Animal rights advocacy groups NYCLASS and PETA joined elected officials to announce the introduction of legislation to end the horse carriage industry in New York City.
A large group of demonstrators took to the steps of City Hall at noon to call for an end to horse-drawn carriages once and for all. Lifting posters displaying the work animals after suffering injuries, the group rallied with Queens Councilmember Robert Holden who sponsored the bill which is being introduced on July 14.
“This is 2022, not 1822. To have a horse in this kind of weather, pull thousands of pounds with blinders on. Again, that is all they do, day in, day out pulling thousands of pounds for what? For some tourist’s enjoyment?” Holden asked.
If passed, the horses would be replaced by vintage-looking eclectic carriages that are expected to run at three miles an hour. According to Holden, these horseless carriages would allow drivers to work more days and in turn earn more income than traditional carriages.
“With my bill, again, the horseless carriage, the electric carriage, you can work in all different types of weather. You can work in the weather today. So, the drivers would make more money, they’d have better benefits, and they could go into Times Square and take the horseless carriage, their electric carriage so you can show them the sights of Manhattan without really making a poor horse have to pull thousands of pounds through the Manhattan streets or through Central Park or being parked in an area that could be catastrophic. So, this is a very important bill,” Holden said.
Edita Birnkrant, leader of NYCLASS, also shamed the industry for what she cited as their cruel treatment of the animals which lead to over exhaustion and even traffic collisions. Actress Kathy Najimy known for the Sister Act movies joined in the condemnation of what she believes to be animal cruelty.
“I live directly across the street from where they are tortured on 59th Street at the park. Breathtaking Central Park that I used to really love and enjoy, the grandest park in the best city in the world, that we used to be able to stroll through. But now when we pass, we have to turn our heads away at it to notice this. I can’t help it. Sometimes I do scream,” Najimy said.
The horse drivers hit back; however, holding their own demonstration outside the gates of City Hall where they rebuked claims of mistreatment by stating that their horses are well cared for. Christina Hansen, a spokesperson for the carriage industry also stated that the new bill would not only cause drivers to lose their jobs but also horse farriers as well.
“There have been horses in Manhattan since 1625. There have been horses in Central Park since the day the park opened. You know there is no New York City without horses, and we will be here long after my class is no longer here. We’ve outlasted many other animal rights groups over the years that have been against carriage horses. You know our horses are here to stay. They’re well taken care of,” Hansen said.
Ex-Brit turned Manhattan resident since 2008.