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Tensions Mount During Horse-Drawn Carriage Protests

January 18, 2017 by Leave a Comment


The News

With NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio failing to deliver on his campaign promise to ban horse-drawn carriages from the streets midtown Manhattan, animal advocates with Empty the Carriages have resumed the grass-roots effort to compel tourists to boycott carriage rides. Along Central Park South where tourists board the carriages, tensions are running higher than ever between the advocates and the drivers.

With many tourists opting out of carriage rides, the drivers have filed a lawsuit against the advocates in an effort to curb their impact. Among their demands is a 15 foot buffer zone that would prevent advocates from being able to interact with tourists contemplating a carriage ride.

A NYC horse-drawn carriage driver tears up an activist’s poster

For decades, animal advocates and other concerned NYers have campaigned, in the streets and at City Hall, to ban horse-drawn carriages on the grounds that the industry is inhumane and unsafe. When, in 2013, Mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio included a horse-drawn carriage ban in his campaign platform, the industry fought back with the help of the pro-carriage media, elected officials and actor Liam Neeson.

This 2006 accident in which a horse named Spotty died sparked the movement to ban horse-drawn carriages from Manhattan

Instead of working to fulfill his promise by building a case for a ban with lawmakers, the media and the public, the Mayor abandoned the very issue that helped catapult him to his Mayoral victory.


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In Confrontation with Mayor Bill de Blasio, NYC Activists Demand that He Fulfill Promise to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages (VIDEO)

September 16, 2016 by Leave a Comment


The News

In response to the collapse of a carriage horse in NYC, at least two hundred activists staged a protest at the home of Mayor Bill de Blasio to demand that he fulfill his 2013 campaign pledge to “end carriage rides” in NYC. The protest marks the re-birth of the movement to ban horse-drawn carriages from the congested streets of midtown Manhattan.

Following the protest at Gracie Mansion, which is located in uptown Manhattan, many of the activists traveled downtown to confront the Mayor as he exited an event at Cooper Union College.

The collapse of a carriage horse triggered about 200 activists to protest failure of NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio to fulfill his campaign promise to ban horse-drawn carriages

The collapse of a carriage horse triggered about 200 activists to protest failure of NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio to fulfill his campaign promise to ban horse-drawn carriages

In the months leading up to the 2013 Mayoral election in NYC, Bill de Blasio publicly vowed on several occasions to outlaw NYC’s horse-drawn carriage trade. After de Blasio declared that animal rights would “move into the mainstream” if he was elected, the community took to the streets to help him get elected.

The campaign to ban horse-drawn carriages from NYC was launched in 2006, but the animal rights community has been unable to free the horses because of opposition from the media, labor unions and NYC lawmakers. In addition, Bill de Blasio, who was the horses’ most powerful potential ally, has failed to effectively exert his power as Mayor to achieve a ban.  By the time he introduced a compromise bill that would contain the horses within Central Park, the majority of NYC lawmakers had already decided to take the politically expedient route, which was to reject any changes to the carriage trade.

Activists say that horse-drawn carriages cannot be operated humanely or safely in NYC.


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Man Who Trains NYC Carriage Horses Admits to “Breaking” Them

January 14, 2016 by Leave a Comment


The News

It’s not just elephants and tigers in the circus who are broken by “trainers” in order to scare them into entertaining us. The horses who pull carriages in urban areas are broken too.

Norman Martin tells a Daily News reporter that "God has made them [horses] for the service of mankind.”

Norman Martin tells a Daily News reporter that “God has made them [horses] for the service of mankind.” See video.

In his autobiography A Tough Son of Gun: Thoughts on Training Horses and Living Well, the man who primes NYC carriage horses for work on the city streets describes in great detail how he breaks them so that they will obey their “masters.”

Ironically, the trainer/author, Norman Martin, was used as a horse expert by the NY Daily News as part of its campaign to convince the public that operating horse-drawn carriages in midtown Manhattan is humane. In fact, while Mr. Martin wrote that he uses “a disciplining device” that “stings a little more than a whip” to train his horses, the Daily News reported that he uses positive reinforcement: “He gradually helps them overcome those fears by gently caressing their heads or slowly getting them used to more populated towns.”

Norman Martin NYC Carriage Horses

From Norman Martin’s book about training horses

Following are excerpts from the book:

“They [NYC carriage horse operators] come out to the farm and ask if I can give their horse an attitude adjustment . . .What these horses need is discipline – an understanding that they have a master, and they are to do his or her will.” (page 120)

“I couldn’t break through that stubbornness or cure Charlie’s bad habit until I used a stronger method and that reprogrammed his mind from doing things his way to doing things the way his masters wanted him to do. That reminds me of some people, sometimes we have bad habits we need to repent from.” (page 127)

“I have a disciplining device that is a little stronger and stings a little more than a whip for the thick-hided horses. But I only use it if I have to break strong ingrained attitudes and habits.“ (page 121)

In his book, A Tough Son of a Gun, Norman Martin explains how he's far more than tough on the NYC carriage horses he "trains."

In his book, A Tough Son of a Gun, Norman Martin explains just how tough  he is on the NYC carriage horses he trains.

“I put what’s called a ‘power line’ on him. I could pull hard and force his head against his neck, so he would choke himself until he passed out and fell down on the road.” (page 40)

“That was the first horse that I had to cure of five bad habits, and I was the seventh guy that had him and the only one who broke him.” (page 42)

“That horse stood straight up on his hind legs and come up over backwards. He hit his head on a sharp rock right between his ears and killed himself instantly. And that was the end of the horse that no one could break. His stubbornness broke him, but this time it was his own brain that broke and he did it all himself on his own terms. Sorry.” (page 43)

Mr. Martin recounted moments when he abused his horses even when he wasn’t “training” them. He describes one incident in which he intentionally spooked a skittish horse by dangling a plastic strip in front of him: “It was a full rolling gallop. I remember laughing like a madman as he surged down the road.” (page 21)

When the Daily News reported that Mr. Martin “gently caresses” the horses as a training method, did the editors know that this self-described “renowned trainer of carriage horses” published a book about using weapons and fear as his preferred method?

carriage horse flees copy

Carriage horse escapes and flees down 12th Avenue in Manhattan (Dec, 2014)

NYC Mayor de Blasio ran for office on a promise to ban horse-drawn carriages from Manhattan as soon as he was elected, but he lost the support of the public after the carriage operators, Teamsters and media launched a coordinated campaign to protect the industry. Now, the Mayor is negotiating a highly controversial compromise, which would reduce the number of horses and house them in Central Park.

From left to right: Horse pulls a carriage in Times Square; NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio

Your Turn

To stay apprised of the effort to ban horse-drawn carriages in NYC, please visit NYCLASS and The Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages

To see why activists have been fighting for years to take horse-drawn carriages out of NYC and other congested urban areas, please watch the award-winning documentary film BLINDERS:

 


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Video: NYC Horse-Drawn Carriage Drivers Work Illegally in Parade During Snow Storm

March 4, 2015 by Leave a Comment


The News

NYC law prohibits horse-drawn carriage drivers from working their horses in snow, ice, heavy rain or other slippery conditions. But that didn’t stop them from working a horse at a St. Patrick’s Day Parade during a snowstorm.

Horse-drawn carriage works during snowstorm in a St. Patrick's Day parade

Horse-drawn carriage drivers break the law by working during a snowstorm

TheirTurn told several police officers who lined the parade route that the carriages drivers were breaking the law, but none of them took action.

horse-drawn carriage parade police

NYPD officers watch from the sidelines as horse-drawn carriage drivers break the law

The presence of two marching bands also didn’t keep the carriage operators away, even though the city’s horse-drawn carriage operator’s manual includes marching bands on the list of stimuli that spook horses.

Marching bands and horses don't mix well because drums can spook them

Marching bands and horses don’t mix well because drums can spook them

List of stimuli that spook horses in NYC Dept. of Health's horse-drawn carriage training manual

List of stimuli that spook horses in NYC Dept. of Health’s horse-drawn carriage training manual

In fact, it was a drum that spooked a NYC carriage horse named Smoothie, who bolted down 59th street, crashed into a tree and died in front of dozens of onlookers.

Smoothie crashed into a tree and died after being spooked by a drum in Midtown Manhattan

Smoothie crashed into a tree and died after being spooked by a drum in Midtown Manhattan

The carriage operators were very much aware of the risk, which explains why they held the reins.

horse-drawn carriage illegal

Carriage drivers hold the reins to prevent horse from bolting if drums spook him

As carriage operators illegally worked a horse in a parade in Queens, several others were breaking the law on the snowy streets of Manhattan.

Horse-drawn carriage drivers work during snowstorm in defiance of the law (photo: Bronx resident)

Carriage drivers work during snowstorm in defiance of the law (photo: Bronx resident)

Animal rights activists with NYCLASS, PETA and Long Island Orchestrating for Nature (LION) also participated in the parade, bringing animal costumes instead of a living animal.

Danny Dromm

Council Member Danny Dromm (center) is lead sponsor on bill to ban horse-drawn carriages

The carriage drivers thanked the village of Sunnyside, Queens, by leaving behind a pile of horse manure on main street. Not to worry, NYC tax dollars will pay for the clean up.

New Yorkers are fined if they don't pick up after their dogs, but horse-drawn carriage drivers get a free pass

New Yorkers are fined if they don’t pick up after their dogs, but carriage drivers get a free pass

Your Turn

1. If you live in NYC, please ask your City Council Member to support the bill to ban horse-drawn carriages (Intro 573). If you live elsewhere, please sign their petition.

2. To learn more about the issue and keep apprised of news, subscribe to the weekly newsletter of the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages.

3. Watch the award-winning documentary film BLINDERS to see why people have been fighting for years to take the horses out of NYC:


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NYC Lawmaker Who Opposes Carriage Ban Seeks “Regulations to Prevent Horses from Spooking”

February 5, 2015 by Leave a Comment


The News

As a vote on the historic bill to ban NYC’s horse-drawn carriages approaches, some lawmakers will say just about anything to justify their politically-motivated support of the carriage trade. Here’s what one City Council Member said on January 28th in an email exchange with an advocate following an in-person meeting.

Advocate (in jest): “Do you believe that regulations can be introduced that would prevent a horse from spooking?
Council Member: “We hope that we can find a sufficient regulatory manner that leads to an environment where horses don’t spook, or if for some reason they do, they won’t be a danger to themselves or others.

Smoothie crashed into a tree and died after spooking in midtown Manhattan.

A NYC carriage horse crashed into a tree and died after spooking in midtown Manhattan.

The vast majority of lawmakers have not yet declared how they intend to vote on the horse-drawn carriage legislation. That is not because they don’t have a point of view about the issue; they are simply waiting to determine which vote would be more politically beneficial (or less politically harmful) to them. One of the questions many are asking themselves is who they are more afraid to alienate: industry supporters (organized labor & media) or industry opponents (the Mayor and advocates). It is a short-sighted approach because, if self-interest is guiding their decision, then they should ask themselves how history will judge them. Future generations will assuredly look at the images of horse-drawn carriages in midtown traffic and ask, “What were they thinking?” Do these lawmakers really want to be on the wrong side of history?

Horse-drawn carriages in midtown traffic?

Horse-drawn carriages in midtown traffic?

The ASPCA is well aware of the fact that politics, and not the merits of the issue, will drive the decision making process, but that has not stopped them from explaining why they unequivocally oppose the use horse-drawn carriages in Manhattan. Following is an excerpt from a CNN opinion piece written by Matt Bershadker, the CEO of the ASPCA:

“There is no better example of an obsolete and unacceptable tradition than NYC’s horse-drawn carriage rides. In the 21st century, using horses to pull heavy loads of tourists through congested city streets is unnatural, unnecessary and an undeniable strain on the horses. And that strain is not restricted to the streets. The stables to which these horses return — former tenement buildings — do not afford horses a paddock for turnout, the ability to graze or the freedom to roll and run. That’s why, as an organization that’s fought for humane treatment of horses since our founding in 1866, we think it’s time to end horse-drawn carriage rides. No counterargument stands up to the sheer absurdity of this antiquated practice, though many who profit from it keep trying.”

How can a Council Member refute that? Not well, if this email exchange with aforementioned Council Member is any indication:

Advocate: “Do you believe that the ASPCA is incorrect in its conclusion that horse-drawn carriages can no longer be operated humanely in NYC?”
Council Member: “We are definitely taking the ASPCA’s statements into consideration as we go forward.”

Beast of burden, NYC

Beast of burden, NYC

Your Turn

1. If you live in NYC, please join NY-CLASS in its efforts to rally support among lawmakers for the Mayor’s bill to ban horse-drawn carriages. Otherwise, please sign their petition.

2. To learn more about the issue and keep apprised of news, subscribe to the weekly newsletter of the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages.

3. Watch the award-winning documentary film BLINDERS to see why people have been fighting for years to take the horses out of NYC:


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