After an eight year campaign on the streets, at City Hall and on the big screen, activists in NYC are one giant step closer to achieving their goal of ending horse-drawn carriage rides in the congested streets of midtown Manhattan.
On the week of December 8th, Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to introduce a bill that would prohibit the city from renewing horse-drawn carriage licenses starting in mid-2016 and prevent the horses from being slaughtered. The bill also offers several job saving provisions, including free green taxi medallions (value: $6,000) for horse-drawn carriage drivers. The bill won’t be put up for a vote for several months to allow for a public hearing and lobbying by both sides.
In 2006, a veteran animal rights activist in NYC, Elizabeth Forel, founded the Coaliton to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages. The group’s relentless efforts led to a change in the public discourse, with New Yorkers and elected officials talking for the first time about about banning, instead of reforming, the trade.
In 2008, another animal rights group, NY-CLASS, which has been lobbying NYC lawmakers for the past several years in support of a horse-drawn carriage ban, proposed an alternative to the carriages – electric vintage cars – to address objections by lawmakers that a ban would eliminate jobs. The Mayor’s bill would allow carriage drivers to pursue this alternative, if they are interested.
Over the years, the animal rights group PETA has raised awareness of the plight of NYC’s carriage horses through provocative campaigns, celebrity spokespeople and protests.
In 2008 and 2009, the documentary film BLINDERS about NYC’s horse-drawn carriage controversy aired on the Documentary Channel and was screened at film festivals around the country, exposing an unsuspecting public to the truth behind the tradition of NYC’s horse-drawn carriage trade.
After being educated about the issue, Mayor de Blasio made a campaign promise to ban “inhumane” and “unsafe” horse-drawn carriages from NYC streets during the 2014 Mayoral race.
The front-runner in the Mayoral race, Christine Quinn, blocked efforts to help the horses and instead passed a rate hike for the drivers when she ran the NYC Council. Because of her egregious record on animal protection issues, local activists launched a four year campaign starting in 2009 to cripple her Mayoral bid. She came in a distant third, demonstrating the potential impact of grass-roots animal rights advocacy.
Horse drawn carriage rides have been curbed or outright eliminated in many urban areas around the world, including London, Paris, Beijing and Toronto. Just one week ago, Salt Lake City lawmakers voted unanimously to be ban horse-drawn carriages.
If you live in NYC, please join NY-CLASS in its efforts to rally support at City Hall for the Mayor’s bill to ban horse-drawn carriages. If you live elsewhere, please sign their petition to ban horse-drawn carriages from the streets of midtown Manhattan.
To learn more about the issue and keep apprised of news related to the movement to ban the industry, please subscribe to the weekly newsletter of the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Watch the award-winning documentary film BLINDERS: The Truth Behind the Tradition.