With just a couple of months left in office, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg persists in sharing his support for the carriage horse industry. Over time, his perspective has grown increasingly alarmist. He claims that banning the carriages will be a death sentence for the horses.
Horse-drawn carriages are certainly a controversial business in New York City. Activists believe that the bustle and traffic of the crowded city put both the horses and their passengers in danger. One horse even dropped dead from apparent exhaustion. Will ending the practice spare horse lives, though?
“I assume all the horses will go to slaughter,” Bloomberg is quoted as saying in the Daily News. While some activists may perceive the allegation as a threat, the mayor may also have a point. If you can’t trust the carriage owners to properly care for the horses currently, how can you trust them to do right by the horses after they’ve been put out of business?
Sadly, Bloomberg is not the only one to predict a fatal retirement for the carriage horses. Some animal experts have pointed out that about 100,000 “homeless” horses are shipped off for slaughter each year; by putting another 200 NYC horses out of work, this number is likely to grow.
Allie Feldman, a spokeswoman for NYCLASS, one of the main groups opposing the carriage industry, insists that the horses’ “celebrity” status will protect them from harm and that people will want to adopt them for the prestige. Additionally, she pledges that her organization will secure enough money to ensure the horses will receive excellent care.
Bloomberg acknowledges that while the carriage horses may avoid slaughter for this reason, they’ll merely be displacing other non-carriage horses from spots at caring homes, sending them to slaughter instead.
Moreover, the carriage horse owners are preemptively declaring they won’t cooperate with groups actively destroying their livelihoods or sell their horses to sanctuaries that groups like NYCLASS establish. One carriage driver, Christina Hansen, finds the whole movement blown out of proportion. “Horses that have jobs are the last horses that get neglected. It’s the horses that don’t have jobs that we’re seeing shipped to slaughter,” Hansen said.
Mayor Bloomberg, who believes the carriages are an important tradition for the city and help to bring in tourists, agrees. “I don’t think the horses are abused,” he said.
However, even Bloomberg’s own daughter takes issue with her father’s position. Georgina Bloomberg, a longtime equestrian, has been vocal with her concerns for carriage horses. “Obviously, for me, my heart is always with the horses and I always want them to be kept in the best condition possible, which I don’t believe they are,” she said. “Maybe the time has come for them to go.”
One thing is certain, however: the elder Bloomberg won’t have a say in this matter much longer. While the carriage issue was fiercely debated during the mayoral campaign, at this point, both top candidates, Bill de Blasio and Joe Lhota, agree that it is time to ban horse-drawn carriages from NYC.
With the next mayor opposed to the industry, it looks increasingly likely that horse-drawn carriages could be a thing of the past in the nation’s most populous city. What’s less clear, however, is what will become of these horses.
Photo Credit: Elvert Barnes