By Tom Allon
Stella, Caesar, Blondie, Chris, Doreen, Charlie, Pumpkin, Tickles and Oreo are just some of the names of New York horses that have been killed or injured while working.
Working, really? That would imply choice, right? It’s really no different than an elephant in chains in the circus. Like the decorated elephant, carriage horses have more pain than pomp in their day.
And why is politics getting in the way of their release from this prolonged bondage? Which Council members are saying “Neigh!” to their redemption?
We’re going to make a naughty list below. These council members should only get coal in their stockings this holiday season because they are standing in the way of humane treatment of our horses. But first, here’s some context.
In 2013, when candidate Bill de Blasio was running for mayor, he vowed to ban horse-drawn carriages in New York City. On “Day One,” he said. Well, now it’s past “Day 700.”
New York has the highest carriage-horse accident rate in the country. Other cities, like Palm Beach, Santa Fe, Las Vegas, Toronto and Salt Lake City have banned this antiquated practice.
Sure, it was lovely to have a horse take you for a ride when we needed the transportation. But why is it necessary now? Should a horse have no access to pastures, have a nine-hour workday, ride between SUV’s and taxis honking and blowing exhaust fumes in their faces? Should animals that get “spooked” by loud sounds be the victims of an industry that insists upon their backbreaking work so that they can make a living?
There are other ways for them to make a living, and NYClass, an animal rights organization, has come up with a healthy alternative to the ugly and cruel industry. Electric cars. Awesome, fancy, cool-looking electric that cars can take tourists on rides through Central Park and the congested streets of Manhattan.
The big problem in all of this is that we have political gamesmanship interfering with what is really a humanitarian issue. In 2013, de Blasio repeatedly and emphatically said he would solve this issue.
De Blasio blames the Council. Well, he’s partially right, because he does need their votes to ban this industry, but it seems that if he pushed harder he could have secured the 26 votes needed to pass the law to ban the horse-drawn carriages in New York City.
But good news may be on the way. On Nov. 25, de Blasio proposed a compromise that would limit the carriage horses to Central Park, keeping them off the city’s streets. He has also proposed building stables inside the park so that the horses don’t have to walk the one to two miles back to their stables in Hell’s Kitchen. And finally, this compromise suggests reducing the number of working horses from more than 200 to about 70.
Just to be sure, the Council members must once again hear our voices — we do care for all beings.
So we’re naming the City Council “Neighsayer.” Let’s pressure them for this new proposal, which is not perfect but a heck of a lot more humane.
In Brooklyn: Robert Cornegy; Rafael Espinal; Daneek Miller; Jumaane Williams.
In Queens: Costa Constantinides; Elizabeth Crowley; Karen Koslowitz; Rory Lancman.
In Manhattan: Corey Johnson.
In the Bronx: Andy King
Like Mahatma Gandhi said: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
Tom Allon is president of City & State NY. Reach him at tallo