages, about 220 licensed horses and approximately 300 licensed horse drivers in the city, according to a 2007 report issued by New York City comptroller.
Sean Boyle, who has been driving horse carriages for the past 22 years, claimed that the protesters were “paid activists” working for property developers who want to claim the land on which the horses’ stables now stand. He insisted that he treats his 14-year-old horse Elvis very well.
“The vets come to check him two or three times in a year. He has been given all his shots,” he said.
When asked about the activists’ allegations that the horses are being made to stand in the cold without blankets, he said, “It is a nice day today. They don’t need blankets on days like this. It is 40 degrees (Fahrenheit). I am letting the sun at them. They’ll feel the cold only when the temperature dips to 19 degrees or below.”
Boyle said he is allowed to work his horse for only nine hours in a day, he said, showing a card from his stable that clocks the time he takes out the horse and brings it back in. If he exceeds the nine hours and the authorities check his card, he can be fined.
“I spend more time with my horses than with my kids, how can they accuse me of abusing my horses? ” said Oliver Joseph, 38, a horse carriage driver for 15 years, standing a few feet away from the protesters.
With reporting contributed by Asha Mahadevan


11 Responses to "Don't Horse Around, Mr. Mayor, Say Protesters"

  1. Kathryn  February 2, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    I wonder if the mayor is going to do as nearly two thirds of New Yorkers want and leave the carriage horses alone, or stay loyal to the big money PAC that bought him the mayoral election and move towards a ban. Maybe his silence is due to figuring out that it wasn’t going to be as easy as they promised him it would be.

  2. Pony  February 2, 2014 at 5:08 pm

    The horses look well enough, the activists look off-base, and the mayor is probably smart enough to understand that banning is the wrong thing to do. The more I read about this controversy, it’s obvious that political favors were involved. Sad that a mayor who has been doing other good things since taking office would stoop so low.

  3. Sandra  February 2, 2014 at 7:26 pm

    We will NOT give up on the voiceless. We’ll be as relentless as the abusers have been on their horses for years. You can bet on it!

    • Kathryn  February 2, 2014 at 8:06 pm

      @Sandra How did you get to be their voice? Shouldn’t they have the right to choose?

    • ERKube  February 2, 2014 at 8:21 pm

      Except there’s absolutely no abuse. You trot out pictures that look disturbing, only to offer no context. Oldest trick in the book. Then you rail about the cold, the exhaust fumes, the hours, when carriage horses live longer lives than horses out in the plains. Find something better to do with your time.

  4. ERKube  February 2, 2014 at 8:15 pm

    Read the wonderful writer Jon Katz of on the carriage horses. “…there is something that feels very wrong about the cruelty and hysteria surrounding this issue, it feels so much more like a mob than a reasoned discussion.”
    Given the results of the Quinnipiac Poll (61% of New Yorkers want the carriages to stay), the fact that NYCLASS are hypocrites when it comes to the Mounted Patrol (they say Manhattan is not safe for “any” type of horse, but will make no statement if you press them on the issue of the police horses), and the growing public outrage over this, I can see why de Blasio is being careful. He’s painted himself into a corner. Frankly, I don’t think he cares about the horses one way or another. What he does care about is the money NYCLASS pumped into getting him and the “pro-animal” Council members elected. I guess that means the rest of us hate animals.

    • appyrdr  February 3, 2014 at 2:42 pm

      At least Mr. Katz has visited the stables and, therefore, has some first hand knowledge with which to speak to the issue. Hizzoner constantly declines and sidesteps both conversation and visits to hold to his promises to the deep pockets that bought him the office.

  5. Jae  February 2, 2014 at 11:35 pm

    These animal rights activists are just harassing honest working people out of a job for nothing more than their own self vindication and spite.
    It’s clear to anyone who cares to look that the horses are well cared for and the activists not above lies and intimidation.
    I like New York. I like New Yorkers.
    I don’t like bullies and bigots like these animal rights thugs.
    Let working people and working horses work.

  6. Dennis Tabella  February 3, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    Keep your word, Mayor. Many people voted for you on the issues that you said that you would resolve. This is one of them!!!

  7. Sceptical  February 3, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    Is that animal rights activist wearing sheepskin boots? Did the sheep consent to that?
    And you do know the hot dogs stands in New York aren’t vegan? Right?
    How did you pick Carriage rides as the place to start your crusade??

  8. Mia  February 3, 2014 at 1:23 pm

    I also see another sign holder wearing leather shoes, did the cow consent? Horses have been working centuries, for those who don’t know horses see this as abuse, for those who do know horses see them as content, doing a job they were bred for. My horse lives in a stall and is ridden daily, is he abused? Where are the protestors at my stable? Ignorance does much harm.


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