As if we needed another reason to denounce and condemn the cruel practice of using horses to draw carriages in New York City, a horse named Charlie keeled over and died in Midtown Sunday morning, igniting further debate and rancor about the carriage horse issue.
As is always the case, those who stand to benefit financially from horse-drawn carriages insist that this instance was an aberration and that carriage horses in NYC are well cared for, healthy and happy.
A spokesperson for the Horse and Carriage Association of New York said “It’s not something that happens regularly…Our horses are taken care of.” Isn’t it interesting that this is always the boilerplate that we get from spokespeople when an animal dies tragically at the hands of people who work it to death for profit?
Charlie died on W. 54th near 8th Ave on his morning trip to Central Park to work.
The ASPCA stated unequivocally that horses have no business pulling carriages in New York City.
Groups have long advocated for an end to horse-drawn carriages in New York. Their list of grievances ranges from the respiratory problems that horses endure as a result of living “nose-to-tailpipe,” the fact that they work long hours seven days a week in temperatures up to 90 degrees with no regard for humidity. They also say that the ASPCA doesn’t have the resources to even enforce the few regulations that there are on the books to protect horses.
The horses are kept in tiny inadequate stalls, have no chance for social interaction, don’t get turned out to pasture, they obstruct traffic.
But even though the carriage industry is relatively small, they are well-paid and well-connected, so it will take a huge reaction from citizens to finally bring about a ban on this cruel, cumbersome and anachronistic practice.
The Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages held a candle light vigil in memory of Charlie Friday night at Central Park. They are also asking for an investigation into what killed Charlie.
There are no results yet from a necropsy to determine Charlie’s cause of death, but you can bet that it wasn’t a fluke or an accident. These poor animals are worked endlessly under the worst conditions you could imagine. The surprise isn’t that Charlie dropped dead in the street; the surprise is that it doesn’t happen on a weekly or daily basis.
Horses do not exist to serve us, and they have no place in a modern city walking on hard concrete and breathing exhaust fumes for nine hours a day in freezing cold and sweltering heat.