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Horse-Drawn Carriage Chaos in NYC

June 5, 2017 by Leave a Comment


The News

Just days after an untethered carriage horse ran wildly through the streets of midtown Manhattan and a whistleblower released a photo to the media of another horse living in squalor, animal rights activists held a press conference at one of the stables demanding an investigation from city officials and justice for the horses.

In reaction to the photo (below), which was taken surreptitiously by a city employee, NYCLASS Campaigns Director Jill Carnegie told reporters, “If horses are living in their own excrement, then the Department of Health, which is supposed to regulate this industry, is asleep at the wheel.”  Edita Birnkrant, NYCLASS’ Executive Director, added, “The stall in this photograph is so small that the horse doesn’t have enough space to spread out or turn around. What’s worse is that these horses, who are herd animals, can’t graze, roam freely or interact with other horses because NYC has no pasture.”

A city employee employee took this photo of a horse living in squalor at the West Side Livery, a carriage horse stable in Manhattan

Since 2007, animal rights activists in NYC have been campaigning to ban horse-drawn carriages from NYC, arguing that nervous prey animals who have a tendency to spook should not be forced to pull carriages in the congested streets of midtown Manhattan.

Animal rights activists argue that animals who spook and bolt should not be working in city streets.

This 2006 accident in which a spooked horse named Spotty died after bolting and crashing sparked the movement to ban horse-drawn carriages from Manhattan (photo: Catherine Nance)

In 2013, NYC Mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio ran for office on a campaign promise to ban horse-drawn carriages if elected. To the dismay of the activists who helped him get elected, his “Watch me do it!” pledge has since been replaced with, “Take it up with the City Council.”

Your Turn

Please join NYCLASS in it effort to compel the Mayor and City Council to take horse-drawn carriages off the streets of NYC.


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In Spite of Lawsuit Aimed at Silencing Activists, Horse-Drawn Carriage Protests Continue

April 21, 2017 by Leave a Comment


The News

In response to a lawsuit filed by the horse-drawn carriage industry to silence the opposition in NYC, animal rights activists staged a protest wearing symbolic tape over their mouths to demonstrate that, even if silenced, they can convince tourists to abstain from taking “cruel and dangerous” horse-drawn carriage rides in midtown Manhattan.

The silent protest, which replaced chants with images, garnered so much attention from pedestrians that NYCLASS said it intends to its incorporate the tactic into future actions. That said, the organization will not be silenced, according to Jill Carnegie, NYCLASS’ director of campaigns: “We believe in the First Amendment – and that means we have the right to educate everyone about the cruelties of the reckless carriage horse industry. We won’t stop until they are removed from dangerous city streets.”

Animal rights activists in NYC stage a symbolic silent protest after being sued by the horse-drawn carriage industry

In December, 2016, Central Park Sightseeing, a horse-drawn carriage company, filed the lawsuit against NYCLASS and several individual activists in which it sought – and won – an injunction to limit first amendment expression in the area where tourists board the carriages. The defendants intend to appeal the injunction in order to protect their constitutional rights. ‘We cannot allow a ruling that says freedom of speech should be censored on public streets merely because carriage drivers don’t like the truth,” said Carnegie. “Speaking up and fighting for what you believe in is our duty as engaged Americans, especially at a time of upheaval and uncertainty.”

NYC’s horse-drawn carriage industry and animal rights activists in legal battle over protests

Your Turn

The NYC animal rights community did not expect to be protesting horse-drawn carriages in 2017 because, in 2013, NYC Mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio ran for office on an unmistakeable promise to ban horse-drawn carriages if elected. His “Watch me do it!” pledge has since been replaced with, “Take it up with the City Council.”

Please join NYCLASS in it effort to compel the Mayor and City Council to take horse-drawn carriages off the streets of NYC.


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Activists Jump on Stage During Gala Honoring NYC Horse-Drawn Carriage Drivers

October 1, 2016 by Leave a Comment


The News

Angered that the preservation group Landmark West was honoring NYC’s horse-drawn carriage trade, animal rights activists disrupted the organization’s gala at Tavern on The Green, a restaurant in Central Park.

In 2006, activists launched a campaign to ban horse-drawn carriages, arguing that they are inherently inhumane and that their operation is especially cruel and dangerous in the congested streets of midtown Manhattan.  In 2013, Mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio made a campaign pledge to ban horse-drawn carriages, but he failed to deliver on his promise when he took office.

The preservation group Landmark West honored horse-drawn carriage drivers at its gala. Animal rights activists disrupted the event.

The preservation group Landmark West honored horse-drawn carriage drivers at its gala. Animal rights activists disrupted the event.

In addition to protesting the horse-drawn carriage trade itself, activists are targeting Mayor de Blasio, demanding that he expend the political capital necessary to deliver on his promise. On September 15th, just a few days after a carriage horse collapsed in midtown, over 200 activists staged a protest at Gracie Mansion, the Mayor’s home, and confronted him as he exited a downtown gala several hours later.

Animal rights activists in NYC demand that Mayor Bill de Blasio fulfill his promise to ban horse-drawn carriages.

Animal rights activists in NYC demand that Mayor Bill de Blasio fulfill his promise to ban horse-drawn carriages.

NYC’s horse-drawn carriage operators own approximately 2oo horses. When the horses are not pulling carriages in midtown, they are kept in small stalls in former warehouses or garages in Hell’s Kitchen, a neighborhood on the far West Side of Manhattan.

The horses who pull carriages in NYC are housed in multi-story buildings after working in midtown. NYC has no pasture where the horses can graze and interact with other horses.

The horses who pull carriages in NYC are housed in multi-story buildings after working in midtown. NYC has no pasture where the horses can graze and interact with other horses.

Your Turn

Please contact Landmark West to let the organization know how you feel about its decision to honor NYC’s inhumane horse-drawn carriage trade by posting a comment on its Facebook page and/or retweeting this tweet.


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NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Distressing Horse-Drawn Carriage Compromise

January 18, 2016 by Leave a Comment


The News

Update (Feb 3): While the animal rights community supports a ban on horse-drawn carriages, activists are divided on how to achieve it, with some supporting and others opposing a compromise bill which is scheduled for a vote on Friday, February 5th. If passed, the law would, among other things, reduce the number horses by almost half and move their staging area into the Park. The changes would provide some relief for the remaining horses and weaken the politically connected and inexplicably powerful industry. The carriage operators vehemently oppose the compromise and insist on having free reign throughout the streets of midtown. The media, big labor and park advocates (who want to minimize the presence of horses in the park) are backing the carriage operators in opposition to the bill. If the Mayor accepts defeat, walks away from the issue altogether and says, “time to move on,” then where does that leave the 200+ horses and the grass roots movement?  

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In an effort to liberate himself from an issue that has plagued him since taking office, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, who promised to ban horse-drawn carriages from Manhattan in early 2014, announced that his administration struck a compromise with the Teamsters, the union that represents the horse-drawn carriage trade in its negotiations with the city. The deal, which must be approved by the City Council, would move the horses into a stable in Central Park and cut their number in half – to 95 – by 2018. The public has not seen a draft bill, so many questions regarding the quality of life of the horses remain unanswered.

An small building on 86th Street in Central Park that was used as a stable in the past is being considered as a location for the new stable.

An small building on 85th Street in Central Park that was used as a stable in the past is being considered as a location for the new stable.

The compromise would improve the lives of the remaining horses, as they will no longer be forced to compete with aggressive drivers in the congested streets of midtown for most of the day. However, many of the conditions that make the operation of horse-drawn carriages inhumane and unsafe in NYC will not be addressed by moving the horses into the park. Following are several examples:

  1. In his statement about the compromise, the Mayor made no mention of setting aside land for a pasture on which the horses can graze, run, roll and interact physically, as herd animals do. They could be surrounded by open spaces but deprived of the opportunity to use them.
  2. Moving the horses into the Central Park won’t stop them from spooking and potentially harming themselves and others when they bolt. Over the years, many horses have spooked in the park, and people have been seriously injured.
  3. Unless otherwise stated in the bill, the horses will continue to share the road with motor vehicles in Central Park, where cars are permitted on the streets at certain times of the day.
  4. The number of horses in the park at any given time will be limited to 75 (the other 20 will be on rotation outside of the City), but the number of carriages will remain the same — 68. If the medallion owners intend to use their carriages two shifts per day, then they would need to have at least 136 horses in the park. In the continued absence of humane law enforcement, will the carriage drivers simply double-shift their horses, as they have been caught doing in the past?
  5. Through the use of weapons and fear, the horses will continue to be “broken” when they are being trained to work in NYC.
A taxi crashes into a horse-drawn carriage in Central Park

A taxi crashes into a horse-drawn carriage in Central Park

Members of the public will oppose the bill for reasons unrelated to the humane issues, including the following:

  1. In the draft bill, the pedicab drivers would be prohibited from working in the park south of 85th street, thereby giving the carriage drivers exclusive access to tourist customers. If the main reason to keep the carriage trade afloat is to preserve jobs, then how does putting the pedicab drivers out of work accomplish that goal?
  2. According to Section 383 of the NYC Charter, “the rights of the City to its park” are “inalienable.” Building a stable for a commercial enterprise on public land could therefore be challenged in court by park advocates. That said, the administration has probably sorted out the legality of leasing a stable to the carriage trade.
  3. The City will be using public funds to pay for the construction of a stable for a private, all cash business.
  4. The horses will be staged just inside of the park, which will add to congestion in areas that are already crowded with pedestrians, joggers and bicyclists.

For the animal rights activists who have been working for many years to ban horse-drawn carriages from Manhattan, one of the most distressing aspects of this compromise is that the erection of a stable in the park could keep the industry afloat indefinitely. However, many doubt that a stable will be built.

In 2014, activists staged a rally at Gracie Mansion to "remind" Mayor de Blasio to fulfill his promise

In 2014, activists staged a rally at Gracie Mansion to “remind” Mayor de Blasio to fulfill his promise

The media has reported that the Mayor resorted to a compromise because he didn’t have support in the City Council for a bill to ban horse-drawn carriages. What the media has failed to report is that he never made a serious attempt to garner support from lawmakers. In fact, the Mayor remained virtually silent on the issue for two years while the opposition ran an aggressive (and dishonest) campaign to preserve the industry. The Mayor didn’t even speak out when highly publicized carriage accidents occurred, in spite of the fact that advocates plead with him to do so.

A prominent component of Bill de Blasio's campaign platform was banning horse-drawn carriages

A prominent component of Bill de Blasio’s campaign platform was banning horse-drawn carriages

While mistakes were made over the years by grass roots activists and advocacy groups fighting to end NYC’s anachronistic horse-drawn carriage trade, the blame for this compromise lies with the Mayor, as no amount of advocacy could have led to a ban without his leadership, which he failed to provide in spite of his promises.

In the midst of much ongoing uncertainty, one thing is certain — NYC activists will continue to be a voice for the horses until their shafts are lifted for good. In the meantime, with many stakeholders affected by this bill, including animal rights activists, the carriage trade, the pedicab industry and Central Park conservationists, the horse-drawn carriage controversy will likely continue to take center stage for the indefinite future.

Horses are confined between the shafts of the carriage for over nine hours/day

Horses are confined between the shafts of the carriage for over nine hours/day

Your Turn

If you live in NYC, please contact your Council Member to express your point of view on this bill.


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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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