Horse Sense

Posted Thursday, September 15, 2022 7:33 pm
The Chief

To the editor:

“TWU opposed bill that would ban Central Park horse carriages” (The Chief, Sept. 9) and a later proposal from the union center around what they consider a compromise — stables in Central Park and other gratuities at taxpayer’s expense. It is the height of absurdity. Carriage drivers are not city employees. And these horses do not belong in petting zoos.

With 71 percent of New Yorkers favoring a ban of this business, it’s time to retire these poor, exploited horses and stop putting them, caring New Yorkers and tourists through the wringer every few months with a horrible new accident that hurts our psyche and the city’s image. There is no way to provide them with a humane environment in NYC in which to both work and live.

The recent, horrible accident involving Ryder, an emaciated, seriously ill, geriatric horse who collapsed on the street with the owner beating him and trying to pass him off as14 brought this issue back into the news. It was an image that went around the world — a black mark for NYC tourism.

The proposal by the Committee for Compassionate and Responsible Tourism to replace horse carriages with electric carriages was intended to bring the union and drivers into the equation with mutual respect as was done successfully in Guadalajara, Mexico, something we witnessed on our fact-finding trip there in 2019. This was a proven job alternative that would make the drivers more income and create more union jobs. They dug in their heels like spoiled children and said, “no way.”

Park land belongs to the people — not private industry. This reapportioning of very desirable land in Central Park would have to go through a legal process, working its way through the state legislature and ultimately the City Council. It most likely would not pass. The intricacies of managing 180 carriage horses seems lost on the TWU.

Just because Central Park is off the busy streets, it is no panacea for the horses. The park gets very crowded with people, jostling and pushing against the horse carriages with the horses maneuvering through bicyclists, skate boarders, scooters, pedicabs — anything on wheels. It is a horse’s nature to be nervous — they are prey animals who can spook and bolt at the slightest provocation. Accidents also happen in Central Park, with one in 2020 resulting in the horse, Aisha, dying.

Perhaps the union should stick to what they know best — and it is not horse management.

Elizabeth Forel

Forel is the co-founder of Compassionate & Responsible Tourism and the president of the Coalition for NYC Animals, Inc.

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