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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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 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:
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.
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.
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.
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?
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
Members of the public will oppose the bill for reasons unrelated to the humane issues, including the following:
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?
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.
The City will be using public funds to pay for the construction of a stable for a private, all cash business.
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
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
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
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.” See video.
In his autobiographyA 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.”
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 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 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
In Spite of His Promises, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio Has Not Even Tried To Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages
In a live radio interview on August 19th, Mayor de Blasio delivered a major blow to NYC’s animal advocacy community by shifting the responsibility for the bill to ban horse-drawn carriages from himself to the advocacy groups and City Council: “What I’d say to every advocate: You already have my vote. Go get the votes in the City Council and solidify the support in the City Council so we can make this change.”
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed to ban horse-drawn carriages on his first day in office
On the surface, his statement sounds fair enough, but it is extraordinarily duplicitous, as it ignores the reality of how legislation gets passed in the City Council. If the Mayor wants lawmakers to support a bill, especially one that doesn’t affect their own constituents, he has to ask them – or compel them – to do so. Lobbying by advocacy groups, which is important and has been done, cannot take the place of the Mayor exerting his leadership and doing the work behind the scenes to get the bill passed.
According to Council Members, Mayor de Blasio never even asked them to support his bill to ban horse-drawn carriages
During his radio interview, the Mayor attempted to exonerate himself on the grounds that the bill lacks support in the City Council and among members of the public. What he didn’t say is that the reason for this lack of support is his own failure to lead. As Mayor, it is his job to generate that support, especially in light of the fact that taking carriages off of NYC streets was a signature component of his campaign platform.
Advocates can lobby, educate and protest, but they cannot get the Mayor’s bill to ban horse-drawn carriages passed in the City Council without his leadership
After the Mayor made his statement, several Council Members (CMs) criticized him for shifting the responsibility for the bill to the City Council, noting that he has made no effort to generate support in the Council. Bronx CM Ritchie Torres told Politico, “The Mayor is the one who sets the agenda, and he is the one who made it a priority for the city. The notion of diverting attention to the City Council strikes me as strange. To the extent that the City Council is advancing the bill, it’s doing so on behalf of the mayor — he said it was going to be a priority from day one, so the horse carriage fight is inseparable from the mayor himself.”
Brooklyn CM Antonio Reynoso echoed Torres’ remarks in an interview with Capital New York: “The horse carriage issue is definitely the mayor’s priority, and if the mayor wants to push it in the City Council, he can do that . . . I don’t think that the responsibility of trying to push this — one of his greatest priorities — is on the Council.”
In 2011, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio (now Mayor) expressed his support for a ban on horse-drawn carriages on the steps of City Hall
The Mayor has failed not only to lobby Council Members, but also to build public support; to speak out after carriage accidents were reported; and to address the misinformation reported by the pro-carriage press, the unions and the industry itself. In fact, the Mayor has done virtually nothing to generate support for the bill. His deafening silence and inaction in the face of growing opposition over the past 18 months resulted in a massive erosion of support in both the City Council and the general public – support that advocates spent years building.
Furthermore, the Mayor’s consistent refusal to address the issue in the media, apart from merely reiterating his support for a ban, enabled the opposition to control the story and to portray the local animal advocacy community as a group of misguided, uninformed extremists.
Horses belong on pastures or in the wild, not in Times Square
Perhaps even more duplicitous than the Mayor’s decision to renounce his responsibility for this bill is his insistence that NYCLASS, the local animal advocacy group leading the effort, spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a TV commercial (see below) to generate public support for his bill. Why would the Mayor encourage the community to waste such a staggering sum of money, which could have been used to help other animals, in support of a bill that he already knew he had no intention of backing? Was he hoping that NYCLASS would have no money left to hold him accountable after he betrayed the community (and the horses)?
Bill de Blasio won the Mayoral election in 2013 in large part because the animal protection community brought down his chief (anti-animal) rival, Christine Quinn, and donated time and money to his campaign. The community embraced de Blasio because he said that in his administration, animal rights would move from the margins to the mainstream and, of course, because he vowed to take the horses out of harm’s way.
At some point during the past year, however, he made a calculation that walking away from his promise was more politically expedient than working to fulfill it, in spite of the fact that this decision will reflect poorly on him when, during re-election season, voters on both sides of the issue will remember him saying, “Watch me do it!”
The Mayor’s actions – and inaction – have consequences beyond the potential failure of the bill; the waste of resources; the diminished support among members of the public; and the marginization of the local animal rights community. The horses lives are as bad as ever because the city is not enforcing the laws that govern the industry.
In 2014, the ASPCA, which opposes NYC’s carriage trade but refuses to exert its power and influence to ban it, stopped doing humane law enforcement. That responsibility was assigned to the NYPD, which is unfamiliar with the law and entirely uninterested in enforcing it, thereby leaving the horses at greater risk than ever of being double-shifted, worked in temperature extremes and forced to pull overloaded carriages. When the drivers have free reign, as they do now, the horses suffer.
Please contact the following two people in the Mayor’s office, and demand that the Mayor fulfills his campaign promise: Jon Paul Lupo (Director, Legislative Affairs; 212-788-2971, email@example.com) and Marco Carrion (Commissioner, Community Affairs Unit; 212-788-3137, Mcarrion@cityhall.nyc.gov)
If you live in or near NYC, please join the candlelight vigil on Friday night (August 28th)
Please share this article to educate others about the status of the campaign to ban horse-drawn carriages in NYC, and stay tuned for next steps to compel the Mayor to do the work required to fulfill his unmistakable campaign promise.